By Bryan Zarpentine @BZarp on March 27, 2014
When Kentucky and Louisville met earlier this season, the Wildcats came out on top in Lexington. But both teams have changed so much since then that it almost doesn't matter what happened back in December. The Wildcats are coming off arguably their best performance of the season, but here are five reasons why it'll be the Cardinals that survive the Sweet 16 and live to play another game.
The Sweet 16 is a big stage, bringing far more pressure than the opening weekend of the tournament. Louisville has the experience of winning last year's national championship, so they won't be fazed by the big moment. Meanwhile, Kentucky starts five freshmen, and that lack of experience will be a problem against Louisville.
Louisville is a good defensive team, and they can throw a variety of defenses at an opponent by switching things up throughout the course of the game. That will be tough for a young Kentucky team. Whether it's man-to-man, a zone or press, the Cardinals will find something that will rattle the Wildcats, and that'll become the difference in the game.
Harrell has been huge late in the season, recording a double-double in his last three games. He's got a tough matchup against Kentucky's big men, but Harrell is coming into his own. He's ready to control the paint in a big game against a talented team, and with another double-double he'll give the Cardinals a huge lift against Kentucky.
Hancock saved the Cardinals in the Final Four last year, and in the second round against St. Louis he got warmed up to do the same this year, scoring 21 points. His ability to get hot is the biggest x-factor in this game, and with the inside-outside combination of Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell, Kentucky has too much to worry about to keep tabs on Hancock for all 40 minutes. At some point he'll get open looks and he'll knock them down.
The role of the coaches in this game can't be overlooked, and there's little doubt that Rick Pitino is a better in-game coach than John Calipari. Calipari may have a slightly more talented team, but Pitino has the more experienced team, the better coached team and makes better in-game adjustments than Calipari. In a close game, that will make all the difference in Louisville surviving.
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