Final Four 2012: Why Louisville vs. Kentucky Is the Can't Miss Matchup

Matt Overing@@MOveringContributor IIIMarch 28, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 31:  Marquis Teague #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball while defended by Gorgui Dieng #10 of  the  Louisville Cardinals during the game at Rupp Arena on December 31, 2011 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Rivalries don't get much better than this.

Kentucky and Louisville are enemies at every level. John Calipari and Rick Pitino may exchange pleasantries on the court and in the media, but this is one of the biggest games they'll ever coach. They want to win.

The magnitude of this game has had an enormous impact in the Bluegrass. Tony Kornheiser of ESPN said it best, "Kentucky fans will set their hair on fire if they lose this game to Rick Pitino."

Louisville would have it no other way. 

The lead up to one of the most important games in the history of Kentucky sports has been epic. Fights have broken out... even at a dialysis clinic

Quite frankly, the Kansas vs. Ohio State game does not have this emotion. Coaches aren't playing their former team. Fights aren't breaking out at dialysis clinics. Although both games are rematches, Ohio State and Kansas wouldn't call each other "rivals."

There's no doubt that both the Jayhawks and Buckeyes want to win, but chances are neither fan base will set their hair on fire with a loss.

If Kansas were playing Missouri in the Final Four, there would certainly be more hype surrounding that game than any other. If Ohio State were to play Michigan or Michigan State in the finals, there would be chaos in Big Ten country. 

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Take a look back at Missouri at Kansas on Feb. 25. That game was one of the best Border War battles in years. Kentucky and Louisville will bring that kind of emotion to the table in the Final Four — where the winner can argue they "win when it matters."

This is what the Ohio State/Kansas game lacks. The story lines, the clash of personalities, the rabid fan bases and the opposing styles of play.

Aside from the pandemonium that is engulfing the state of Kentucky, this game will be fun to watch. Louisville has won with stifling defense and a run of good luck — reminiscent of the 2010-11 Connecticut Huskies and the Kentucky Wildcats.

Louisville plays a slow, grind-it-out style, compared to the fast-paced Kentucky squad. The Cardinals incorporate a full-court press to slow down the opposing team and force turnovers. Kentucky prides itself on not turning the ball over.

Talking about the players seems trivial at this point. Anthony Davis, Gorgui Dieng, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Peyton Siva should be household names by this stage of the NCAA tournament. Both teams will come out with their best effort and will sweat out one of the most anticipated Final Four games in recent memory.

Best in state is on the line. A national championship birth is on the line. 

Louisville vs. Kentucky is the matchup to watch.