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NCAA Final Four preview & pick: Louisville vs. Kentucky

No. 4 Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (-8.5, 136)

THE STORY:
One of college basketball’s fiercest rivalries figures to rise to an unprecedented level of intensity when the Cardinals and Wildcats meet in New Orleans for a berth in the national championship game. Kentucky’s appearance in the Final Four is no surprise. The Wildcats lost just one game in the regular season and have faced little opposition in rolling to 36 victories in 38 games. The Cardinals, meanwhile, saved their best work for late in the season. Louisville, which won the Big East tournament championship, rides an eight-game winning streak into New Orleans. Kentucky beat the Cardinals 69-62 on New Year’s Eve in Lexington and owns a 29-14 lead in the series.

TV: 6:09 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Kentucky -8.5

ABOUT LOUISVILLE (30-9):
The Cardinals lost four of their final six games entering the Big East tournament and battled injuries all season long. So how did Louisville win the conference title and then slay top-seed Michigan State and Florida on its way to New Orleans? Start with defense. The Cardinals have allowed just 56.3 points during their winning streak, and smothered Florida with a 23-8 surge in the final 10 minutes of the West Regional final on Saturday. The Cardinals rank third nationally in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (38.0 percent) and seventh in steals (8.9). But can Louisville play well enough on offense to stay close to Kentucky? The Cardinals shoot just 42.5 percent from the field (220th in the nation). Sophomore Russ Smith led the Cardinals with 19 points in the regional final, and Louisville got 17 points from freshman Chane Behanan, the West Regional’s most outstanding player.
 
ABOUT KENTUCKY (36-2): In their first four NCAA games, the Wildcats showed both the ability to completely take control with dominant stretches against Western Kentucky, Iowa State and Baylor, and the toughness to hold a stubborn Indiana just out of striking distance. The Wildcats’ balanced attack has shined in the tournament. Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist earned most outstanding player honors of the South Regional after scoring 43 points in his past two games. Kentucky shot 80.2 percent from the free-throw line in its past two games (65-for-81), and continues to make life tough on opposing offenses with its strong interior defense (six blocks by freshman Anthony Davis against Baylor). Kentucky leads the nation in blocked shots (8.6) and field-goal percentage defense (37.5 percent).
 
TRENDS:

* Under is 11-2 in the last 13 meetings.
* Cardinals are 2-6 ATS in the last eight meetings.
* Wildcats are 3-11-1 ATS in their last 15 non-conference games.
* Cardinals are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games as underdogs.

TIP-INS:

1. The Cardinals and Wildcats did not play for 24 years, until the 1983 Mideast Regional final, won by Louisville 80-68 in overtime. That game led to the renewal of a series that dates back to 1913.

2. The Wildcats are two wins away from their first national title since 1998. Their coach in that championship season? Current Louisville coach Rick Pitino.

3. Louisville scored 15 points off turnovers against Florida, illustrating the Cardinals’ pressure-driven defense that’s helped fueled their late-season surge.

Pick:
Kentucky

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Posted by familyman
2 years ago

kentucky fried chicken -9
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Posted by Coloneljim
2 years ago

Kentucky - 78 Louisville - 69 Wildcats -8.5 over The Colonel will be sipping some good ole Kentucky Moonshine tonight. Pitino's run ends tonight. Calapari's run ends Monday night.
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Posted by alveychris
2 years ago

Tubby smith was the coach in 1998.
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Posted by tarheelmania
2 years ago

I THINK THIS IS ALMOST THE SAME AS THE BAYLOR GAME.EVERYONE WAS ON BAYLOR AND THE POINTS AND KENTUCKY MANHANDLED THEM.I DON'T THINK LOUISVILLE CAN HANG. TAKING KENT. -8.5
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Posted by tosborn
2 years ago

louville will lead at half, get the cover and take advantage of their schedule strength in this big game. ohio st easily over kansas
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Posted by fervent0127
2 years ago

Kenyucky has too much talent for louisville if loiusville is going to hang around to cover the -8.5 or what ever it might be at tip off is going to take a great coaching job by patino I pick kentucky in the over The cards should have lost last game if it wasn't for florida's break down i don't see kentucky doing that so it's on to monday championship game for the Cat's in a rout
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Posted by ronboog
2 years ago

Wildcats and the under. The cats D is going to be to much for ville.
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Posted by ncdcbag
2 years ago

Louisville plus the points , oh yeah
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Posted by nc1capper
2 years ago

UNDER 138.5 and The Ville + 9 here
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Posted by Darrellw1985
2 years ago

wow, you called it ! Good job dude !!
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Top Response

Posted by fervent0127
2 years ago

"Kenyucky has too much talent for louisville if loiusville is going to hang around to cover the -8.5 or what ever it might be at tip off is going to take a great coaching job by patino I pick kentucky in the over The cards should have lost last game i..."