The Kentucky Wildcats are on a five-game losing streak and off to one of their worst starts in the last 100 years.
Does John Calipari have enough magic in his bag to potentially turn-around this disastrous situation?
As if there wasn’t already enough emotion being jolted into the program, the Cats’ next opponent is also their biggest rival.
It’ll be the Cards and the Cats battling it out on ESPN at 1 pm Saturday.
Kentucky will likely be without sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr., who continues to recover from a calf injury. Freshman forward Cam’Ron Fletcher will also be out after being asked to step away from the team. There’s also reports of more friction within the team, so it’s safe to say Kentucky needs a win in the worst way to get this season back on track.
Much like Kentucky, Chris Mack’s team is also currently experiencing difficult circumstances on and off the courts.
UL will be just a week removed from getting demolished 85-48 at #12 Wisconsin. The Cards are scheduled to take on Pitt on Tuesday, but COVID protocols will be tightly monitored as the Panthers’ head coach, Jeff Capel, tested positive for Coronavirus.
Louisville has been dealing with considerable COVID obstacles themselves, which includes recently. pausing all basketball related activities.
Carlik Jones, arguably Louisville’s best player, missed the Cardinals’ game against Wisconsin, but is expected to return to action in their next contest. He’s averaging 17.3 points per game and shooting 60% from deep.
Louisville native David Johnson is having a breakout sophomore season with 12.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. The combination of Johnson and Jones will be very challenging for the Cats’ struggling backcourt to contain this week. But if they can accomplish this, it will go a long way in helping Kentucky win and end this dreaded five-game losing streak.
John Calipari has absolutely dominated the series with UL since taking over as head coach at Kentucky.
If there was ever a year that the Cards have an advantage — it’s this year.
The Cats have yet to show that they can put 40 minutes of basketball together. It’s possible that the intense in-state rivalry might just heighten their sense of urgency to execute at a high-level.
But for a team that’s 1-5 and clearly showing the signs of mounting frustration, it seems far more likely that the hole only gets deeper for Calipari’s group of newcomers.
A big win on the road against the Cards would be a great start in correcting this downward tailspin but it’ll take a full game’s effort.
Should UK drop their sixth straight, it will be difficult to see a path for them to make the NCAA tournament.
So if playing against your rival isn’t enough to get the players motivated, maybe playing for their NCAA tournament hopes will.
Location: KFC YUM! Center — Louisville, Kentucky
Date: Saturday December 26th
Start Time: 1:00 pm EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Online Stream: WatchESPN and fuboTV.
Radio: UK Sports Network.
Odds: No line has been set, but ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Louisville a 60% chance at victory. KenPom gives the Cards a 62% chance of winning.
Early Prediction: KenPom projects a 70-66 win for Louisville.