Kentucky has not been to the NCAA men's basketball Final Four since it won the national championship in 1998. Three times since then — 1999, 2003 and 2005 — the Wildcats reached the Elite Eight only to be denied. Here we are again in 2010, with only a victory over West Virginia standing between the Cats and a trip to Indianapolis next weekend.
Why the Cats will win:
1. Defense. It doesn't get the attention of UK's aerial show on offense, but in tournament play Kentucky is winning with defense. Through six games (three in SEC, three in NCAA) no team has shot higher than 42 percent against the Cats and five teams (including all three in the NCAA) have been under 36 percent.
2. Quickness. One way to negate West Virginia's stout front line is to "out-quick" it. That should mean opportunity for the lightning that is the Kentucky back court of John Wall and Eric Bledsoe.
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3. Talent. We'll point this out again: No team in the tournament has three players as gifted as John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson. That includes West Virginia.
Why the Cats will lose:
1. Defense. The Mountaineers are a vintage Bob Huggins team: athletic and rugged. Look for West Virginia to try to "ugly up" the game with UK as fellow Big East team Louisville did with considerable success in Rupp Arena in January.
2. Pace. It would behoove Kentucky to get the game going up and down. When West Virginia holds opponents to 69 points or less this season, it is 24-0.
3. Clutch. If the outcome is in doubt to the final buzzer, West Virginia has a lethal late-game weapon. Senior forward Da'Sean Butler has an amazing six game-winning shots this season, including a jumper with four seconds left to beat Georgetown in the Big East Tournament finals.