NEW ORLEANS — What is the best way to beat Kentucky?
That’s what teams have tried to figure out this season and only two — Indiana in December and Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference Tournament title game — have figured out. Louisville, which lost 69-62 to UK¿on Dec. 31, gets the next shot at the Wildcats on Saturday night in the Final Four in New Orleans.
Three analysts — Clark Kellogg, Greg Anthony and Steve Kerr — who will be working for CBS-TV during the Final Four offered what they thought might be the best way to beat Kentucky even though all said they agreed with UK¿being the national title favorite.
“I think you have to be efficient,” said Kellogg, who watched UK beat Indiana and Baylor in Atlanta. “You have to be in attack mode from the start. You have to get quality shots, score in transition, be ready to shoot quality shots early in the shot clock and be able to knock shots down. Against elite level teams, when you create good looks you have got to convert.
“You have to be able to rebound competitively and keep Kentucky off the free throw line. They are mauling teams at the foul line. They were 65 of 81 (against Indiana and Baylor) and the opponents 29 of 36. That is the stuff to do on paper and in theory, but a lot of it is hard to do because Kentucky is really good.”
Anthony says there’s one thing Louisville or any team must do if it wants to beat Kentucky.
“You have to believe you an win.¿I watched Baylor.¿I didn’t sense the first eight or 10 minutes that they believed they could win,” Anthony said. “That has a lot to do with how you play the game. If you don’t truly believe you can win, you play accordingly. I think it starts with the ability to believe and that’s an advantage Rick Pitino will have. You will not see anybody as relentless for 40 minutes (as Louisville). I really think he will have his kids believing. I think the fact it is a rivalry game will also benefit them. A rivalry often gives the underdog momentum.”
If Louisville has that belief — and it should with the way it is playing now and also for how it played UK¿in Rupp Arena — then Anthony offers a few more musts to beat the No. 1 Wildcats.
“You have to control the defensive backboard and keep them off the free throw line,” he said. “Louisville is probably the best at pressing of anybody in the country. The first game they forced 21 turnovers. As great as Kentucky has been, they have had some issues down the stretch of close games but nobody has been able to put the pressure on Kentucky lately.
“There’s a reason Rick Pitino is undefeated in Sweet 16 games. I¿guarantee you he will use the rivalry and the fact Louisville is a huge underdog to motivate his team. Saying all that, it still might not matter. But I¿have a sense it will be a very competitive game.”
Kerr also thinks beating Kentucky might be easier said than done.
“You have to make shots. Defensively, you have to do a great job on Kentucky. You can’t get overextended,” Kerr said. “I thought Florida in Gainesville tried to pressure Kentucky and Kentucky just threw over the top and lobbed to (Anthony) Davis and it was easy. Florida got back in the game being more solid defensively.
“You have to be very careful pressing Kentucky. Not only (point guard Marquis) Teague, but (Michael) Kidd-Gilchrist can break you down off the dribble. It’s a difficult task. It is going to take a really, really special game to knock them off.”
But since the first Kentucky-Louisville Final Four meeting certainly counts as a “special game,” remember what the analysts say and see if Pitino’s team can or cannot do what they think is needed to have a chance to beat Kentucky.