Notes and observations from the NCAA men's basketball tournament as the Final Four approaches:
n If you're betting on a red-hot dark horse to win all the marbles in this year's version of March Madness, the smart money is on the Louisville Cardinals.
Veteran coach Rick Pitino has the Cardinals playing their best basketball of the season right when it counts the most.
The Cardinals, who entered the tournament as the fourth seed in the West Region, won four straight games - including an ouster of top-seeded Michigan State in the Sweet 16 round - after sweeping to the Big East Conference championship at Madison Square Garden with four straight victories.
Louisville looks a lot like the Kemba Walker-led Connecticut team that steamrolled to five straight wins in the Big East Tournament last year before winning the NCAA championship.
n With all that taken into account, it says here that Louisville's run will end in Saturday night's semifinal round at the hands of top-seeded Kentucky, which appears to be close to invincible behind freshman phenom Anthony Davis.
n The other semifinal, between Ohio State and Kansas, should be even more entertaining. Look for the Buckeyes to survive and advance to Monday's national championship game, which will be won by Kentucky.
n Top-seeded Michigan State's shooters tanked big-time in the Spartans' loss to Louisville. Michigan State scored just 44 points - fewer than any squad in the school's NCAA tournament history - and shot just 29 percent from the floor against Louisville.
n Baylor and Kentucky, which played in the Elite Eight round last Sunday, have met seven times over the years, with the Wildcats winning all seven. Kentucky also beat Baylor in the 1948 championship game.
n Louisville's second-half rally against Florida and Kansas' strong finish against North Carolina in a pair of Elite Eight games served notice to fans who think it's safe to duck away from the TV set for five to 10 minutes from these games to grab a bite to eat. A heck of a lot can happen in that amount of time.
n Speaking of furious finishes, none was better than Syrcause's 1-point victory over Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 round, although the Badgers' ball movement and shot selection - or lack thereof - in the waning seconds of the game left much to be desired.
n It's tough to be conflicted, but that's what you often wind up being when you naturally root for the underdog but fill out an NCAA tournament bracket.
John Hartsock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org