It is said that when it comes to rivalry games, you can throw all of the "should bes", the advantages, the mismatches and the "underdog" tags out the window. When you're playing for bragging rights- more talent/experience doesn't always equal a victory.
This year as last year's meeting, the Wildcats have the advantage... on paper. They have the talent, they have the resume to this point and they SHOULD control and eventually win this game.
I have been to the YUM Center. It's modern. It's nice. It's clean. And, it's energetic. The beers are waaaay too expensive (but that's another story) and it's a great celebration of the University of Louisville. And, that will be one of those "intangibles" that people forget to factor in. Ricky's new Roost is without a doubt, the 6th, 7th and 8th man on the floor for the Cardinals.
Rupp Arena is always a tough place to play. 22,000 fans make it difficult for any team to come in and seal a victory. However, the YUM Center is somehow louder (even though it seats fewer people.) The fans seem closer to the team/action (even though it seems MUCH larger than Rupp.) Maybe it's the excitement and the newness of the center, but whatever it is, as a UK fan, it is concerning.
So, while I do expect UK to win this matchup, it will be a hard-fought victory and the difference will no doubt be the homecourt advantage.
Back to that "on paper" advantage...
We all know UK had the #1 recruiting class in the nation for the second year. We needed it, since we lost most of last year's team to the NBA. We don't have the star power of John Wall, Patrick Patterson and Demarcus Cousins, but we have the stats to this point in the season, to point to something special. Our 3-point percentage is the best in UK's HISTORY (think about that for a moment). This team was supposed to be lacking in the rebounding department with the loss of Cousins and the fact that Enes Kanter hasn't seen the floor yet. However, our rebounding stats are just as good as both last year's squad and the 1998 National Championship team.
On the flip side, UofL enters the matchup having made 17 of 23 3-point shots against Morgan State. They are ranked in the top-25 and have an 11-1 record for the season. For the first time in almost 15 years, the Cardinals have scored over 100 points in two consecutive games.
Scoring shouldn't be a problem for either team.
Both teams have a lot of ground to stand on when they say they'll win this game. And both teams have stats to back it up when it comes to those declarations.
However, I believe when the UofL fans say it, they'll be incorrect. But, I'm just a biased fan. Because, when it all comes down to predicting the winner of this game- leave all reasoning behind. It's only bragging rights, after all.
UK: 73 UofL: 68 GO CATS!