Louisville/Kentucky preview

It's early and we all have a long day ahead of us that even 19-year-old Mike Rutherford would not envy (he enjoyed the marathons), so we're going to keep all points short and dash-friendly.

You may note that we're ditching the game day format because this team is not as good at playing basketball when we don't as it is when we do. Never let anyone tell you that we're not in control. We are in control. Game faces.

Storylines of Aversion

--Though none of the major players will be on the floor tomorrow (except John Calipari, whose threatening of an opposing player didn't get nearly the amount of national attention you might expect), it's safe to say that there is still some bad blood from the Eric Bledsoe/Reggie Delk/DeMarcus Cousins/Jared Swopshire incidents that ended up defining last year's game.

--John Calipari and Rick Pitino have spent the better part of the last eight months attempting to one-up each other.

Rick Pitino spent three years recruiting Marquis Teague. John Calipari signed him. Rick Pitino said the NBA in Louisville was a crazy idea. John Caipari said any Kentuckian would be crazy to not want an NBA team in Louisville. Rick Pitino took a job coaching the Puerto Rican national team. John Calipari is considering taking the same position with P.R.'s chief rival, The Dominican Republic. Rick Pitino said the Kentucky basketball team thought they were playing roller derby during last year's game. John Calipari has taken subtle jabs at Pitino's scheduling and dressing habits.

All this building up to what will take place in just a few hours.

--The KFC Yum! Center is now the premier site in the state of Kentucky to take in a basketball game. Many folks in Frankfort are reportedly furious that plans to make this fact not so are not moving along as quickly as they'd like.

--Josh Harrellson on the rivalry: "It really surprised. I've never seen fans that hate another school like they hate Louisville or hate Duke."

--Josh Harrellson on Louisville: “I came in here, the first time we were about to play them, and everybody was all ‘I hate Louisville.' Since last year, I don’t like them even more. And other people hating on them has been wearing off on me.”

--Preston Knowles said in an interview after Monday's victory over Morgan State that the Kentucky game was "not a big deal," and that despite growing up very close to Lexington he considered all Big East games as more important than the annual intrastate clash.

--Former Louisville player Kenny Payne will be coming to the Derby City for the game for the first time as a Kentucky assistant. In a story with the Lexington Herald-Leader earlier this week, Payne revealed that while at U of L he advised prized recruit Rex Chapman to go to UK where playing time would be easier to find.

Cardinal fans weren't upset at Payne's transition to the dark side, but he probably should have played the Chapman tidbit a tad closer to the vest.

--Doron Lamb: "We'll get the win though. We ain't even worrying about that."

--Apparently Lamb didn't mesh very well with the team when he visited U of L during his high school days. Sources say he had a particular issue with Knowles, whom he believed played too hard during a pick-up game.

--Both sides spent a solid portion of Thursday claiming that the incidents which defined last year's game will not be re-occurring this afternoon.

John Calipari said he'd talked to his team about maintaining their composure. Chris Smith said he didn't want to name names, but that the main instigators of last year's conflicts were no longer with their respective team. And Preston Knowles offered up the following:

“That won't happen this year; you can take my word on that one,” the senior said. “It's a totally different team, better leadership this time around, and everybody wants to play, so it's going to be a different type of game.”

--I've received a decent chunk of hate mail in recent years. But for some reason the final line of one I received last night keeps sticking with me.

"Here's hoping you a year you will never forget, all bad."

I would to take this opportunity to that poetax, whose addition of those final two words saved me the eternal confusion of thinking this man who had spent seven or eight sentences saying truly awful things to me was now hoping I would have the best 12 months of my life. I never would have connected those last two dots on my own.

Poetax, I hope you find love, happiness and fortune, all in 2011.  

Stats

Thanks to KSR and A Sea of Blue for the charts below.

cats-and-cards-numbers


Kentucky Louisville
Split W-L Pct W-L Pct
Home 6-0 1 10-1 0.91
Away 0-1 0 1-0 1
Neutral 4-1 0.8 0-0 -
Conference 0-0 - 0-0 -
Conf Home 0-0 - 0-0 -
Conf Away 0-0 - 0-0 -
Conf Neutral 0-0 - 0-0 -
Top 25 2-0 1 2-0 1
RPI 1-50 1-2 0.33 1-1 0.5
RPI 51-100 1-0 1 0-0 -
RPI 101-150 0-0 - 1-0 1
RPI 151-200 3-0 1 2-0 1
RPI 200+ 1-0 1 4-0 1
Average RPI Opp. 114.92 158.17
Average KenPom Opp. 126.17 176.58
SOS Statsheet 38 120
SOS KenPom 43 204
AP Rank 11 22
Coach's Rank 12 20
KenPom Rank 6 10
BBState Rank 8 18

 

Game Storylines

--Louisville will be playing without leading rebounder Rakeem Buckles, sophomore forward Mike Marra, and freshman point guard Elisha Justice. All are sidelined with injuries.

--Kentucky forward Terrence Jones will be the most talented player on the floor Friday and is the one guy involved in the game that the other side doesn't have an answer for. He's nearly averaging a double-double and is more than capable of walking out of the Yum Center with a gaudy stat line.

The talk surrounding Jones leading into this game is eerily reminiscent of the things said about Earl Clark before he faced Kentucky in his sophomore and junior seasons. Here's hoping Jones does something to pull a shocking morning suspension ala E5 in '08.

--Both teams want to run and both teams come into the game on blistering hot shooting streaks. The downside to that is neither have faced opponents particularly interested in defending recently. Kentucky has more players capable of consistently creating their own shots than does Louisville, but they struggled to find points against a Connecticut team that plays a physical brand of basketball similar to that of the Cardinals'.

Don't be shocked if the game isn't as high-scoring as the numbers on paper are forecasting.

--Louisville has to have one guy step up and drastically exceed his points per game average. If it doesn't happen, Kentucky wins its second straight in the series.

--Kentucky freshman guard Doron Lamb comes into Friday on a ridiculously hot stretch. Lamb, who is shooting over 50% from beyond the arc for the season, has hit 13 of his past 23 three-point attempts, and is averaging just under 22 ppg over Kentucky's last three contests.

Louisville has been victimized by helping too much on defense at times this season. Lamb is one guy Cardinal defenders can't leave, regardless of how badly their teammate has been beaten off the dribble.

--Peyton Siva has to be tremendous. He's the one player Louisville has who's talented, athletic and quick enough with the dribble to handle Kentucky's ball pressure.

If Siva struggles or gets into foul trouble (as he's been prone to do), U of L's only other option at the point, with Justice out, is freshman Russ Smith. Smith has missed of the season thus far because of injury and has a reputation for being easily excitable. Not a great combination if you're a Cardinal fan.

--Brandon Knight is good. Brandon Knight is very good. Brandon Knight is also very mature.

In a game where turnovers will be even more important than they usually are, Knight's talent and maturity will be paramount for Kentucky.

Tidbits

--Louisville is currently favored by two points, but I would expect the line to drop before tip. My guess is this one goes off as a pick 'em.

--Kentucky leads the all-time series with Louisville 27-14, and the modern series (since '83) 18-10.

--Kentucky won its first game against Louisville in Rupp Arena by 21.

--Louisville won its first game against Kentucky in Freedom Hall by 7.

--Six Louisville players have produced career-highs in the Cardinals' past two games: Peyton Siva (29 points), Chris Smith (18) and Russ Smith (9) at Western Kentucky; and Preston Knowles (31), Kyle Kuric (25) and Terrence Jennings (15) vs. Morgan State.

--U of L ranks among the top 10 nationally in six statistical categories in NCAA Statistics through games of Dec. 27. Individually, Gorgui Dieng is 19th in blocked shots (2.5 per game) and Terrence Jennings is 26th in blocks (2.3).

--Louisville and Washington are the only two schools in the nation in which their opponent has had at least two more turnovers than assists in every game this year.

--Kentucky has already beaten Washington.

--Rick Pitino is 4-5 in games against Kentucky while coaching at Louisville. He is 11-5 in games coaching against John Calipari.

--Louisville's leading scorer, Preston Knowles, is just 3-for-16 from the field in his career against the Wildcats.

Media Predictions

Rick Bozich: U of L 71, UK 70, 3 OTs. The game will be even closer than that

Eric Crawford: UK 78, U of L 73. Terrence Jones and Josh Harrellso win the battle inside.

C.L. Brown: U of L 70, UK 66. Playing small has Cards standing tall.

Brett Dawson: U of L 74, UK 70. Home-court atmosphere boosts Cards to a win in their toughest test yet.

Michael Grant: UK 71, U of L 67. UK survives foul trouble by occasionally going to a zone and using a small lineup.

Jody Demling: UK 65, U of L 61. Not sure Cardinals have an answer for Terrence Jones.

Chuck Jones: Kentucky 78, Louisville 74

Seth Davis: Kentucky 80, Louisville 72

Rick Pitino knew he had a young team, so he set up a relatively easy nonconference schedule. The Cardinals' two toughest games were both at home (they beat Butler and UNLV), but they also suffered a careless loss at home to Drexel. John Calipari also knew he had a young team, but he challenged his guys like they were veterans. The Wildcats have lost a couple along the way (to Connecticut in Maui and by a field goal at North Carolina), but they have emerged a better, tougher team. Lots of attention has been lavished on Kentucky freshmen Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb, but my favorite UK player is junior forward DeAndre Liggins, who has really matured into a tough, smart glue guy.

Jeff Goodman: Kentucky...it could get ugly with Buckles out

Also now claims he is waiting to hand-deliver my prize.

Jay Bilas: Louisville wins.

The Cardinals have the ability to force the Cats into turnovers and make this a frenzied and hectic game. That would be to the Cardinals' advantage.

Quotable

--“I know this, it wakes up the state,” Calipari said. “It shakes everybody out of their bed early, the night before they can’t sleep, then they wake up at 6 o’clock (wondering if) they missed the game.”

--"That's part of me,"DeAndre  Liggins said. "I'm a physical basketball player. I'm ready for all that kind of pushing and shoving because I'm from Chicago. The way we played, a guy catches the ball and we hit them. That's the kind of game we played in Chicago on the streets. I'm ready for all that."

--"This thing tomorrow, they will be bursting at the seams," UK head coach John Calipari said. "We know that. I'll imagine they'll have a nice cheer for me. It's going to be nuts."

--“We have to take the crowd out of the game early at the beginning,” Kentucky junior DeAndre Liggins said Thursday. “We just have to set the tone early and make sure their crowd doesn’t get into it. We have to come out and execute on defense and run our sets and push the ball.”

--"The whole Big Blue Nation is ready for the Louisville-Kentucky game," Harrellson said. "This is the only game it seems like (the fans) care about sometimes. That's all they care about is us whooping them, so hopefully we can do it."

--“This game should be one of those vicious, clean, everybody's-just-playing-hard-and-playing-to-win (games),” UK coach John Calipari said. “And then when it's over, everyone that leaves the arena or leaves their television set says, ‘Now that's basketball. I enjoyed watching. That was the funnest game I've seen all year.' ”

--"We'll get the win though. We ain't even worrying about that." --Doron Lamb

--“They run well, we run well. They shoot well, we shoot well,” Uof L forward Terrence Jennings said. “It's just going to come down to defense, the backboard and transition defense.”

--“I honestly think (last year) it was just everyone being new on their side and people making such a big deal of it that they came out the locker room, and I thought it was roller derby,” Rick Pitino said. “It was very physical.”

--"The intensity of the game is going to be crazy," Calipari said. "You better be ready to play through grabs and holds and pushes and shoves. It's going to be a physical game. You better be able to finish around the rim, because if you think you are going to go up and nobody is going to go after it and nobody is going to hit your body, (you're mistaken).  If you are going to rebound, you better get on a body because that body is going to be on you pushing you out of bounds."

--“I wouldn't say hate them personally,” U of L guard Chris Smith said, “but I'd say hate the name on the jersey. I mean, that is our rival and we all bleed Louisville.”

Conclusion

Go Louisville. Beat Kentucky.

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