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This heavyweight Final Four all about revenge

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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.

VIDEO: Monmouth hits a game-winner, Bench Mob member tries to disrobe

King Rice
AP
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Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.

The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.