Kentucky (26-10) vs. Louisville (31-5)|
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 28, 9:45 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lucas Oil Stadium (70,000) -- Indianapolis, Indiana.
Television: CBS. NCAA Tournament Record: Kentucky 113-46, Louisville 72-40.
Series Record: Kentucky leads, 31-15.
GAME NOTES: Of all the Sweet 16 matchups, there may be none bigger than the
battle for the state of Kentucky.
The two most recent NCAA national basketball champions will meet Friday in an
epic matchup. The eighth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats will clash with the
fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for
more than just the right to advance to the Elite Eight. They'll be playing for
state supremacy and the ultimate bragging rights.
Kentucky advanced past the top seeded team in the Midwest Region, Wichita
State, on Sunday by a score of 78-76. The Wildcats have won two straight games
in the tournament since narrowly losing to Florida in the SEC Tournament
Louisville has won seven consecutive games dating back to the regular season,
and advanced to the Sweet 16 with two hard-fought games against Manhattan and
Saint Louis. The defending national champs were able to pull away from the
Billikens late in last Saturday's contest for the 66-51 victory.
These intrastate rivals have met on the court 46 times in their rich history,
and Kentucky holds a 31-15 all-time series lead. The two squads met on the
court earlier this season in Lexington, with Kentucky earning a 73-66 win.
Kentucky did something on Sunday no other team in 2013-14 had been able to
accomplish, and that was hand a loss to the Wichita State Shockers. The two-
point win for the Wildcats came down to the very last second, as a Fred
VanVleet's 3-point attempt at the buzzer missed, which gave Kentucky the two-
point victory. Andrew Harrison had a monster game for Kentucky, netting a
team-high 20 points in the contest. Aaron Harrison chipped in with 19 points,
and Julius Randle tallied a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds with
six assists. James Young was the fourth UK player in double digits, adding 13
points and eight boards.
The freshman sensation Randle still tops the Kentucky squad in both the
scoring and rebounding categories. Randle, who has played in 36 games this
season, averages 15.1 ppg and 10.6 rpg, shooting 50.3 percent from the floor
in his only year as a Wildcat. Young is right behind Randle in scoring at 14.3
ppg, followed by the Harrison twins. Aaron Harrison nets 14.1 ppg, and Andrew
Harrison rounds out the double-digit Kentucky scorers with 11 ppg, adding a
team-best 137 assists to his resume. Willie Cauley-Stein tops the Wildcats
roster with 106 blocked shots on the year.
After a vicious comeback against NC State in the second round of the
tournament, the Saint Louis Billikens wanted to get off to a strong start
against defending national champion Louisville. The Billikens owned a lead
several minutes into the game, but Louisville took care of that with a late-
period run. The Cardinals led at the half, 25-16, in an ugly offensive
display, and endured a Saint Louis comeback attempt in the second half to hold
on for the win. Luke Hancock connected on 4-of-12 from 3-point range and led
the Cardinals in scoring in the contest with 21 points. Russ Smith and Chris
Jones each netted 11 points, and Montrezl Harrell notched a double-double with
10 points and 11 boards.
Smith's amazing senior season continues. The feisty guard can get to the
basket at will, which is reflected in his team-leading 18.1 ppg scoring
average. But scoring isn't his only strength, as Smith tops the Cardinals with
169 assists on the year, adding 73 steals to his resume. The sophomore Harrell
has come into his own both offensively and defensively as the replacement for
Gorgui Dieng. Harrell averages 14 ppg and a team-leading 8.4 rpg, and also has
a team high-tying 49 blocked shots. Hancock chips in 12.1 ppg for Louisville,
and Jones adds 10.4 ppg. The Cardinals have a huge advantage in scoring
differentials. Louisville nets 81.4 ppg through 36 contests, and gives up just
60.8 ppg to opponents.
Kentucky and Louisville match up extremely well, with the Wildcats owning the
size advantage. Louisville has a speed advantage, along with seniority. Smith
and Jones may have an extremely hard time trying to get shots off against the
significantly larger Harrison brothers (both listed at 6-foot-6). But with
speed and quick passes, the Cardinals can break that threat.
This will be the most intriguing game of the Sweet 16, and although Kentucky
has more potential talent from top to bottom, Louisville's experience will be
a huge factor here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 76, Kentucky 72
03/28 10:33:33 ET