An in-state rivalry, a number 4 seed and a team that defeated its former legendary head coach's squad are featured in the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Final Four, which is set to take place in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Kansas' defeat of UNC (80 - 67) and Kentucky's overpowering of Baylor (70-82) locked in the last two bracket slots for the tournament. The first game begins on March 31, with tip-off between Kentucky and Louisville set for 6:09 pm Eastern. The championship game takes place the following Monday night.
Kentucky vs. Louisville
.The South Regional champion and # 1 overall seed Kentucky Wildcats will face off against the West Regional champion Louisville Cardinals. Kentucky's team is coached by John Calipari. He tends to recruit highly rated high school players that intend to stay in college one year before leaving for the NBA, also known as a "one and done" strategy. This year may be no exception, with the Wildcats featuring the 6'10" forward Anthony Davis and 6'7" forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Davis' athletic ability for his height is unmatched. He recorded 18 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks versus Baylor while nursing a sore knee. Kidd-Gilchrist has the speed of a guard and is a deft passer with the second most total assists on the team. Both freshmen are projected to go #1 and #2 in the NBA draft.
Although Kentucky has dominated virtually every team they've played against this year, they face a team that's on a hot streak in #4 seed and in-state rival Louisville. The Cardinals, led by coach Rick Pitino, dominated #1 seed Michigan State before overcoming another underdog team in Florida before reaching the Final Four. The Cardinals team is young- they only have two Seniors. But they are hoping their tournament experience thus far and leadership under Pitino will help them slay the Wildcats. Fun fact:
Pitino won the National Championship in 1996-as the head coach of Kentucky.
Kansas vs. Ohio State
. The #2 seeded Midwest Regional Champion Jayhawks faced a tough battle today against the North Carolina Tar heels before closing out the game on a 12-0 run. It's practically a miracle that the Jayhawks have made it this far in the tournament, given their 7-3 start and close tournament games versus Purdue and NC State. They won both contests by three points. Yet the Jayhawks, whose roster is only 13 slots deep, managed to play their best with Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor running the floor and piling up minutes on the court. His play is complemented by Junior forward Thomas Robinson.who averages 17 points and 11 rebounds per game.
#2 seed Eastern Regional Champion Ohio State University hopes to take advantage of the Jayhawks' short bench and dominate them with size and versatility. Like the Jayhawks, the Buckeyes defeated a #1 seed to reach the Final Four. They are 14th in the nation in Field Goal percentage, thanks in part to 6'9" Sophomore Jared Sullinger's inside-outside game. Although he can pound the paint at 265 pounds, Sullinger has enough range to hit 3-point shots unexpectedly. He's notched 42 percent of them this year so far and averages 17.6 points per game. Fun fact:
The Jayhawks made the Final Four five times under former head coach Roy Williams- who now coaches the UNC Tar heels.