No. 1 Kentucky (34-2) vs. No. 12 Cornell (29-4)
Thursday, 9:57 p.m. EDT, Carrier Dome (Syracuse, NY)
How they got here:
Kentucky: d. No. 16 East Tennessee State, 100-71; d. No. 9 Wake Forest, 90-60
Cornell: d. No. 5 Temple, 78-65; d. No. 4 Wisconsin, 87-69
Last Sweet 16 appearances:
Kentucky: 2005 (defeated Utah, lost to Michigan State in Elite Eight)
Match-up to watch: Cornell F Ryan Wittman vs. Kentucky F Patrick Patterson
You're probably thinking what about John Wall and Louis Dale or DeMarcus Cousins and Jeff Foote, but allow me to explain. Cornell lacks a second big man besides Foote to defend Patterson in the low post when he plays alongside Cousins, so Wittman must make the Wildcats pay at the other end by running the bigger defender through screens and taking advantage of his quickness edge. If Wittman can force Kentucky to play small and put either Darius Miller or DeAndre Liggins on him, that's a huge moral victory for Cornell.
This has to be one of the most intriguing Sweet 16 games in years thanks to the complete culture clash between these two programs. Kentucky is a deserving favorite because of its superior depth and talent, but who's not going to tune in to see if Cornell can continue its giant-killing run?
Cornell has destroyed two better defensive teams than Kentucky in the first two rounds, but neither Wisconsin nor Temple are anywhere close to as formidable on offense as the Wildcats. If the Big Red are going to have any chance, they'll have to slow the pace, hit their threes and play more zone than usual to counteract Kentucky's advantage in the post and turn the Wildcats into an outside shooting team.
Prediction: Jay Bilas is the best analyst on TV, but after watching Kentucky in person last week, I can't join him on his fragile limb. Give me Kentucky 83, Cornell 71.