LOUISVILLE, Ky. Louisvilles quest of fulfilling coach Rick Pitinos hopes for the Cardinals repeating as national champions and becoming a mini-dynasty hinge on beating archrival Kentucky.
Thats going to be a tough challenge against the Wildcats, who have been a thorn in the Cardinals side.
Eighth-seeded Kentucky (26-10) enters Friday nights Midwest Regional showdown against fourth-seeded Louisville (31-5) with a 3-2 edge in the NCAA tournament and a 31-15 series lead. The Wildcats have won five of the last six against Louisville, including at the 2012 Final Four en route to their eighth national championship, and a 73-66 victory last year in Lexington on Dec. 28.
Kentucky would love to dash Louisvilles dream of a third straight Final Four appearance, considering the Wildcats are trying to win their own second title in three years.
For Louisville to win, the Cardinals need to forget history and focused on what theyve been doing to win 14 of their last 15.
Were looking for revenge, former Louisville great Darrell Griffith said Wednesday. We didnt play a good game at Kentucky, and theyve got a real good team (thats) playing the way a lot expect them to play now.
Weve got a great team. Were undersized, but that doesnt matter. You see a lot of teams on the sidelines now. You play to your strengths and which teams strengths prevail is the one thats going to win. Everybodys got to have their A game from here on out.
Both teams practiced on Wednesday and will hold news conferences today.
Louisvilles veteran squad aims to become the first repeat champions since Florida went back-to-back in 2006 and 07. Pitino set that as a goal and said before the season that the Cardinals have a chance to achieve mini-dynasty by running the table once again.
The Cardinals couldnt get it done in their first meeting with the latest group of heralded Kentucky freshmen, who began the season ranked No. 1, expectations of winning the schools ninth title and possibly going unbeaten.
And now theyre playing their best basketball of the year. Theyve revived their title prospects with an impressive postseason highlighted by Sundays stunning upset of Wichita State.
The Wildcats seek another upset of a higher seed when they take on Louisville.
Its a big step for the Wildcats, said former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall, who won the 1978 title. They had a tough road in the second game against Wichita State, the only undefeated team in the tournament, and now they face Louisville.
If they win that game, theyll (possibly) have to face a No. 2 seed (Michigan) and maybe have to face two No. 1 seeds.
Former Cardinals coach Denny Crum considers Fridays game a fitting challenge for Louisvilles march toward another championship.
Its a rival game and it means moving on to the next level in the NCAA tournament, getting to the round of eight and having a chance to make it to a Final Four again, Crum said. Thats the biggest motivation.