The Final Four is set, and Saturday night's games kick off in New Orleans with a great deal of fanfare.
In the first game, two instate rivals battle it out when the No. 1-seeded Kentucky Wildcats (36-2) face the No. 4-seeded Louisville Cardinals (30-9). Not only are the programs rivals, but many believe there is a quiet feud between Kentucky coach John Calipari and Louisville coach Rick Pitino, though both coaches deny it. The media will pay a great deal of attention to the coaches, as Pitino, who led Kentucky to a title in 1996, helped Calipari land his first head-coaching job at UMass.
The second game may not have the great back story, but many expect it to be the more intriguing match-up, when two No. 2 seeds battle as the Kansas Jayhawks (31-6) face the Ohio State Buckeyes (31-7). There won't be a coaching duel, but there will be a players' duel, as two superstars go head-to-head when power forwards Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullinger clash.
How will each game go down?
KENTUCKY VS LOUISVILLE
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kentucky has the AP Player of the Year in Anthony Davis. He is the first freshman to win the award since Kevin Durant, and he has shown a great deal of maturity and skill for his age. For Louisville, Russ Smith might be the key to the game. When the two teams met on Dec. 31, Smith went 10-for-20, and he finished with 30 points. Kentucky won that game on their home court. This time it's on a neutral court.
PREDICTION: Louisville needs to keep the game in a half-court set because the Cardinals will likely struggle if Kentucky plays up-tempo. The Cardinals don't have the offensive weapons to make this game turn into a shootout, so Louisville will likely force a rather physical game. Expect the Wildcats to open the game up in the second half, and avoid dry spells by pushing the perimeter players to penetrate, which should put Kentucky in the position to score down low.
PREDICTED SCORE: Wildcats over Cardinals, 77-66
KANSAS VS OHIO STATE
PLAYERS TO WATCH: There is more to both teams than just Robinson and Sullinger. For Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor is an explosive guard, who finally had a big game when the Jayhawks beat North Carolina, as the Tar Heels were without point guard Kendall Marshall. Taylor will need to show a similar explosive style against Ohio State. The Buckeyes have a star in Deshaun Thomas, who has been exceptional in the tournament, and he has shot 53 percent from the field in the regular season. Another big game from Thomas will likely mean a trip to the Final.
KANSAS VS OHIO STATE PREDICTION: The Buckeyes will come out firing. Ohio State has a pair of players who are due to rebound from poor performances: Aaron Craft and William Buford. Kansas, however, has a disciplined offense that is capable of controlling the tempo, and a defense that will be intent on preventing the Buckeyes from getting quality shots. Expect this to be a tight game, but for Ohio State to hit the big shots at the end. This game has the makings of a classic.
PREDICTED SCORE: Ohio State over Kansas, 77-76