Kentucky (36-2) vs. Louisville (30-9)
One of the oldest rivalries in the country takes the main stage at the Final Four. In Kentucky, there is no in-between: You either root for the Wildcats, or you root for the Cardinals. This meeting marks another matchup between Louisville coach (and former Kentucky coach) Rick Pitino and Kentucky’s John Calipari, two coaches who generally don’t like each other.
Kentucky’s strengths • Pretty much everything. Anthony Davis spearheads the Wildcats defensively by blocking shots and shutting down the lane. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the best forward in the college game, and Kentucky has a bevy of lottery picks and shooters, wrapped around an unselfish mentality.
Kentucky’s weaknesses • Sometimes, Marcus Teague gets out of control at the point and forces things too much. Other than that, the Wildcats don’t have many areas for other teams to exploit.
Louisville’s strengths • In this game? The fact that they won’t be intimidated by Kentucky. It’s a rivalry game for the Cardinals, and people like Peyton Siva and Russ Smith will be eager to attack the paint off the dribble.
Louisville’s weaknesses • Outside shooting, for sure, and the lack of true inside scoring to really keep Davis occupied. Louisville struggles to score at times. That could be a fatal flaw, here.
Tribune prediction: Kentucky 79, Louisville 68
Ohio State (31-7) vs. Kansas (31-6)
Another rematch from an earlier meeting between two of college basketball’s best programs. This game features two of the best big men in the game, with OSU’s Jared Sullinger and Thomas Robinson from Kansas going at it. With the hype surrounding these future lottery picks, the winner will be the team with the better guard play.
Ohio State’s strengths • An all-around ability to hurt teams from all over the court. Sullinger scores in the paint. William Buford lights it up from the perimeter. Deshaun Thomas does both, and Aaron Craft is one of the best defensive players in the country.
Ohio State’s weaknesses • If Sullinger gets into real foul trouble, there isn’t a ton of depth behind him. Against a very big and physical Kansas frontline, that spells trouble. Opposing teams also want to make Craft score, and not let him set his teammates up with crisp passing.
Kansas’ strengths • Robinson is the centerpiece. But Tyshawn Taylor is a potential game-changer at point guard, capable of taking games over and bailing the Jayhawks out in clutch situations.
Kansas’ weaknesses • Of course, Taylor needs to bail his teammates out in clutch situations because he often puts Kansas in dire straits due to poor decision making. He is simply one of the most hot/cold players in the nation, often in the same game.
Tribune prediction: Ohio State 73, Kansas 70