A look at Saturday's national semifinals.
Where: Superdome, New Orleans
Announcers: Jim Nantz play-by-play, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr analysts
|Kentucky vs. Louisville|
Time: 6:09 p.m.
Records: Kentucky 36-2, Louisville 30-9
How they got here: Kentucky won the South Region as the No. 1 seed; the Wildcats beat No. 16 Western Kentucky 81-66, beat No. 8 Iowa State 87-71, beat No. 4 Indiana 102-90, beat No. 3 Baylor 82-70. Louisville won the West Region as the No. 4 seed; the Cardinals beat No. 13 Davidson 69-62, beat No. 5 New Mexico 59-56, beat No. 1 Michigan State 57-44, beat No. 7 Florida 72-68.
The spread: Kentucky by 8.5
Final Four appearances: This is Kentucky's 15th; the Wildcats have played in 10 finals, winning seven of them. This is Louisville's seventh; the Cardinals have played in two finals, winning both.
Key stat: Stunningly for a Final Four team, Louisville has more turnovers (550) than assists (525). In Kentucky's regular-season victory over Louisville, the disparity was egregiously bad: Louisville had six assists and 14 turnovers. Louisville can't afford to give the Wildcats many transition opportunities. Louisville has a shot at the huge upset if it can make this a halfcourt game.
The buzz: In the teams' regular-season meeting, Kentucky shot just 29.8 percent, committed 21 turnovers but still beat the Cardinals 69-62. The Wildcats dominated the boards, outrebounding the Cardinals 57-31. Kentucky had almost as many offensive rebounds (20) as Louisville had defensive rebounds (21). Coach Rick Pitino's team can't let happen again if it wants to win. The Cardinals need to turn this into a grind-it-out, halfcourt affair. They need Kyle Kuric, Chris Smith and Russ Smith to hit some 3-pointers, and they need Peyton Siva to remain under control and intelligently probe the lane. If Pitino is going to pick his poison, he likely will choose making Kentucky's backcourt beat him rather than Kentucky's frontcourt. Kentucky will be trying to force the tempo, and given Louisville's propensity to cough it up, expect the Wildcats to be a bit more aggressive than usual on defense. UK also knows that if Louisville C Gorgui Dieng goes to the bench in foul trouble, it will feast in the paint.
|Kansas vs. Ohio State|
Time: 8:49 p.m.
Records: Kansas 31-6, Ohio State 31-7
How they got here: Kansas won the Midwest Region as the No. 2 seed; the Jayhawks beat No. 15 Detroit 65-50, beat No. 10 Purdue 63-60, beat No. 11 North Carolina State 60-57, beat No. 1 North Carolina 80-67. Ohio State won the East Region as the No. 2 seed; the Buckeyes beat No. 15 Loyola (Md.) 78-59, beat No. 7 Gonzaga 73-66, beat No. 6 Cincinnati 81-66, beat No. 1 Syracuse 77-70.
The spread: Ohio State by 2.5
Final Four appearances: This is Kansas' 14th; the Jayhawks have played in eight finals, winning three of them. This is Ohio State's 11th; the Buckeyes have played in five finals, winning once.
Key stat: Ohio State allows just 8.3 offensive rebounds per game, which is eighth-fewest nationally. In four tourney games, Kansas has averaged 14.8. Second-chance points for both teams will be huge in this matchup.
The buzz: The matchup between Kansas' Thomas Robinson and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger? You could call it sublime - except it's hard to use that word when those guys are going to be beating up on each other. The point guard matchup between Kansas' Tyshawn Tylor and Ohio State's Aaron Craft will be intriguing as well. Craft might look like he is a junior high kid, but the plays physical, aggressive defense, and foes an excellent job running the Buckeyes' offense. Taylor needs to play under control. Kansas coach Bill Self can live with one or two out-of-control forays into the paint and an ill-advised 3-pointer or two, but Taylor needs to remember KU is better when its offense goes inside out. What is Kansas going to do with Ohio State F DeShaun Thomas? He has been a steady (and sometimes excellent) performer all season. Thomas can hit the 3-pointer, but he is at his best from about 15 feet in, and he is a nice combination of athleticism and brute strength. The X-factors might be Kansas C Jeff Withey and Ohio State G William Buford. Buford has been tossing up a lot of bricks (13-of-44, 29.5 percent, from the field in the NCAA tourney), and the Buckeyes need him to be more productive. If Withey can score in the low teens, grab seven or eight boards and block two or three shots, the Jayhawks should be in good shape.
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