All games played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans
(4) Louisville vs. (1) Kentucky (Saturday, 6:09 on CBS)
First instinct: Kentucky
The numbers like: Kentucky (KP - 75%, Silver - 74%, BPI - Kentucky 1, Louisville 11)
When Louisville has the ball: The Louisville offense has gone from Division I-mediocre to NCAA tournament-mediocre over the past few games, but, despite their (admittedly shaky) matchup with Michigan State, they haven't faced a defense anything like Kentucky's. There's no tougher opponent in the country in terms of actually making shots. Take out defensive rebounding and there's probably no tougher team to score on, with the possible exception of the Cardinals themselves. Gorgui Dieng has developed really nicely, and Chane Behanan has had as strong a freshman season as was expected, but does anyone really think they'll score consistently on Anthony Davis? The way to score on the Wildcats is to take advantage of the three-point opportunities they give you, and the Cardinals don't have the traditional tools for doing that. That said, they've hit their perimeter shots the past three games -- that'll have to continue if the Cardinals want to play on Monday.
When Kentucky has the ball: Louisville could make things tough on Marquis Teague handling the ball. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva can both cause serious problems for opposing point guards. And Dieng is as tough an opposing center as Davis will run up against, defensively. As an opposing coach told CBS Sports, though, it's almost impossible to match up with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Darius Miller, and Terrence Jones all at once. This is exceptionally true of Louisville, whose best potential matchup against one of those three (Behanan on Jones) isn't particularly good. Forcing turnovers could definitely make this game interesting, and the Cardinals are capable of doing that. But those wing matchups could be serious trouble, and Louisville's shaky turnover rate means transition buckets could be all too plentiful.
Thought process: This is a rivalry game, and only one game, so I know better than to assume the score is already in the books. Louisville's defense is outstanding, and they'll make Kentucky work for their points. The other end could get ugly, though.
Final pick: Kentucky
(2) Ohio State vs. (2) Kansas (Saturday, 8:49 on CBS)
When Kansas has the ball: Tyshawn Taylor can already make the Jayhawk faithful nervous with his shot selection and turnover issues, both of which will be made even more apparent by defensive wizard Aaron Craft. And since Jared Sullinger missed the earlier game between these teams, Thomas Robinson hasn't faced anyone who is so capable of banging with him down low. If Jeff Withey can get his post game working early, the Buckeyes may have to adjust their defensive strategy. Thad Matta's usual lineup can't fight off two legitimate interior scorers at once. The Kansas supporting cast will score their share of points, but I don't like the difficulty of their stars' match ups.
First instinct: Ohio State
The numbers like: Ohio State (KP - 60%, Silver - 60%, BPI - Ohio State 3, Kansas 6)
When Ohio State has the ball: That two-post to one-post advantage works the other way, too. If Robinson and Withey are on the floor at the same time, Robinson's probably chasing Deshaun Thomas around, which isn't great for Kansas holding Thomas down scoring or for Robinson as a rebounder. But this is a nice matchup overall for the Jayhawks. Kansas has two scary individuals sitting down there next to the basket, and the Buckeyes have had some troubles shooting the three--pointer. It's not enough to make me wonder whether the Buckeyes can score -- I think their shooting woes have been overstated, and I still like Sullinger to get some buckets -- but it's enough to give me pause.
Thought process: Remember that clash of titans we were supposed to get on December 10? The one where we were going to get to see the then-leader for National Player of the Year go head-to-head against the consensus preseason pick? Only then Sullinger got hurt and everyone acted like the game never happened? Well, now we're about to get the real thing. Sullinger and T-Rob, head to head. Craft guarding the now much more feared Taylor. Here's why I like Ohio State in this matchup: If Craft/Taylor and Sullinger/T-Rob essentially zero out on both ends, it's basically a battle between William Buford, Thomas, and Lenzelle Smith and Withey, Travis Releford, and Elijah Johnson. I like the Buckeye trio. Withey has convinced me of a lot this year, just not that he's ready to be the star of a Final Four heavyweight battle.
Final pick: Ohio State
Drew Cannon is a college student and a regular contributor to Basketball Prospectus. Click here to see Drew's other articles. Follow him on Twitter at @DrewCannon1.
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Drew Cannon is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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