Similar to this Final Four, the 1964 Final Four featured two match-ups played earlier in the season when Duke avenged a loss to Michigan and UCLA toppled Kansas State for a second time en route to the title.
Jared Sullinger will be a big key if Ohio State is able to avenge its prior loss to Kansas. (247Sports Photo)
Fast forward 48 years, and Ohio State and Louisville have a rare opportunity to avenge the prior defeat and ascend to the title.
There is a psychology to playing a familiar opponent. As a coaching staff, you recount both in your mind and on film all the mistakes that were made the first time. The maturation of the team both as individuals playing better at this point in the season and as a cohesive unit that have bought into the team concepts exudes confidence to a better outcome.
Louisville and Ohio State, who both lost on the road in a hostile environment to Kentucky and Kansas, respectively, will get their shot at redemption in New Orleans. Here are four keys that must occur Saturday if the Cardinals and Buckeyes are able to turn the tables:
1. PROTECTING THE RIM
Three of the nation’s best rim defenders move on to New Orleans. Jeff Withey is the best in the nation at over 15 percent for Kansas. As a team, Kentucky leads the nation in blocked shot percentage led by Anthony Davis sitting at just under 14 percent at the rim.
And then there’s Gourgi Dieng, who is over 10 percent in his block percentage and has been pivotal in Louisville’s run through the Big East Tournament and the West Regional.
Both Louisville and Ohio State will have their defenses challenged by bigger opponents who possess a variety of ways to score. Protecting the rim is critical. Shots at the rim convert greater than 66 percent of the time. Easy points right there and tough to challenge.
2. PERIMETER STOPS
Peyton Siva is one of the key figures in Louisville's hopes to upset No. 1 ranked Kentucky. (247Sports Photo)
On display this weekend will be two of the nation’s best perimeter defenders in Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Louisville’s Russell Smith.
Craft has not only neutralized the opponent’s best player but has a 4.66 percent steal rate. Smith is second in the nation in steal percentage at 6.2 percent and has a 33 percent possession used rate (amount of defensive possessions on the floor without a score). Louisville also has Peyton Siva, a very good on ball defender with over 60 steals this season.
The challenge is neutralizing Kentucky’s perimeter attack features slashing wings as well as behind the arc, all who shoot over 35 percent on 2-point jump shots.
Kansas' perimeter attack of Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson, Conor Teahan, Travis Relaford all over 35 percent on 2-point jumpers will put pressure on the OSU defense.
Containing penetration and closing out are critical for success.
3. CLEANING THE GLASS
Rebounding is an important part to your defensive game plan.
An offensive rebound gives high-percentage conversion possessions back to your opponent and demoralizes a defense.
Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist grabbed 19 rebounds in the first matchup with Louisville this season. (247Sports Photo)
Ohio State is second best in the nation, keeping opponents off the offensive boards at under 25 percent. Against Syracuse, OSU dominated the glass 37-22 and held Syracuse to six offensive rebounds. Keeping Kansas off the glass is a different story. The Jayhawks are currently at nearly 35 percent in offensive rebounds. They dominated the glass versus North Carolina while corralling 10 offensive rebounds. In December, Kansas bested OSU 25-15 on the glass in the Jayhawks' 11-point win in Lawrence.
For Louisville it’s an area of concern as more than 200 Division I schools do it better.
Kentucky dominated the glass 57-31 in the earlier victory over the Cardinals, an effort which included 14 offensive rebounds.
Florida out-rebounded Louisville in the West Region final, but the battle of the boards in the second half was won by the Cards. Louisville also bested Michigan State on the boards, holding the Spartans to just eight offensive rebounds.
The emergence of the freshman Chane Behanan as a rebounder, post scorer and defender has been a big reason for the ride that Louisville is on.
4. TEMPO & TURNOVERS
Kentucky has a variety of ways it can beat its opponent. The Wildcats' stifling defense has set the tone but they have the ability to turn up the tempo and unleash an arsenal that thrives in transition.
Kentucky is 22-0 when scoring 75 or more points. Teams such as ODU, Tennessee, Florida, LSU and Louisville gave themselves a fighting chance controlling the pace and keeping the ‘Cats at bay. Vanderbilt and Indiana toppled the ‘Cats keeping UK to 64 and 71 points, respectively.
Unfortunately for Rick Pitino, when it comes to offensive efficiency, Vanderbilt and Indiana are two of the best in the country and Louisville is 101st.
The reality becomes for Louisville that if this game is played in 70s, it’s a Kentucky victory and that probably holds true if the game is in the 60’s as well. The Cards' only chance is to play this game in the 40’s or 50’s. This will require the management of every offensive possession and a need for Louisville to reduce its turnovers to single digits while forcing Kentucky to 15 or more.
On the season, Louisville has created more than 120 turnovers than Kentucky.
Ohio State gains back a important piece that was missing in its prior defeat at the hands of the Jayhawks, All-American Jared Sullinger.
Kansas is 13-0 when scoring over 75 points including an impressive 80-67 victory over North Carolina in the Elite Eight.
Kansas was very fortunate to survive earlier in the Tournament when teams like Purdue and NC State kept control of the pace and kept the Jayhawks in the 60’s. Iowa State and Duke defeated Kansas by keeping the game in the 60s.
The Buckeyes can win playing a grinding Big Ten style of controlling tempo which it faces all season long against the likes of Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State.
Kansas has the edge in turnovers and it’s a trend that Ohio State must reverse. The Buckeyes did a good job managing turnovers in its victories over Syracuse and Cincinnati.
The pressure is on Louisville and Ohio State to come up with ways to advance past a familiar opponent that defeated them earlier. The ability to come up with and implement a winning defensive strategy is paramount as the margin for error is slim and the stakes are as big as they ever have been.
Leigh Klein is the owner of Five-Star Basketball Camps and formerly on staff at Texas and Rhode Island. Each year at Five-Star, he trains hundreds of future college basketball and NBA stars such as Michael Jordan, Grant Hill, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He will be blogging for 247Sports on college basketball and recruiting.
Follow Leigh Klein on Twitter @leighalanklein and let him know what you think about the blog.