In my 33 years of being a fan of Louisville football/basketball, I’m not sure I’ve seen a weirder state of morale in the fan base. Whether it be related to scandal fatigue or coming up short on the field/court, Louisville fans have had it rough over the last year or so. It all started with the prostitution fiasco at Billy Minardi Hall (no, I’m not going to say her name) and has since escalated to cheating accusations, presidential musical chairs, and perhaps worst of all, Louisville lost to a terrible UK Football team at home despite having their first ever Heisman Trophy winner in Lamar Jackson.
Having said that, Louisville’s 2016-17 basketball team has quietly been blowing out subpar teams one after the other, except of course for that mind-boggling loss to Baylor where our boys had a 20+ lead in the first half, then curiously found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory down the stretch. Since then, Pitino surprisingly has blamed himself for not trusting his bench, and has promised from now on to give his starters more of a blow down the stretch. That hasn’t been an issue as of yet, considering that every team the Cardinals have squared off with have been supremely out-classed and undermanned in comparison, except for a decent Purdue Boilermakers team that Louisville, for the most part managed to shut down in a 71-64 win.
That all aside, we all know that the biggest regular season game of the year is set to happen tonight at 7PM inside the KFC Yum! Center (still not a fan of that name). The annual battle of the bluegrass against John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats will air this evening on ESPN pitting our squad against a fresh collection of baby faced newcomers that already look ready to take on the NBA (as usual). In case you missed it, this group just put down a heralded top-10 North Carolina Tarheels team in a thrilling, high scoring affair (103-100), putting future foes into defensive panic mode.
So why do I feel optimistic that Louisville will prove themselves as the better team? I’ve got a few reasons, actually. First, I expect sophomore forward Deng Adel to be the X-Factor here, as he hasn’t yet had the best year so far offensively but I think has a good shot at slowing down Malik Monk on the wing with his endless wingspan and athleticism. My personal, uncertified recipe for success relies around not leaving Malik open (ever) and forcing De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe into shooting jumpers.
Second, I think it’s fair to suggest that the Cardinals have the best defensive unit that Calipari has faced this year, especially compared to Roy Williams’ revolving door D that allowed UK’s guards to fly in and score at will every 20 seconds or so. UofL has legitimate shot blockers for the first time since Gorgui Dieng departed for the Timberwolves, and I think that will create a real problem for Fox, Monk and Briscoe. While I don’t expect Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider to maintain the ability to stay in front of UK’s greasy fast 1 and 2 spots, I do think that Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding have the ability to erase a few layups with their extreme length and athleticism.
For me, that is the deciding factor in this matchup. No, I don’t think Louisville is able to outscore UK in an up and down shootout, but I have a good feeling that they can get back on D (better than Carolina and UCLA) and slow down these young studs enough to give themselves a puncher’s chance.
As usual in this rivalry, whatever we predict will happen almost never does, so whatever I just said is more than likely bullshit. Regardless, I’m stoked on this game, even if a good portion of Louisville fans feel down in the dumps with their team (despite being favored by 2). Louisville HAS to win this game to get this disgusting barf taste out of their mouths that has lingered for 12+ months now. Please, Ricky P, just beat that slimy, greasy haired, beef titted toolbag for once. PLEASE.
FINAL SCORE: Louisville – 72 Kentucky – 65