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Look for the whistles to dominate this year’s Kentucky vs. Louisville basketball game

The Cats and Cards are set to battle, but the referees may steal the show.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Rivalry games often become heated. Recent basketball contests between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals are certainly no exception. While I understand the idea in principle, the anticipation of a chippy environment unfortunately lends itself to officials calling the game very closely.

We have seen officials try to set the tone early between these two teams in recent years, both on the gridiron and the hardwood. And with this particular officiating crew coming to town, the chances of a mucked-up contest seem at an all-time high.

Ron Groover, Jeff Clark, and Pat Driscoll are set to call Saturday’s match-up. Games with Groover on the court this season have averaged 48 fouls per contest. To put that in perspective, the average game this season has had around 37 called fouls.

This season, the average numbers of fouls per team has been 18.3. Louisville is just above that at 18.4, while Kentucky only commits 16.1 fouls per game. In theory, Saturday’s game should have somewhere between 35 and 38 fouls.

However, the last five contests between these two teams have resulted in 42.8 fouls per game. That is, in large part, due to officials being especially attentive. But there is also an increase in physical play between these rivals.

Kentucky has been even more physical this year than normal, drawing 19.4 fouls per game in their last five outings with Reid Travis and Keldon Johnson living at the free throw line. The Cardinals have matched that number in their last five games as they are finally buying into Chris Mack’s style of play.

I know Kentucky fans were pumped watching the Wildcats run up and down the floor against the North Carolina Tar Heels last week. But members of Big Blue Nation should prepare themselves for a slow, start and stop affair in the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday. All signs point to a foul fest in Kentucky’s final game before beginning conference play.