—Here’s my annual rivalry piece for SB Nation, which focuses on the lion’s share of the pressure being on John Calipari’s shoulders.
—The U of L Ville’ns Twitter account has a solid thread of the best Louisville-Kentucky memories of the past 35 years. It starts here:
Less than 48 hours until we take on UK in the Yum... Tell us your favorite UK-UofL basketball memories pic.twitter.com/wAhTbJb0Rc— The Ville’ns (@UofLVillens) December 28, 2018
—There’s also this classic that demands viewing on Rivalry Game Eve:
—Will the Battle of the Bluegrass be as contentious moving forward as it has been in the past? The CJ’s Jon Hale says the dynamic between UK fans and Chris Mack will answer that question.
—Chris Mack is having success at Louisville while also maintaining an impressive work-life balance that’s not often seen among major college hoops coaches.
For the past few years, Mack’s family -- especially daughters Hailee, 13-year-old Lainee, and 4-year-old son Brayden -- have been seen with him nearly everywhere he goes. At conference media days, both when he was in the Big East at Xavier Musketeers and now in the ACC. On the road at grassroots tournaments in July or at high school games, watching prospective recruits. In free hours during the live recruiting periods, you might spot the Mack family splashing together in hotel pools in Las Vegas or Dallas or Augusta, Ga. Mack even brought Hailee to Ireland for an in-home visit with the mother of Louisville signee Aidan Igiehon.
If it strikes one as unusual to see a high-major men’s basketball coach bringing his children on the road or into the gym with him, it should.
”It’s everything to me,” Mack said. “When I die, hopefully a long, long time from now, I’d rather be considered a better dad than a better coach. And that’s it. How I got to grow up with my dad coaching me in T-ball and baseball and soccer and being my basketball coach, through the elementary school years and him coming to every high school game -- it sucks for my kids that I can’t be that dad. I can’t. When my kids play in a volleyball tournament right here in Louisville and I can’t make it to one match in July, I feel like a heel.
”Any time I can get them out of school, bring them with me, keep those intertwined and make it as normal -- even though it’s not. And they get some of the coolest experiences I think a kid could ever ask for. When I’m long gone, they’re not gonna remember meeting Larry Bird at the Cintas Center. They’re not gonna care about that stuff. They’re gonna remember how much time did Dad spend with me, and so that’s why it’s important to me.”
—Asia Durr, Scott Satterfield and Neeli Bendapudi are three of the 19 names in Courier Journal’s “People to Know in 2019.”
—I love this video (Facebook link) of John Michael Hayden’s family finding out that he’s going to be Louisville’s new head soccer coach.
—NBC’s Rob Dauster says Kentucky covering feels like the safest bet for Saturday.
PICKS: The line on KenPom is (-1), and I would expect it to be a bit more skewed towards Kentucky when the lines are released late on Friday night or early Saturday morning. I think Kentucky ends up winning this game even though it is on the road. On paper, the Wildcats are clearly the better team, and as I discussed on the podcast above, Kentucky appears to have turned a corner. I also think that it is worth noting that Louisville was able to close out the win over Michigan State in November because Cassius Winston made a terrible decision that led to him fouling out with four minutes left, leaving a freshman to play the point because MSU’s back-up point guard was injured. I’d take Kentucky up to about (-4.5), depending on the odds I can get.
I do think that this will be a game that is played at a slower pace, but I would probably stay away from the under. Kentucky tends to run only when their opponents want to run, and Louisville is not going to want to run with UK. That said, the amount of fouls both of these teams draw combined with the fact that I’d expect referees to be fast and loose with the whistle in what will assuredly be a testy rivalry game makes me think we’ll be in the bonus early and spending plenty of time at the charity stripe. If you have to bet the total, I’d take the over, but I’m probably staying away.
—Washington has signed former Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith.
—Adam Zagoria says 16 NBA scouts are expected to be in attendance for Louisville vs. Kentucky tomorrow. This is your moment, Jo Griffin.
—Whitney Wade Young is excited to take over the U of L women’s golf program beginning next season.
Thank you to everyone for all the kind words and messages. I am so grateful and excited to be taking over @UofLWGolf on July 1st, 2019. Looking forward to continuing the winning tradition here at the University of Louisville! #GoCards— Whitney Wade Young (@CoachWhitWade) December 27, 2018
—Louisville is a 7-seed facing UCF in the latest Bracketology from ESPN.
—Gorgui Dieng remains our greatest human.
Three years ago, while visiting his hometown of Kebemer in Senegal, Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng witnessed something that would change his perspective—which, in turn, would change countless lives in West Africa.
“I saw a pregnant woman laying on the ground because they don’t have a bed for her,” Gorgui tells CloseUp360 at Timberwolves practice in Phoenix. “That’s when I started getting involved. That was the first day I talked to the doctor. I was, like, ‘Listen, I don’t promise anything to you guys, but I want to know exactly what you guys need.’ And since then, I’ve taken over from there.”
Some of the hospital rooms only had tables instead of beds. And most of the beds that were around didn’t have mattresses, so patients had to lay directly on springs.
This was typical of life in Senegal until 2014, when Gorgui started his foundation to provide medical assistance and food to the people back in his native country. As much as basketball has done for him, he hopes to do so much more with the game—and the platform it’s led him to the NBA—to give back to where he’s from.
“I’m more excited about the things I do off the court,” Gorgui says. “I don’t want people to label me as a basketball player. I want people to label me like I care. What I do is to help my community and help people.”
—The Hoops Insight newsletter examines how important Christen Cunningham has been for Louisville so far this season.
—Jeff Greer looks at (Athletic link) how one family has produced three generations of Louisville hoops managers.
fellas this is how we're pissin in 2019 pic.twitter.com/G32CMeZVlF— rasheed (@UGHWHERESMYMEDS) December 21, 2018
—Insider Louisville hones in on Jordan Nwora and his play so far this season.
—A Sea of Blue thinks the whistles might dominate tomorrow’s rivalry game.
—Sports Illustrated’s Michael Beller likes Kentucky by 9.
NO. 16 KENTUCKY AT LOUISVILLE
Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN2
Kentucky and Louisville enter their annual showdown not at opposite ends of the spectrum, but certainly with different expectations for the rest of the season. After a slow start to a season in which it has Final Four aspirations, Kentucky is coming off its best win of the season, an 80–72 result over No. 14 North Carolina last weekend. Realistically, Louisville is exceeding expectations in Chris Mack’s first season, with wins over No. 8 Michigan State and Seton Hall, and narrow losses to Marquette and Indiana. Still, the Cardinals will begin the ACC season in the middle of the pack, while the Wildcats seem to be rounding into form. In a divergence from recent Kentucky teams that have started the year slow (for the program’s standards) this team is getting it done better on the offensive than defensive end, thanks, in part, to an offensive-rebounding rate that ranks third in the country. If the defense kicks into gear—and we just discussed what it did against North Carolina—this is going to be one of the scariest teams in the country.
Kentucky 75, Louisville 66
—Busting Brackets looks at the key matchups in the Battle of the Bluegrass.
—The CJ takes a closer look at Scott Satterfield’s recruiting strategy.
—Scratch peed on Louisville’s midcourt logo one time, so I don’t feel bad for him here.
—Rick Bozich writes that Louisville vs. Kentucky this year is a big ball of confusion.
—And finally, beat Kentucky.