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This heavyweight Final Four all about revenge

Mar 25, 2012, 9:26 PM EDT

spt-120325-revenegs2 AP

Revenge might be a dish best served in the Final Four.

Saturday’s games feature two rematches of games from December, creating quite the added drama for the 2012 event. Even better, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State are four of college basketball’s premier programs, combining for 13 national titles and 49 Final Four appearances. That’s a dynamite combination and creates quite the contrast of the last two Final Fours that features compelling underdogs stories.

But more about that later. First, the rematches.

Kansas topped Ohio State on Dec. 10, while the Wildcats held off their in-state rivals 21 days later. And now, both get a shot at redemption on the game’s biggest stage. That hasn’t happened since at least 1980.

Neither game features the exact same rosters, though. Louisville won’t have forward Rakeem Buckeles (out with an injury), while freshman Wayne Blackshear wasn’t healthy yet. Ohio State played without sophomore center Jared Sullinger, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. Kansas took pride in the home win, but didn’t  give Sullinger’s absence too much credit.

“I don’t think you put an asterisk with the win,” coach Bill Self said then. “Ohio State can certainly say, and rightfully so, ‘Jared didn’t play.’ And we know he didn’t play, and they’re a much better team with him. We wanted him to play. But just because he plays doesn’t guarantee anything.”

The bigger variable in the game will be the neutral setting. Kansas hosted the Buckeyes. Same applied to Kentucky’s win against Louisville. Not that anything’s ever a given in a heated rivalry game.

Take this quote from Kentucky coach John Calipari after the Wildcats’ win against Baylor.

“It is in our state. They’re a great program. We’re in two different leagues,” Calipari said. “The city of Louisville drives our state. The University of Louisville drives that city. So it’s a very important thing for our state, and it’s important that that school does well.”

It wasn’t quite a dig at Louisville, but there’s no mistaking where Calipari places the college hoops hierarchy between the two. Kentucky’s the big dog. Louisville’s No. 2.

But the winner this week gets to play for a shot at being No. 1.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

  1. 1historian - Mar 25, 2012 at 10:24 PM

    The “revenge” theme was silly. Revenge has nothing to do with it, especially between UL & UK.

    Today Baylor was getting whipped big time early on and they stepped up the rough stuff and this was Kentucky’s 1st real challenge on that scale and they responded. They have tons of talent and they showed they respond to rough stuff and that says to me that when the pressure is on they step up and I pick them to win it all. I’m not too fond of Calipari’s ‘one and done’ approach to recruiting but that’s my problem.

    So far in picking the winners (I go one round at a time) I’m 44-16. My goal is someday to get 75% but it ain’t happened yet.

    • florida727 - Mar 26, 2012 at 8:18 AM

      Have to agree with “historian”. Revenge won’t play a roll in this at all. They’re all 2 games/wins away from a national title. They couldn’t care less about avenging a December loss.

      Only thing I disagree with “historian” on is “Calipari’s one and done approach to recruiting”. Let me help you get over that. SOMEBODY is going to recruit those kids. Those kids are just smart enough to know that because of Kentucky’s history and reputation, they’re going to get the exposure there that’ll attract NBA scouts. If anything, give Calipari credit. Every year, he essentially has to get a whole new core of FRESHMEN to buy into his philosophy. Remember, every one of these guys averaged 25 points per game in high school, and were “the man”. Try getting a bunch of egomaniacal 18-year olds to give up that me-first mentality for the sake of a “greater good”. I’m a Florida fan, so by law I’m required to hate Kentucky, but even I have to acknowledge, what Calipari does year-in and year-out is nothing short of miraculous. Hope that helps, “historian”.

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