NO. 4 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (31-5) vs. NO. 8 KENTUCKY WILDCATS (26-10)
Game Time: (Approximately) 9:45 p.m.
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium: Indianapolis, Ind.
Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Greg Anthony (analyst) and Tracy Wolfson (reporter)
Favorite: Louisville by 4.5
All-Time Series: Kentucky leads 31-15
Last Meeting: Kentucky won 73-66 on Dec. 28, 2013 in Lexington
The Wildcats enter Friday night's game playing their best basketball of the season and just five days removed from their most significant victory.
UK's most obvious advantage over Louisville lies in the post, where the Wildcats possess superior size over just about every team in the country. In tournament play alone, the Cats have outrebounded their opponents by 10 and snagged a total of 61 offensive rebounds. This has also helped translate to 45.1 percent shooting from the field.
The Kentucky stars have been at their best over the last two weeks, as all four of UK's leading scorers are also scoring in double-digits during postseason play (which includes the SEC Tournament). Aaron Harrison is leading the way after having reached double figures in all five contests, averaging 17.8 points per game. He has also knocked down a team-high 15 three-pointers during the stretch.
Though they shot just 32 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season, the Wildcats are hitting threes at a 40 percent clip in postseason play, which could be a huge factor against a Louisville team that figures to throw a decent amount of zone their way.
--Louisville is making its 40th NCAA Tournament appearance in 2014. The Cardinals have reached the NCAA Tournament 31 of the last 38 years (eight straight, 11 of the last 12, 13 of the last 16 years, 19 of last 23). The Cards have reached the Sweet 16 on 20 occasions and have advanced to the Elite Eight four of the last six seasons. Louisville is sixth in tournament victories (72) and is fifth in NCAA Tournament appearances (40). U of L has a 72-40 overall record in the big dance, and has reached the Final Four 10 times.
--This is the ninth time the Cardinals have entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed. (also: 1981, 1989, 1990, 1993, 2003, 2005, 2011, 2012). U of L advanced to the NCAA Final Four from a No. 4 seed in both 2005 and 2012. Louisville has a 17-8 record as a No. 4 seed since the NCAA began seeding teams in 1979.
--Louisville is 9-1 all-time in NCAA Tournament games played in Indianapolis, while Kentucky is 3-1.
--Since 2012, Louisville and Kentucky are a combined 20-1 in the NCAA Tournament. The only loss came when the Cats defeated the Cards in the 2012 Final Four.
--Rick Pitino is 11-0 all-time in the Sweet 16, winning those 11 games by an average of 19.8 points.
--Digger Phelps has predicted that Kentucky will defeat Louisville.
--Louisville leads the nation in turnover margin (+6.8) and is 24th in fewest turnovers per game (10.5). U of L has committed 10 or fewer turnovers in 23 of its last 40 games dating back to last year. The Cardinals are generating an average of 22.6 points per game off turnovers.
--Louisville and Kentucky have met five times in NCAA Tournament play, with the Wildcats owning a 3-2 advantage.
--Russ Smith needs four points to pass Milt Wagner and become Louisville's all-time leading scorer in NCAA Tournament play.
--Louisville is 49-8 in NCAA Tournament games where they are the better seed.
--Louisville is 4-1 all-time against No. 8 seeds.
--Louisville has never had a team which has won 30 or more games in a season and not make it to at least the Elite 8. Six of the previous seven Cardinal teams to win 30 games have made the Final Four.
--Louisville is 19-0 this season when forcing 17 turnovers or more, while Kentucky is 16-2 when committing 11 turnovers or fewer.
--Kentucky is 21-2 when leading at the half this season, and just 5-8 when trailing at the break.
--Louisville has won 35 straight games against unranked opponents, the longest streak in program history.
--Louisville is favored in tonight's game for a program-record 48th straight time. The Cards have not been an underdog since playing at Syracuse on March 2, 2013. All told, U of L has been the favorite in 72 of their last 73 games.
--The Cardinals are 15-0 in their adidas sleeved jerseys, including 14-0 in postseason games.
--Since March, 2012, Louisville owns an overall record of 24-1 in postseason play.
--Louisville's 31-5 record is the same one its 2012-13 national championship team had through 36 games.
--Louisville is the defending Division-I national champion.
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 73, Kentucky 68