First, Dick Vitale gives us his rundown on the Cats and Mountaineers and, not surprisingly since he picked us to win it all, he thinks Kentucky will take down Huggy to get to Indy:
West Virginia has held three straight opponents to less than 60 points in the tournament. Bob Huggins’ team will be very physical, and the Mountaineers will try to control the tempo. The key for the Mountaineers is to limit Kentucky in transition.
One concern for Huggins, though, is turnovers. West Virginia turned the ball over 23 times against Washington. If that happens against the Kentucky, John Calipari’s team will run wild in the fast break.
I give the slightest edge to Kentucky in a thriller at the Carrier Dome.
And The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy breaks the game down position by position, giving the Cats the edge inside, at the point and on the bench, but picks Bob Huggins over Cal in the coaching department. Certainly, the most important assignment is for whoever guards Da’Sean Butler, as Eric Bledsoe (or whoever) limiting Butler would make life awfully difficult for West Virginia. However, DeCourcy thinks the 2-guard matchup is one where the ‘Neers have the edge:
Shooting guard: West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler has played the last month like he wants his college career to end in glory. He’s got that covered, but is there more? Butler hasn’t scored as much in this tournament and is capable of a breakout game. WVU’s unconventional lineup might make this a tough matchup for Kentucky. Eric Bledsoe is a bit short to defend Butler, but where else can he be assigned? Edge: West Virginia.
He also thinks Devin Ebanks has an advantage over Darius Miller, and may even end up defending John Wall a little, which would be a matchup unlike any Wall has seen this season:
Small forward: Darius Miller played the game of his life against Cornell in the Sweet 16 and could be a good matchup for Butler. Miller showed defensive commitment against Ryan Wittman that he’d rarely displayed before. He could be a decisive shot-maker, as well. West Virginia’s Devin Ebanks has been this tournament’s singular defensive force. He has shut down players of all sizes. Don’t be surprised to see him assigned to check Wall and attempt to disrupt the start of UK’s attack. Edge: West Virginia.
Ultimately, though, DeCourcy picks the Cats in an ugly one:
Bottom line: Kentucky has more talent. It showed it can be overpowering on offense against Wake Forest and disciplined on defense against Cornell. The West Virginia game will be the least pleasant game the Wildcats have entered – but the most consequential. It will be a slog, but UK will trudge on toward Indianapolis.
As a final note, it seems that Butler is dealing with a minor hand injury which he believes will not affect his ability to play tomorrow. We shall see, but any chink in the armor of WVU’s leader is a bonus for Kentucky against the best team they’ve played all season. That is all.