2014 NCAA Tournament: Better storylines for Kentucky vs. Louisville

Noted college basketball powerhouses and in-state rivals Kentucky and Louisville will meet Friday in the Sweet 16. There are a lot of storylines, many of which are stale. Here's a helpful guide on what to focus on and what to ignore as part of the buildup.

SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

Hey, guys, did you know that Louisville will meet Kentucky on Friday in the Sweet 16?!

While that is really exciting, it also brings a bit of trepidation.

Not only is this a huge game between in-state rivals, but we have an entire week before the ball is tipped. That's a lot of articles to ensure adequate page views and a lot of deadlines to meet to keep editors happy.

With so many narratives, where do we begin?

Well hopefully, sports writer, you avoid the low-hanging fruit. If this game was a tree, there would be plenty to pick from.

But this game is not a tree, and you are not a lazy writer!

Ignore the obvious angles. Louisville and Kentucky fans are passionate, smart and very tuned-in basketball junkies. They aren't going to tolerate recycled ideas.

So try a little bit harder this week and write something that is at worst mildly original.

Write about this: Kentucky and Louisville took very different paths to get to Indianapolis.
Not that: Kentucky and Louisville are in the same state. Both have a rich basketball history.

Anything that has to do with the Wildcats and Cardinals game in the 2012 Final Four should be prohibited. We all watched it, know why it was such a big deal (the buildup was arguably more exciting than the actual game) and Russ Smith and Wayne Blackshear are the only two remaining players from that box score.

The feature stories and profile pieces on UK fans living in Louisville or a divided house between the Cardinals and Wildcats have already been published ... times 10.

More focus can and should be placed on the teams' annual regular season meeting from back in December. Kentucky won and showed what it was capable of, while Louisville was dealing with internal strife as Chane Behanan was about to be booted from the team.

On paper, Kentucky possesses more talent and is a bad matchup for the Cardinals when playing at an optimal level. The Wildcats have a more physical backcourt and more length in the frontcourt. Their regular season matchup confirms this.

Write about this: Rick Pitino is two wins away from reaching his third consecutive Final Four.
Not that: Rick Pitino used to be the coach of Kentucky.

It feels as though even the national media is over the fact that Pitino was once a really successful coach in Lexington. He's now knee-deep in creating his legacy at Louisville, with a third consecutive Final Four appearance within reach.

If Pitino is able to beat Kentucky and defeat the winner of Michigan/Tennessee, he would become one of only nine coaches in college basketball history to pull off such an accomplishment. Only Ben Howland, Tom Izzo and Coach K have done it since the field expanded to 64+ teams in the mid-80s.

Write about this: John Calipari is looking to reach his third Final Four in four years.
Not that: John Calipari only recruits one-and-done players.

Just like Pitino, Coach Cal is two wins away from being a Final Four frequenter for this decade

Kentucky was a Fred VanVleet buzzer-beating three from being chastised that the one-and-done philosophy employed by its head coach didn't work. Had it gone in, Kentucky would have been 1-1-1 in its last two postseasons (one NCAA Tournament win, one loss and one NIT loss).

But that shot didn't go in, so instead nothing about the system needs to change, and the story about how Calipari is 15-2 in the tournament as coach of Kentucky prevailed.

#BBN has the right coach, and his approach to recruiting works. You can't really argue with that now, and you certainly won't be able to if Calipari gets to Dallas.

Write about this: The Harrisons are playing their best basketball at Kentucky.
Not that: The Harrisons are twins!

I don't even know which one was born first, and I don't even care. That isn't important right now. What is important is both players have been playing great basketball at the most crucial time of the season. Take a look:


Also consider: the Harrisons and James Young are all 6'6. Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Russ Smith are 6'1 or shorter. Kind of a big deal.

Write about this: Russ Smith is struggling.
Not that: Russ Smith is totally cray.

As difficult as it is not to write a puff piece on one of the most lovable college basketball players in recent memory, the reality is that Russ Smith did not play well in the first weekend of the tournament. In wins over Manhattan and Saint Louis, Smith shot 6-of-19 from the field with 10 assists and 13 turnovers.

That sounds like the old Russ Smith, and it isn't going to get it done against a Kentucky backcourt that is currently in a groove.

Smith has a knack for turning it on without warning, and he's traditionally played well against Kentucky.  All this could set up a thrilling battle among guards.

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