(1) Kentucky Wildcats
Once the Wildcats stepped up their defensive intensity, the Baylor Bears could not stay with them as they trailed by 20 at the half and fell 82-70. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis were in prime form. Kidd-Gilchrist had 19 points and five rebounds, while Davis put up 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. He banged knees with Perry Jones III and had Wildcats’ nation holding their breath momentarily, but he turned out to be just fine. While Pierre Jackson, Quincy Acy and Jones had success offensively, the Wildcats didn’t allow any other Bear to score more than four. With a rematch looming against their in-state rivals, the Wildcats have to dominate the glass again in order to control the tempo. They want to play fast while Louisville will try to slow the pace. If they can impose their will and attack the Cardinals on the interior, they have a good chance to advance to the national championship game.
(4) Louisville Cardinals
With 8:33 remaining in the Elite Eight, the Cardinals trailed the Florida Gators 63-52. Few believed they had the offensive firepower to make up the deficit, but they finished the game on a 23-8 run to come from behind and eliminate the Gators 72-68. The run was keyed by Chane Behanan, who finished with 17, and Russ Smith, who scored a game-high 19. Smith’s play was particularly big down the stretch after Peyton Siva fouled out. The Gators successfully attacked them defensively, something few teams this season have done. They also outrebounded them, an area that the Cardinals have to really work on going into their Final Four game against Kentucky. The Wildcats outrebounded them by 21 back on December 31 on their way to a 69-62 victory. The Cardinals got 30 points from Smith in that game; a more balanced effort will be a necessity in New Orleans. Almost more important than anything will be keeping the Wildcats off the free throw line. In their regular season match up, played at UK, the Wildcats made 32-of-43 from the charity stripe.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Kentucky. We expect a physical contest from beginning to end. Officiating could have a big impact. In the end, we just feel like Kentucky has too much talent offensively to not get the buckets they need to earn a spot in the national championship.
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