Before I really get into this article, I want to make it abundantly clear that I hope I am wrong in the worst way and Kentucky runs UL right out of the Yum Center.
It was announced this morning that the betting line for the UK-UL game tomorrow night opened with the home Louisville Cardinals a 2-point favorite. As of this writing, it has already shifted to Kentucky becoming a 1-point favorite, meaning the money came pouring in on Kentucky.
Louisville opens as a 2-point favorite over Kentucky on VegasInsider. #FREEMONEY— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) December 20, 2016
Louisville opened a two point favorite, then line moved and UK is a one point favorite— Larry Glover Live (@larrygloverlive) December 20, 2016
The overwhelming sentiment among anyone not associated with the #BirdGang is that UK could roll in this game and possibly blow the ‘Cards out of the gym. They very well could, and as a Kentucky fan, I hope they do.
However, it is a rivalry game and there are so many more variables to a rivalry game than what is just on paper.
On paper, one team likely has more pros on the roster, one team has a player of they year candidate for entire sport, one team has scored points at a blistering pace and you can almost say one team could name the amount of points they want to score.
Spoiler Alert: I am talking about the UK-UL Football game.
Still mulling a prediction for UK-UofL game. Started out thinking Cats in blowout, but rivalry games are different, as FB matchup showed.— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) December 20, 2016
Now, I am not saying the UK win over a 28-point favorite UL (I still love typing that) has any bearing on what will happen in tomorrow’s game in the Yum Center. I am, however, saying it is a good cautionary tale of assumption.
The truth of the matter is if you pitted these two teams against each other in a vacuum with no fans and an officiating crew that literally called a perfect game; Kentucky wins 9 out of 10 times and likely by 10+ points in the majority of those 9 wins.
However, there is the rub; there are emotions involved, there are humans involved, and there are 18-22 year kids involved.
Kentucky has played Louisville 9 times under Calipari and while they are a dominant 8-1, every game has been a battle.
These two teams have played under many different circumstances; in the Final 4, to advance in the NCAA tournament, with both teams ranked top 5, with one team unranked and the other in the top 5.
You name it; these two programs have seen it.
With all of that varying circumstance, the average score in those nine games is 71 to 65 in Kentucky’s favor. Only one of those games was decided by more than 10 points.
There is also the fact that Rick Pitino is a hall of fame coach for a reason. While he is second fiddle to Calipari in his own state, he does know how to coach and generally coaches very well in big games.
Rick Pitino: "We're not going to slow it down" against Kentucky.— Jeff Greer (@jeffgreer_cj) December 20, 2016
Also consider the the officiating crew for the game; consisting of Jamie Luckie, Roger Ayers, and Ron Groover. Now, do not even think for a second that I am saying that this crew will be unbiased against Kentucky or that they will be the reason we lose.
I hate people blaming the refs for losses; you will never win or lose a game solely due to referees.
What is a very real thing, however, is how officials call a game that dictates the flow of that game. Whatever that is, Kentucky does not fare well against this crew on the road.
@wildcatnews UK has lost the last 3 road games that Luckie worked and 4 of 5 last road games Ayers worked. Only exception: UofL— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) December 20, 2016
My personal opinion is that the Wildcats will simply have too much firepower and will have 2 to 3 runs that will ultimately turn it into a 12-14 point victory for Kentucky... but it will feel closer than that.
I think the pick to click in this game is Isaiah Briscoe; he did not get to play in the game last year and this type of game is going to cater to his style of play.
As always, this game will be exciting and fun to watch, but do not be surprised if it is a battle and comes down to the last 4-5 minutes.