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Kentucky vs. Louisville roundtable and predictions

Breaking down Cats vs. Cards and making predictions.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Utah Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

This is the game we have all been waiting for! The Kentucky Wildcats take on their biggest rival in the Louisville Cardinals this Saturday in Rupp Arena, the final game of 2019 for both schools.

This is will be one of the toughest games Kentucky plays this season. Louisville hasn’t looked this good since they went on their championship run back in 2013.

The Cats are going to need each player to step up big time if they are going to win. While it hasn’t been quite the season most thought it would be to this point, everything can change with a win on Saturday.

This team still has a lot of talent and potential, it’s just about when can they figure it out?

We’ve gathered our staff together to give their thoughts on the matchup and offer a prediction.

Nick Wheatley

Well, this year hasn’t exactly been fun. It’s been a frustrating and disappointing season to date. But that can all change on Saturday.

While the Cats aren’t really inspiring much confidence right now, there are reasons to feel good about the rivalry game with the school down the road.

Louisville is ranked No. 3 in the country and for good reason. They have a solid squad with a nice mix of veterans and freshmen talent. However, just like every other team in the country right now, they have their flaws and weaknesses.

I think it’s basically a wash down low, with a slight edge to Louisville. Yes, the Cats’ big men have been nonexistent and inconsistent far too often, but the Cards’ bigs aren’t exactly world killers.

Moreover, I think Kentucky’s guards should absolutely run circles around Louisville’s. Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, and Immanuel Quickley should have a field day this weekend.

However, I do believe Kentucky will struggle to contain Jordan Nwora. UK doesn’t really have anyone to match up with the Player of the Year candidate. At 6-8, Nwora can score at will and rebound extremely well.

But John Calipari has done an excellent job in recent years of limiting opposing teams’ best players and forcing other guys to beat him. With that being said, I’m not sure what that looks like Saturday.

Another guy to watch out for is hometown favorite Dwayne Sutton. The 6-5 forward does it all and is the heartbeat of that team.

It’s no secret that the Cats are struggling right now. They have no offensive identity and the team looks lost. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned during Cal’s tenure, it’s to never doubt him, especially against the Cards. He only has two losses to UL in a decade as Kentucky’s head coach, and I don’t expect that to change Saturday.

Prediction: Kentucky 72 Louisville 63

Tj Barnett

John Calipari is 10-2 against the Louisville Cardinals during his time here at Kentucky, which includes a couple NCAA Tournament wins as well. That alone has given him so much favor with the BBN. However, he hasn’t faced a Louisville team like this in a long time, 2013 to be more exact.

I don’t see this game turning out too well for Kentucky. While the Cats have a lot of talented pieces, they have yet to put it together on offense. They look lost on that side of the ball. Even when Nate Sestina had a breakout game against Ohio State, no one else except Ashton Hagans stepped up to help him which resulted in another loss.

The Cards are a really good team on both sides of the ball this season. Chis Mack has his team playing at an elite level and they’ve taken down some good competition on their way to an 11-1 start. Kentucky will lose this game at home, and they will lose by double digits.

Prediction: Louisville 68, Kentucky 53

Adam Haste

It will be the Cats and the Cards on Saturday when in-state rival, Louisville makes the roughly 70-mile trip to Rupp Arena. The Cards will be coming in as the No. 3 ranked team in the country while Kentucky sits at No. 19.

Kentucky is going to be angry when they take the floor Saturday after their tough week in Las Vegas that resulted in two straight losses for the Cats.

I fully expect to see an amped up, motivated and hungry team to show up when it is time for tip off.

Since becoming the head coach at Kentucky, John Calipari has dominated this series including two NCAA Tournament wins in 2012 and 2014.

I believe that trend is going to continue this year, and UK fans will all be celebrating a much needed and big time win over Louisville on Saturday night. The perfect ending to the year 2019 as the Cats get ready for SEC play in the new year.

Prediction: Kentucky 75, Louisville 68

Greg Goins

So far this season, Kentucky and Louisville have both found themselves on top of the weekly AP college basketball poll. Kentucky took the top spot on November 11th, while Louisville was ranked No. 1 the week of December 6th. Fast forward to Saturday’s annual rivalry game and you’ll find two teams heading in opposite directions as Kentucky is lucky to still be in the Top 25 (ranked 19th) while the Cardinals have held tight at No. 3 with an 11-1 record.

Regardless of Louisville’s success this season, Kentucky has its own problems to solve as one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country. The big problem is in the half-court offense where the Cats often seem lost and confused, are selfish under pressure and just haven’t had enough fight to get over the hump this season.

Let’s hope that Cal has a new “tweak” up his sleeve as the Wildcats are in desperate need of some good vibes. In reality, I think the first team to 70 wins and I’m not so sure the Cats have the fire power to get there. The Cardinals could very well win at Rupp Arena for the first time since 2008.

Prediction: Louisville 72, Kentucky 65

Sam Gillenwater

Following an ugly trip to Las Vegas, Kentucky will face off with Louisville in a crucial in-state rivalry game. The Wildcats have been brutal to watch at times, but they’re going to have to find a way to get it going against a very capable Cardinals team.

Kentucky’s offense will need to do a complete about-face in order to keep up with Louisville this weekend. Had it not been for Nate Sestina’s hot performance from three, the final score against Ohio State would likely have looked a lot uglier.

The Wildcats will have to do more than just keep pace this time if they want to end their two-game skid. There needs to be some kind of cohesive flow found and steps being made to find a go-to guy down the stretch during this game. It’ll be all hands on deck on both sides of the floor as Chris Mack’s team is a very disciplined group that will be more than ready to go.

This is one of the best rivalries in all of college sports, and I believe it will live up to that this weekend. It’s going to take a lot to hold off Jordan Nwora and the Cardinals, but I do think the Wildcats can do it. Kentucky hasn’t lost to the Cardinals in Rupp Arena and is 10-2 against Louisville under Calipari. That dominance won’t change this year. It’ll be a close call, but I think the Wildcats improve enough offensively and get the crucial stops they’ll need defensively to put the L’s down in Lexington.

Prediction: Kentucky 74, Louisville 70

Jamie Boggis

This matchup should be more worrisome to Kentucky fans than any Kentucky-Louisville game since 2013. This Cardinals team is good, and Chris Mack is a very good coach (and unfortunately pretty likeable).

Jordan Nwora is the real deal. He can score from all three levels, and he has been shooting the lights out. He also gets so much attention from the defense that his teammates get lots of wide open shots.

Kentucky certainly has the ability to win this game. Coach Cal has never lost to Louisville in Rupp Arena. If every player on the Wildcats roster has a good game, I really believe this team can beat anyone in the country. If you get a solid Nick Richards day, an explosive game from Tyrese Maxey, catch EJ Montgomery on top of his game, and get normal contributions from Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and Nate Sestina, this is a Final Four team.

Unfortunately, I have not seen that happen yet this season. And on the heels of two straight losses, I am not sure all the guys are in the right headspace for this to happen. For the first time since I started writing for A Sea of Blue, I do not see Kentucky getting a home basketball win against Louisville.

Prediction: Louisville 75, Kentucky 67