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by Holly Freeland
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The annual game between Kentucky and Louisville usually determines which school is the better team in basketball.  This year, it may only prove which team is the worst.


As both teams have had disappointing starts to their seasons, will the game on January 5 really tell us anything at all?  If UofL wins, can it really brag about beating an injured, down-trodden Kentucky team?  If UK wins, will that replace the pain of losing to Gardiner Webb and IU in such embarrassing fashions?

The Cardinals were dealt a cruel blow several weeks ago with the news of yet another injury to their star, David Padgett.  Although timelines of a return vary, it’s safe to say that Louisville must move forward with a game plan that doesn’t involve Padgett.  David is one of three seniors on this U of L team, and while his skill level will certainly be missed, his leadership on the floor is the one thing that may not be replaced.

After the Cards lost to Dayton 65-70, Rick Pitino put blame on his sophomore class, saying they “are not paying attention to the game of basketball”.  This class was a highly recruited and highly touted group of players coming in, and U of L fans can be assured that Coach Pitino will have this team remembering the game of basketball very quickly.

The news of Caracter being suspended indefinitely from the team, while not really surprising, was another hit to this Cardinal team.  Derrick has all the talent in the world, yet all the coaching in the world may not ever help his attitude as he has shown time and time again. 

Keys to A Turn Around:  The Sophomore class.  The same players/class who coach Pitino blamed for their recent slide, can take great pride in knowing they will also be the reason this team can turn itself around.  Their response to these early season trip-ups is critical to the team’s success.  Earl Clark, Jerry Smith & Edgar Sosa: It’s time to show why you’re ready to carry this team.

Next Games:  Date          Opponent   Location   Time   TV

12/15/07 vs. Purdue   Indianapolis, 3:30 PM ET CBS

12/18/07 vs. Marshall  Freedom Hall, 7:00 PM ET, WHAS-11

The Wildcats are another story.  With a new coach, new training facility and new faces for this team, there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic.  Seven games into the season, their identity may be a little harder to discern and their answers a little harder to find. 

The loss to Gardiner Webb stung, and it stung badly.  The Wildcats aren’t used to getting beat at Rupp, and they really aren’t used to getting beat at Rupp by an unranked team…  by 16 points.  Losses to # 1 ranked UNC and # 15th ranked IU are respectable, but the Wildcats have left little wiggle room in losing anymore Gardiner Webb-type games if they want their name announced on Selection Sunday.

Injuries to Derrick Jasper and Jodie Meeks have further complicated Coach Gillispie’s search for an identity for this team.  Though they added McDonald’s All-American Patrick Patterson, with no fewer than five walk-ons for this Kentucky team, two seniors and one junior, finding the right mix of players has proven to be no easy task. 

Keys to A Turn Around: Senior Leadership.  Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley were part of the # 1 class at UK in 2004 and have just one season left to make their marks on Kentucky basketball.  With no time frame for starters Meeks & Jasper returning, Joe and Ramel have to embrace their roles as the core foundation for this team and show why people can never count out Kentucky.

Next Games:     Date    Opponent    Location        Time    TV

                        12/15/07      UAB        Freedom Hall   2:00    ESPN

                        12/18/07    Houston    Houston, TX     9:00    ESPN

While neither school has started the season the way they’d hoped, there are still 20+ games left to play.  But, if the teams don’t get it together, the game next month may have fans of both of these traditional basketball schools counting the days until football season.  And, in this state, that's never a sure bet!


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