Kentucky, West Virginia Prepared for Elite Eight Bloodbath
SYRACUSE, N.Y.—The winners of the two East Regional semifinals set up an equation simple enough you don't need the boys from Cornell to solve it: What happens when you mix the most physically superior team in the country with the team that plays the most physical brand of basketball in the country?
The answer: an epic bloodbath.
At least, that's how the players described what's going to happen Saturday night.
"This will be the most physical game we've played," Kentucky guard John Wall said.
Wall's quick and concise response to the inquiry about the physicality of the game shows it is obvious these players know they are in for a fight.
Unlike West Virginia, two of Kentucky's first three opponents weren't a match physically for the Wildcats, and the third, Wake Forest, rolled over and died.
West Virginia players have more size and strength than Kentucky's previous opponents, which means DeMarcus Cousins and his sculpted 260-pound frame could be in a real battle.
"They've been grabbing and holding me," Cousins responded to how he's been defended. "Hopefully the refs will start calling it."
West Virginia already plans to deny Cousins the ball at all costs.
"We're going to send two guys at him if we can," Mountaineer forward Wellington Smith said. "The only way we're happy with him getting the ball is if he gets above the three-point arc."
Smith then laughed, perhaps knowing that will be damn near impossible.
"When [Cousins] gets frustrated, he shuts down," Smith said.
Frustrating Cousins to the point of no return has gotten tougher as the season progresses. The freshman's temper isn't so quick to go off anymore as he's matured.
"He's definitely come a long way since the beginning of the year," Kentucky's Patrick Patterson said. "You can't get in his head as easily."
Patterson could be the beneficiary of West Virginia's focus on Cousins. Mountaineer forward Kevin Jones suggested WVU might also send two guys at Cousins to stop him from grabbing offensive rebounds.
"I might be able to get to the glass more because of the focus on DeMarcus," Patterson said.
The X-factor on the glass might not be Cousins or Patterson but another stud freshman: John Wall.
"We're going to be fighting for every rebound," Wall said. "Whoever wins the rebounding battle is going to win this game."
When asked what his role will be to stop the nation's best offensive rebounding team, Wall responded, "If I don't get out in transition sometimes to grab a rebound, that's okay."
Wall typically hasn't hit the glass hard because he's so quick to find the open floor and take the ball to the rim after the opposition's miss. He has grabbed significantly fewer offensive rebounds than John Calipari's previous point guards, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans.
With all the open talk of strategy among the players and coaches, West Virginia and Kentucky will be playing a match of chess-boxing on a basketball court.
For more info, updates, and stories on college basketball (or even links to videos of West Virginia players dancing around like idiots in their hotels), follow @JamesonFleming on Twitter. He'll be covering the East Regionals in Syracuse and the Final Four in Indianapolis for Bleacher Report.
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