Arch rivals Louisville and Kentucky are set to square off this Friday, December 29th. To get you hyped on this year’s Dream Game, I thought it’d be fun to break down the game by asking myself a few questions…
What’s my excitement level going in to this game?
Without a doubt, this is the least excitement I’ve ever felt going in to a UofL/UK game. As I’ve said before, I’ve had quite a bit of difficulty staying interested in this Louisville Basketball season. I chalk this up to scandal fatigue, the program’s uncertain future, and the glaring reality that this squad just isn’t very good. It’s also fair to say that now that Pitino is gone (and deservedly so), this matchup has lost a bit of it’s sexiness. Rick and Cal had such a good rivalry with one another and it truly sucks that it’s officially over for the two of them.
Also, it doesn’t help that this game is at 1PM on a damned Friday afternoon. Who the hell agreed to this? What a joke.
As a Louisville fan, if the Cardinals beat Kentucky will it reignite the fanbase?
I think so, but only temporarily. But make no mistake — even a win against our sworn enemy won’t change the fact that our team will remain in NCAA limbo for the next few years. Although it won’t be any time soon, the majority of reasonable fans understand that the hammer will come down at some point making it hard to fully embrace any Cardinal team. As a whole, the majority of folks won’t fully engage this program until we are officially through with the NCAA and the FBI and we have a permanent head coach and athletic director.
Who is the most important player for each team for this matchup?
For Louisville, it’s gotta be Quentin Snider, right? His legendary performance last year against the Wildcats will be talked about for a long, long time, and for Louisville to have a chance on Friday you have to think that the senior point guard has to have a good game. If his shot is falling and he’s not turning the ball over, it’s easy to see this Louisville offense putting up a lot of points against an average UK defense. However, if Q mails in a clunker, it’s tough to see the Cardinals pulling this one out.
As for the Cats, I’d say Kevin Knox is the X-Factor. I don’t know much about him (or any of these other UK ball players to be honest), but in the handful of games he’s played in he’s proven to be the explosive scorer that the Wildcats. Plus at 6″ 8′, this guy is a great rebounder at the small forward position. I’m not sure how he’ll perform against Deng Adel, who I’m certain will be checking him. In my opinion, this will be the premier matchup in this game.
What has to happen in order for UofL to win?
If Louisville finds a way to hold their own on the glass, then they have a legitimate shot at pulling off the upset on the road. You’d think this would be a realistic possibility considering the height and length they have in the middle with Spalding, Mahmoud and Williams, but this year for whatever reason, rebounding has not come easy for UofL. They are clearly soft in the paint as they’ve consistently been shoved around by smaller teams this season.
In short, the guys wearing red and white absolutely cannot allow 2nd and 3rd chance opportunities for UK — if they do, it’s going to be a loooong afternoon for the Cardinals.
What has to happen in order for UK to win?
This might sound obvious, but their offense has to be clicking — the ball has to move, and shots have to fall. This might be harder than you’d think considering UofL’s defense, while not great is certainly above average. If Calipari’s players try to go one on one with this Louisville team, I predict a low scoring output. This squad, while certainly talented, isn’t as flexible and/or explosive as we’ve seen with UK teams from the last few years and I feel that they have to execute as a team to come out on top.
How about a prediction?
A third of the way through this season, both teams have underwhelmed their devoted fan bases thus far. I’ve barely heard any shit talking from either side as neither seems overly confident in their team’s abilities. This is the least hyped UofL/UK game that I can remember since 2009 when both teams were unranked. While there isn’t much excitement behind this go-around, I don’t see it as being “The Battle of Who Wants It Less” — both squads will come ready to play and will give full energy and effort. How do I see it playing out? I foresee the Cats abusing the Cards on the glass for more than a few 2nd and 3rd chance buckets, and while Louisville will give an exciting, spirited effort on defense, their offense won’t be able to keep up. I don’t think UK will blow Louisville out, but they will win comfortably at home: Kentucky 65, Louisville 55.