March 30, 2012
NCAA: Louisville-Kentucky breakdown
By Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency
Yes, Kansas is playing Ohio State, but Kentucky vs. Louisville definitely is Final Four Saturday’s main event.
Kentucky is a powerhouse widely expected to roll over it’s in-state rivals, but more shocking upsets have happened before, so anything is possible.
Here’s what the teams need to do to win and advance to the game for all of the marbles:
* Slow down Davis with Dieng: Senegalese centre Gorgui Dieng has been a shot-blocking machine for the Cardinals. If he can give the national player of the year trouble, Louisville will be in a lot better shape, though Dieng is playing down the matchup’s importance.
“This game is important at every position. It’s not about me and Anthony Davis. It’s about everybody, it’s about both teams,” Dieng said.
* Get more 50-50 balls than the Wildcats: There’s no question which team is more talented, so the Cardinals need to gain an edge based on being the more dedicated and more eager to hustle side. Against Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist that won’t be easy, but Dieng says they will try.
“We’re going to try to come out and do the little things — win the loose balls, try to take charges and try to play better defence,” Dieng said.
* Believe: Nobody is giving them a chance, yet everybody was writing them off when they lost 5-of-7 during the season as well. What happened after that? Oh ya, Louisville won the Big East tourney.
If they keep the faith and refuse to be intimidated, the Cardinals can place a seed of doubt in the overwhelming favourites.
* Bother them with the press: Pitino loves to employ a full-court press and this group is good at it. The problem is, Kentucky is lethal in transition and when playing a fast game, so if the press gets broken consistently, things are going to get ugly.
The Wildcats know what to expect.
“They are really good on defence, they pressure the ball a lot and try to force a lot of turnovers,” said freshman point guard Marquis Teague.
“You just have to stay calm and try to pass the ball through their press. We know we have to limit our turnovers and we have to be ready for the press. Last time the press kind of bothered us, which caused us to make a few silly turnovers that we don’t need.”
* Beat the press: (See above). Teague can be erratic at times, it will be up to him and Lamb to keep steady hands on the tiller for Kentucky.
* Get out and run. Nobody finishes better in transition than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis runs the floor like a gazelle. If Louisville’s pressure can’t stop them, the Wildcats will run them over.
“We believe the game is going to be played fast. We think they’re going to press, some of it man, some of it trapping,” said head coach John Calipari.
“They play very physical.”
* Prepare to go up against a great coach: They’ve faced other strong coaches, but Pitino has proven how good he is repeatedly over the years. He will have his squad ready to go and certainly will have every trick in the book imaginable ready to go to slow down the juggernaut, be it zones, presses, traps, different man-to-man looks and odd combinations.
* Don’t get over-confident: The bulls-eye has been planted on this group for quite some time. They have every right to feel good about themselves but must avoid coming in too overconfident.
They say it won’t happen.
“We’ve been the favourite the whole year. Everybody wants us to win every game. There is really no pressure on us. We are used to this,” said guard Doron Lamb.
“Everybody is expecting us to win the whole thing. We have to go out there and prove to the world that we are one of the best teams in the country.” No, they have to prove they ARE the best team in the country.
* Don’t freak out at the flops: Louisville will be hitting the deck at will, knowing that getting Kentucky in foul trouble will be of paramount importance. Keeping composure if charges pile up will be huge.
“We’re a driving, attacking team,” said Calipari.
“I believe in the first five or six minutes there will be seven, eight, nine charge attempts. We have to be prepared.”
* Do what they do: Kentucky is tops in the NCAA in field goal defence and even Louisville’s Chane Behanan admitted: “Their defence is unbelievable.” All they have to do is make life difficult for the other team like they have all season.
BOTTOM LINE: Pitino’s a hell of a coach, but Kentucky is too big and too talented to be denied. Past Calipari teams bowed out early because they couldn’t hit any shots, but this squad doesn’t need to make jumpers, because nobody can stop them from attacking the rim.