How to tell you're a die-hard Louisville basketball fan: two days before the Kentucky game your entire body breaks out in
disgusting supportive bright red hives.
Of course sometimes the reward for such a bold showing of school spirit is about 40 straight hours in bed and a painful shot in the ass. But is it all worth it? No, it's absolutely not.
My body's out-of-control fandom has kept Card Chronicle from fully embracing the hate this week, but it's not too late to at least take a distant look at the big game.
Why Louisville wins: Kentucky's lack of a ballhandler
Louisville comes into today's game ranking tenth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio and 43rd in turnover margin, but in their three losses the Cards have only committed three less turnover than their opponents. The good news for U of L is that the Wildcats are turning the ball over an average of 20 times per game, more than every team but four in Division 1-A.
Louisville's guards have to harass Michael Porter, DeAndre Liggins or whomever Kentucky has handling the ball from the opening tip through the final horn.
Why Kentucky wins: Jodie Meeks
In the hideousness that was the '06-'07 Dream Game, there was one guy on the floor who proved himself capable of hitting an outside shot: Jodie Meeks. The freshman scored a game-high 18 points and was the only player on either team to make more than one three-pointer. Outside of Meeks' 4-for-7 performance from beyond the arc, the teams combined to shoot a repulsive 5-for-35 from deep.
With Jerry Smith apparently on strike from taking open shots, Meeks' stroke could again be the difference in a game chock-full of streaky jumpers.
Why Louisville wins: Earl Clark
His contributions weren't necessary in last year's win at Rupp, but Clark enters this year's game against Kentucky as the one guy on the floor the boys in blue don't have a real answer for. Perry Stevenson has turned himself into more of a player than I ever thought possible and Ramon Harris - if he's healthy - is a legit on-ball defender, but neither of these guys pose any real threat to Clark when he's playing at the level he's capable of.
Why Kentucky wins: Tim Higgins is officiating
A tightly whistled game almost certainly will work in the favor of the team that's the most turnover prone, and in this case that team is UK. If Higgins and company make calling slight had check fouls a trend early, then it will prevent guys like Andre McGee and Preston Knowles from really getting up on Kentucky's shaky ballhandlers. It will also afford Patrick Patterson the luxury of having more space to work.
Why Louisville wins: More talent
The Cardinals are the superior squad in terms of both depth and talent, two areas which mean even more in a rivalry game where lack of effort or focus shouldn't be issues. This magnitude of a game has, at times, dictated the way this group has played over the past two seasons, and this one is about as big as it gets when it comes to non-conference tilts.
Why Kentucky wins: Momentum
A month ago this appeared to be a game where Kentucky would have gladly accepted a moral victory, but the Cats have spent the last couple of weeks blowing out everyone not named Florida Atlantic, and the Cards have dropped two of three. UK comes into today believing a Wildcat win wouldn't be an upset, while U of L comes in shaken and still searching for an identity.
Why Louisville wins: Michael Porter is my basketball clone
And I love him for it. The shaky handles, the inexcusable turnovers, the leaving the right arm up a little too long after a made three; it's all there. Multiple friends made the comparison last year, and I resisted a while before finally accepting it as fact. Now I'm not a terrible player - fourth or fifth is usually the appropriate spot for me to land in a pickup game draft - but I have absolutely no business running the point for one of the most storied programs in the history of college basketball.
Why Kentucky wins: My 2009 has sucked from minute one up until now
Two words: ass shot.
Why Louisville wins: Size
Patrick Patterson will certainly be one of the two most talented players on the floor inside Freedom Hall this afternoon, but the same could have been said last year when he was abused by the Cardinal frontcourt and finished the game with just six points on 3-of-14 shooting. Samardo Samuels isn't David Padgett, but it was the combination of athletes like Terrence Williams coming down to help which made life so difficult for Patterson a year ago, and Williams and Clark are still around.
Why Kentucky wins: The Wildcats need it more
Louisville will have plenty of opportunities to prove its merit against ranked opponents over the next couple of months, but the same can't be said for a Kentucky team playing in an SEC that's as down as I can ever remember it.
Why Louisville wins: The curse
Kentucky has never beaten U of L in both football and basketball in the same year since the gridiron series was renewed in 1994.