2011-12 Record: 30–9 (10–8 Big East)
Head Coach: Rick Pitino (6th Final Four)
Projected Starters: G – Peyton Siva (9.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 3.2 rpg, 1.7 spg), G – Chris Smith (9.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 66 3PM), G/F – Kyle Kuric (12.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 75 3PM), F – Chane Behanan (9.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg), C – Gorgui Dieng (9.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 3.2 bpg)
Will win the national title if… the Cards fall right for the U of L, the only team in the Final Four that was not a No. 1 or 2 seed entering the Big Dance. In Kentucky’s two losses this season, either Davis (at Indiana) or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (SEC title game vs. Vanderbilt) were essentially eliminated from competition due to foul trouble. Early whistles and incredible 3-point shooting are must-haves.
Will lose to Kentucky on Saturday if… coach Rick Pitino’s underdogs don’t make it rain from 3-point range early, often and late. The Wildcats are inexperienced in close games that go down to the wire but have plenty of experience wearing down their opponents with coast-to-coast athleticism. UK defeated U of L, 69–62, this season — which was Kentucky’s sixth-lowest margin of victory this year.
Best Team: Louisville
Biggest Upset: Norfolk State over Missouri
Most Surprising Team: Florida
Most Disappointing Team: Missouri
Best Player: Bradley Beal, Florida. The Gators’ freshman made a name for himself — averaging 15.8 points (on 60.5 percent shooting) and 8.3 rebounds — while leading UF to the Elite Eight.
Honorable Mention: Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State; Draymond Green, Michigan State; Peyton Siva, Louisville; Chase Behanan, Louisville; Russ Smith, Louisville; Drew Gordon, New Mexico
Best Game: Louisville 72, Florida 68, Elite Eight — The teacher schooled the student once again, as Rick Pitino’s Cardinals pulled off a come-from-behind win over Billy Donovan’s Gators, who lost a heartbreaker in the Elite Eight for the second straight season.
Most Disappointing Game: Louisville 57, Michigan State 44, Sweet 16 — After roaring into the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans left not with a bang but a whimper. In defeat, Michigan State was held to the fewest points by a No. 1 seed in the shot clock era.
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