clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A Look At The Final Four

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Saturday brings two great matchups in the Final Four: Kentucky vs. Louisville and KU vs. Ohio State.

Both of them could be great, and while all four teams have intriguing big men, when the games get cautious, teams get conservative.  And when they do, certain things become very important: defense, ball control, and patience.

Kentucky is favored by a wide margin, but we can see some reasons for hope for Louisville. First, like the Wildcats, they have an outstanding shotblocker in Gorgui Dieng. He's not as good as Anthony Davis, but he's good enough to intimidate some people in the post.

Second, a big part of the reason why Louisville got hot lately is the play of point guard Peyton Siva. Not all that long ago, Rick Pitino talked to him about the need to have more than one speed to his game, using Steve Nash as an example. That brought about an immediate improvement in his game.

Third, Kentucky's biggest weakness is arguably at point guard. Marquis Teague has improved a lot, but he's probably not where John Calipari wants him to be.

Fourth, and this is hard to quantify, but game pressure is likely to be squarely on Kentucky. No one doubts their athleticism and they have certainly played very, very well. But there have been better teams to fail in the Final Four: Georgetown '85, Vegas '91, and Duke '99 among them. Even Duke's great 1992 team nearly fell, famously, to Rick Pitino and Kentucky's Unforgettables. That team, to be kind, was mildly talented, other than Jamal Mashburn, who had a nice pro career. No one else really made any noise.

What's the proper analogy for Kentucky in this Final Four? Is it Vegas '90? Or more like Vegas '91?

There are a couple of other things to consider. Remember the '78 UK team which took Duke out in the title game? The pressure on that group was astounding - and there was no ESPN and no meaningful talk radio then either. The pressure was thoroughly different.

Now of course it comes from everywhere, and the other difference between this team and that one is that this team is overwhelmingly young.

If Kentucky plays like they did in the regional Finals, no one is going to beat them. The problem though is that things tighten up now. Our guess is that Louisville is looser. In a close game, that's really huge.

As for the other game, again, two outstanding big men in Jared Sullinger and Thomas Robinson. We also like the way Jeff Withey goes after blocks. He's gotten a lot stronger and will be tough to get around. Sullinger is enormously strong and could get him into foul trouble, but it's a potentially interesting intersection in this game.

More so in some ways though is, again, the point guard matchup. Tyshawn Taylor has had an erratic career for KU although he's certainly played well lately.

Aaron Craft has been called the nation's best defender, and he is very, very good.

Still, in their first matchup, despite playing injured, Taylor had 13 assists. However he also had seven turnovers.

This is going to be a very intense game and probably quite different from last time. Among other things, Sullinger was not available and Withey has emerged as a real pain in the butt.

We admire Kansas, but Ohio State has more athleticism and, we think, better defense.

So we'll take the Buckeyes vs....Louisville, if only because when everyone is marching in one direction someone else should go the other.

And aside from all that, we know who Nolan Smith is pulling for, so we'll ride on his train Saturday, and hopefully Monday as well.

The Duke Basketball Blue Book
DBR Auctions!
New T-Shirts!
DBR Is On Twitter!(DBRTweetz)