The Vegas booking line currently has Louisville by 5.5 over Kentucky on Friday. I think that has a lot to do with novice betters throwing "easy" money at taking an under seeded 4 seed (per the media narrative) over on a lowly 8 seed that struggles to play as a team. This game will be close but I think Kentucky wins by 5. Here is why:
1) So much for the emphasis on calling touch fouls. Since the tournament began, the refs have put their whistle in the pocket. Kentucky's starting 5 is intimidating. All starters are at least 6'6, strong, and athletic. Louisville can simply not match up inside and will be waxed on the boards. While some have questioned starting Dakari Johnson over WCS, it makes sense why Calipari sticks with the current rotation. DJ, a/k/a, Moose, is a space eater. While he does not put up great numbers offensively, he cleans the boards, and more importantly, all 7 feet, 260 pounds of him just beats and wears on his man. He will tire and soften up Harrell and allow Randle to clean up the boards. Calipari then has the luxury to bring off the bench a 7'0 shot altering gazelle. UK's frontline is NBA level. In the first match up, UK destroyed UL inside without Randle playing the second half. That trend should continue and it should not surprise anyone if a cramp free Randle goes off with 25 plus points/15 boards.
2) UL has a faster backcourt. They will get steals and fast breaks. But they are undersized and will struggle to get off cleans looks against UK's size on the perimeter. So, while UL will score some easy points in transition, there should be an offset by their inability to hit from outside as long UK continues to switch on man defense as they have in the Tourney. Pressing teams have really not hurt Kentucky this year. Randle is an effective outlet press breaker so it is hard for pressing teams to isolate Kentucky guards in the backcourt because Randle is the outlet and often drives the ball up to the basket against all the holes left by the press.
3) Since the tournament started, this team has the swagger. Of all the great plays made in the Wichita State game, I think Poythress' block from behind set the tone for the remaining of the game. The team fed off that and now knows it can stand toe to toe with the best, and I do think Wichita State was one of the best overall teams in the Tournament. The swagger has appeared to have finally arrived for this team.
4) It will be important for Poythress to have a good game. He is athletic enough to shadow Hancock and strong enough to push him around. Hancock has been UL's offense this tournament and if Young and Poythress can knock him off his game, more pressure is placed on Smith to carry the load himself. Smith tends to get out of control when he tries to force the issue. UL has two primary scorers. Neutralize one and UL struggles to score in half court especially with the inside game being shut off by UK's superior front line.
5) The Twins need to repeat last week's performance. When the Twins drive and kick, the offense runs smoothly. The more they kick out, the more the driving lanes starting opening up as the game wears on. Both twins capitalized against Wichita State on drives because they knew when not force it. They don't need to be spectacular, just play smart and hustle back on Defense. If they revert to earlier form, then UK will be in trouble.
Of the remaining teams, UK is probably the worst matchup for Louisville's strengths. This will be a high energy game with a lot of early back and forth runs. If UK controls the Boards and takes smart shots, they pull it out if they keep shooting Free Throws at a 70% clip.go back