By: Kris Carr
In addition to being a die hard Louisville Cardinal fan, I am also a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan. The Steelers' most hated rivals are the Baltimore Ravens. Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin was quoted as saying, “There's nothing that needs to be said during Ravens' week. We don't like them and they don't like us.” The same can be said about the rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky. We don't like them and they don't like us.
The games between the two tames recently have certainly illustrated this intense dislike. In the first few minutes of last years game, I thought somebody might leave on a stretcher. Three players (two wearing blue and one wearing red) probably should have been ejected. We also saw that when it came to foul mouthed trash talk, that Coach Cal could hold his own with any of his blue chip recruits. Two years ago, we saw two star players go at it after a really hard foul. In addition to the physical confrontations, the trash talk never stops from buzzer to buzzer.
This years game should be no different. Before arriving to campus this year, the 18 year old freshmen involved in this game probably were not aware of the hatred they were supposed to have for the “bad guys.” Both coaches probably wasted little time in explaining how important this game is in this state.
The other factor that will bring this Friday's game to a flash point is the new location. For the first time since the rivalry has been renewed, the game will not be played in Freedom Hall or Rupp Arena. Louisville's sparkling 22,000 seat downtown arena figures to jam packed and rocking and rolling. Coach Pitino does not want to be the coach to open Louisville's new building with a loss in this series. On the other hand, I know Coach Calipari would love to hang a loss on the Cards in their new home.
The game figures to be a close contest between two young top 25 teams. Louisville is in a rebuilding “bridge” year. UK has a tremendous amount of talent, but does not have the 5 first round draft picks it had last year. Terrence Williams and John Wall are not walking through that door.
On paper, UK seemingly has the edge in overall talent. Calipari has “magically” assembled the number one recruiting class once again. This is becoming a habit for UK's coach and a sore subject for most Card fans.
Louisville brings the bigger and much deeper team to the table. Pitino has been rotating up to 11 players. Sending waves of fresh bodies at teams has been UL's recipe for success this season. UL also has the advantage in size with at least four front court players over 6'8”. Kentucky has four players taller than 6'7”, but one of them has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits. Coach Pitino should do his best to exploit this size advantage.
So what does this game come down to? Louisville's advantage in depth will be of little importance in a nationally televised CBS broadcast that will have 345 television timeouts. UK's slight talent edge should be closely matched by Louisville's home court advantage and the intangible “new house” effect of the Yum! Center.
The three point shot will be very important to both sides. Both of these teams have looked like world beaters when the long shot is falling and looked very ordinary when the threes were clanging off of the rim. The team whose outside shot is falling will have a decided advantage.
UK's ability to deal with Louisville's shot blockers will also be key. Terrance Jennings and Gorgui Deing, both being 6'10”, long and athletic are among the nation's leaders in blocked shots. In addition to the shots they block, they change how opposing teams attack the rim and clean up a lot of mistakes on the defensive end. These shot blockers could give UK fits down low.
In the end, I see the carnival atmosphere of the opening game of the rivalry in the new Yum! Center being the biggest factor in this game. All of the predictors (Pomeroy, Sagarin, etc.) have this game as basically a pick em'. I think the home court edge will be a little too much too early for this young Wildcat team.
Final Prediction: Louisville 71- Kentucky 70, Happy New Year and GO CARDS!
For the University of Kentucky side of things, see our take at:
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