Kentucky Coach John Calipari hugs Terrence Jones after the Wildcats'… (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images )
Kentucky takes on Louisville and Ohio State faces Kansas in the Final Four of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. But which two will advance from Saturday's games to Monday's title game? And which team will emerge as the national champion?
Writers from around the Tribune Co. will offer their best guesses. Check back throughout the day for their responses. And join the conversation by voting in the poll and leaving a comment of your own.
Chris Foster, Los Angeles Times
Watch out UCLA, Kentucky is gaining.
When the Wildcats win the NCAA championship Monday -- beating Kansas -- they will have eight titles, three shy of the Bruins.
The one-and-done formula Kentucky Coach John Calipari has embraced pays off this year, as he has hit on the right group of freshmen in Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague. The Wildcats are relentless, off-setting their blame-it-on-youth mistakes.
This Final Four is a chance for Calipari to face -- and finally defeat -- some demons.
Calipari is win-less in four NCAA tournament games against rival Rick Pitino. In 1996, Pitino’s Kentucky team beat Massachusetts and Calipari in the semifinals and then won the title. Calipari has too much talent for Pitino’s Louisville team in the semifinals Saturday.
Scrappy Kansas outlasts Ohio State in the other semifinal, giving Calipari another windmill to tilt at. Kansas defeated his Memphis team in the 2008 national title game.
Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune
This is Kentucky's tournament to lose. The top-seeded Wildcats so far have beaten every NCAA tournament opponent by double digits. They're going to receive a test from Louisville's outstanding defense but stopping Anthony Davis and his long-legged, speedy company is just too tough.
Kentucky will have a tougher time against Louisville in the Final Four than Ohio State in the title game. The Buckeyes are a stronger team since losing to Kansas in the non-conference portion of the season when center Jared Sullinger was out with back spasms, but the rematch will be evenly matched.
Kansas' Thomas Robinson will put up points, but the Buckeyes have more power with Deshaun Thomas and William Buford to pull out the win. But once the title game arrives, it's all over. Bourbon St. will be painted blue.
[Updated at 12:43 p.m. March 29:
Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel
With all the hype surrounding the Kentucky-Louisville game, you would think Saturday’s match-up was for the national championship itself rather than a spot in Monday night’s title game. Top to bottom, Kentucky is the more talented team -- thanks in part to Anthony Davis and Doron Lamb -- and it showed during UK’s 69-62 win earlier this season. Look for the Wildcats to win the rematch of this Bluegrass battle.
In December, Ohio State lost to Kansas, 78-67 without the services of Jared Sullinger. Sullinger is back but that won’t help the Buckeyes stop Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Like Kentucky, the Jayhawks have one of the most athletic teams in the tournament and will return to the finals for the first time since 2007-08.
New Orleans has had plenty of exciting national title games and Monday’s shouldn’t be any different with Kentucky outlasting Kansas, giving the 'Cats their eighth national title and the first under John Calipari.
Dom Amore, Hartford Courant
When it all ends Monday night, Kentucky will be celebrating.
The Wildcats have the best player in the country right now, Anthony Davis, and although he is a freshman, he has probably seen enough not to be rattled by the Final Four scene. Of course, they have all the talent they need around them, too, and their tournament road thus far has not been grueling.
The game against Louisville will be an emotional one, of course, and could leave Kentucky drained for the championship game against Ohio State. But Kentucky has more weapons than Louisville, and though Rick Pitino has already beaten one of his protégés in this tournament, the timing just seems right for the student, John Calipari, to beat the teacher in this semifinal game. The Wildcats seem to be playing with that now-or-never urgency, knowing this is the only time most of this group will be together.
And when he’s on the mountaintop, who knows what Calipari might do?]