It is clear this year's UK team is having a harder time figuring out the way he wants them to play, but Cal is up to the challenge. I won't worry until at least mid-January.
5. Which team needs a win more this year?
I think UK fans have already written off this season, look at how much football has been talked about on the sports talk shows recently. Unless the Wildcats are beating teams by 100, the stuffed shirts in the lower arena at Rupp are just not happy. So there really is no pressure on UK to win this game.
Louisville has all the expectations this year. They have the high ranking and lots of players coming back from a Final Four team. Until then, there was talk whether Pitino would ever get it done at Louisville. If the Cardinals win the title, that give Pitino two titles and seven Final Fours. That would then place the pressure squarely on Cal, who has two (official) Final Fours and one title.
Brock: It's the "The Dread Game II." Louisville.
The Cards needs it desperately. In much the same way a loss to UofL in last year's Final Four would have been devastating for me and the good guys, this one would be hard for Card fans to stomach. Sort of like one of those sandwich-like monstrosities their parent company peddles, which consist of bacon and mashed potatoes between two 'roided up fried chicken breasts.
All the pressure is on the Cards and Pitino.
This is the best and maybe last crack Pitino has at a vulnerable Kentucky team. Pitino knows it, the players know it and every bar hopper on the Yum! Center concourse knows it.
If they can't do it at home with all of the apparent advantages of experience and pent up, self-righteous anger, I simply don't know when they will.
I won't make any macabre predictions like Rick did last year about people hurling themselves off bridges, but a loss will definitely set off some grumbling among the faithful. If they lose and bow out early in March, look out.
6. What are the chances of both teams making the Final Four again like they did last year?
Morris: Good. There are no great teams this year, and UK should be better by the end of the year.
If Louisville doesn’t make it, it will be a major disappointment. This is Pitino’s best team since he’s been at Louisville and the Cards are expected to make the Final Four. Until a regional final, Louisville should not run into a team with a real shot at beating them.
Kentucky has the more difficult task ahead. There seems to be no true leader of this team yet, and who knows when one shows up. But by March, expect UK to be in the hunt for another Final Four.
Brock: Pretty good. Overall it looks like a down year for college basketball, so the tournament is probably winnable for a lot of teams this year.
Cal has shown the ability to mold his young teams into dangerous swag monsters come March. It's his toughest job yet, but I think he will marshall the considerable talents of his young team by the end of the season.
The Cardinals have shown the ability to break down mediocre teams thus far and should batter their way through a Big East, which looks like a shell of its former self in its final throws. With a high seed in hand, their maul-and-advance style should fare well in the watered down brackets.
However, I will be surprised if Pitino pulls off what he hasn't since he was at UK and goes to the Final Four in consecutive years. Unfortunately for UofL, it looks like he lost the ability to make that happen when the Celtics lured him from Lexington with approximately $1 trillion, a leprechaun butler and whatever else they threw at him in exchange for four years of mostly lousy basketball.
7. What's it going to be like if your team loses?
Morris: Ugh, there are no words to describe how bad this will be. This would Louisville’s worst loss since Arkansas’ U.S. Reed threw in a halfcourt shot to beat the Cardinals in the 1981 NCAA¿Tournament. No matter what Louisville does, even winning the NCAA title, would erase the stink of a loss to a lesser UK team.
All of the pressure is on Louisville, and there will be a different kind of pressure if the Cardinals cannot win on their home court. A loss might literally make me sick.
What would make the loss even worse is having to listen to Big Blue Nation and their enlightened ilk go on and on about how the Cats own Cardinals and that traitor Rick Pitino. And they would be right, and I never want to admit they are right.
Brock: So, my friend is getting married the day after the game and I believe the rehearsal is scheduled for approximately halftime of the game. I would like to say a loss would barely register, because we have so thoroughly dominated the series recently, but must admit this has the potential to get ugly.
I've forewarned my buddy that I should be monitored around the microphone during the reception if they lose. Otherwise, guests should buckle up for one of the darkest, most profane wedding toasts of all time.
If UofL wins, I know it will be a long year for me. That wasn't a Mayan apocalypse fallout shelter I was building the last few months.