The Kentucky Derby – The 2012 Final Four Version

Kentucky will be the only #1 seed in the 2012 Final Four, which is an improvement for big teams after last year, in which no #1 or #2 seeds made it in to the last weekend for the first time in tournament history. Unlike 2011, a year with no clear favorites, Kentucky stand as the obvious choice to win at all, with Kansas, Ohio State and Louisville waiting in line.

Kentucky by halftime, making the entire second half of their regional final against Baylor seem like 20 minutes of garbage time. The talk about Baylor having the size up front to handle Kentucky didn’t hold. They didn’t have the speed, nor the size at guard to hold down the Wildcats. A 16-0 during the first half put the game to bed, and it just got worse for the Bears as the first half continued.

Most of the guys on the Baylor team agreed that you don’t know how good this team really is before you actually play them. As head coach Scott Drew said – This is the best team we’ve faced all year, probably the best during the last two. They’re better than I thought.

It’s no surprise, as Calipari keeps recruiting the best players in the land, most of them a one and done kind of guy. Like John Wall, who was enough for the Elite Eight. Like Brandon Knight who helped Kentucky reach the Final Four. Like a lot of guys on this team, a team with six starters anyone in the nation would love to have.

It was Kidd-Gilchrist’s turn to shine, finishing with 19 points. At a certain point in the first half, he had the same number of points as the entire Baylor team (17). Anthony Davis was normally huge, finishing with 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. Baylor had only Qunicy Acy, who finished with 22 points, that didn’t scratch the surface of the Wildcats’ defense and depth.

Can Louisville, who have already lost, 69-62, to the Wildcats this season, change the course and destiny of this incredibly talented group? Last year, Kentucky lost 56-55 to Uconn in the Final Four. Big East means a bad future for Calipari again? It’s hard, nearly impossible to bet against Kentucky. They won all their games in the tournament by double digits so far.

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Western Kentucky and Iowa State weren’t supposed to put up much of a fight, but Indiana, one of the two teams that beat Kentucky during the regular season, and Baylor, should have made it harder. But it sometimes feels that in this day and time, no team can match-up to Kentucky. Maybe North Carolina could, but Kendall Marshall didn’t play, and the Tar Heels’ offense got stuck in the second half, bowing down to Kansas. The Jayhawks and Ohio State play on the other side of the bracket in this final four.

Rick Pitino needs to hope his zone defense holds up, and manages to slow this game down, especially in the first half. Kentucky rarely loses its head, but a frustrating Louisville defense while playing smart on offense, minimizing the turnovers, could make a game of it for Louisville. On the other hand, it’s more in the hands of Kentucky’s players anyway. It’s their game, it’s their national title, the first for the school since 1998, to lose.

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