Louisville Cardinals (11-1) at Kentucky Wildcats (8-3)
- Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY
- Game Time: 3:45 pm EST on Saturday, December 28th
- TV Channel: Today’s game can be viewed on CBS.
- Announcers: Brad Nessler (play-by-play) and Bill Raftery (analyst) are on the call.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington, and on the UK Sports Network.
- Online radio: TuneIn broadcast or UKAthletics.com.
- Live Online Stream: The game can be streamed online using CBS Sports and on CBS Sports Mobile.
- Odds: As of Saturday afternoon, Kentucky is favored by 2.5. ESPN BPI gives Louisville a 51.5% chance of victory.
- Rosters: UK | UL
- Live Stats
- Digital Gameday Guide
- Predictions: KenPom projects a 66-65 win for Louisville. TeamRankings is going with a 67-64 Kentucky win, while numberFire is going with a 67-66 win for the home team.
The Kentucky Wildcats have a record of 10-2 against Louisville since John Calipari came to Lexington. In fact, they are 5-0 at home against the Cardinals. This is the first time that Louisville has been ranked higher than Kentucky during this match-up since December 28th of 2013. Kentucky won that game in Lexington, 73-66. Louisville is 6-3 in the series when they enter with a higher AP ranking.
There have been some great moments in that rivalry. There has been a Final Four match-up, DeMarcus Cousins slammed a Cardinal’s head into the floor, and Tyler Ulis spilled his blood to get a victory.
DeMarcus Cousins gets into a kerfuffle with Louisville (2009) pic.twitter.com/7b2IjJvpUr— KY Clips (@KY_Clips) June 6, 2018
However, none of that matters. The Wildcats are on their heels after losing two games in a row in Las Vegas. Contrary to popular opinion, unfortunately, things that happen there do not stay there. Kentucky is in real danger of heading into a tailspin with a loss to Louisville on Saturday.
Louisville, on the other hand, has responded well since their only loss of the season to Texas Tech. Their best win of the season was unquestionably against Michigan, but the Cardinals have handled their business well throughout the season, taking care of lesser opponents in convincing fashion.
Kentucky is struggling to find an identity. Ashton Hagans is really good and greatly improved from a year ago. Immanuel Quickley has been consistently strong, but not overwhelming. Nick Richards looked dominant earlier, but unfortunately it seems like he is starting to fade. Tyrese Maxey is a scoring machine, if that machine only works once every couple of weeks.
The Wildcats seem to be at their best when playing through Hagans. Let him get to the basket and draw defenders, and then dish to another player cutting to the basket. It would be great if he could kick to shooters, but aside from Nate Sestina nobody has been shooting consistently. If other guys get hot, Hagans’ ability to get to the hoop becomes even more of a weapon as it will create more space for shooters.
Louisville knows exactly who they are. They play through Jordan Nwora, who looks like an All-American. The hype of him returning to school this year has been met so far this season. He is averaging 21.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He is also shooting over 80% from the free throw line and 41.4% from three.
There is no good option for Kentucky to stop Nwora defensively. Kahlil Whitney is the best option on paper, but he has not shown he can do it. Keion Brooks may be the best match-up physically right now, but is he ready to defender another team’s best player?
All of the other Cardinals are benefiting from the attention Nwora draws. Center Stephen Enoch averages 11.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Ryan McMahan is shooting 46.3% (!) from behind the three-point line. And Louisville is a very good rebounding team on the offensive end of the floor due to their spacing and variety of scoring options.
This is a tough match-up for Kentucky. Not only is Louisville really good, but their strengths unfortunately line up with Kentucky’s weaknesses. However, the game is in Rupp Arena and the Wildcats still have John Calipari on the sideline.
To me, this game is a coin-flip. That is what you want for a rivalry game, right? Depending on which Kentucky team shows up on Saturday, Big Blue Nation will either get a late Christmas present or a good reason to take an extra drink on New Year’s Eve.