To put it simply, it was a roller-coaster week for Kentucky Wildcats basketball fans.
After a humbling loss at Notre Dame on December 11th, questions began to arise about what the true ceiling of this team is.
Poor shooting, terrible point guard play, and mediocre defense were all genuine concerns heading to Las Vegas for the CBS Sports Classic.
Then, just like that, we were all thrown for a loop when Ohio State was forced to back out of the game just days before due to Covid-19 protocols.
After some uncertainty — Insert the North Carolina Tar Heels, and a matchup of blue bloods in Sin City was willed into existence.
Kentucky responded in a major way by absolutely pummeling North Carolina from tip to finish. The 98-69 victory brought back vibes that have been missing for some time in the Commonwealth.
Considering the Cats were coming off a 9-16 season and have yet to secure any form of a big win this year — you could argue that beating the Tar Heels was the best moment for Kentucky basketball since March of 2020.
That being said, beating this UNC team wasn’t quite as favorable as beating Ohio State would have been from a tournament resume standpoint.
However, hammering a Blue Blood program at a neutral-site location is something that’ll always provide joy to the fan base while also preparing the players for future big-time game environments.
From a Kentucky standpoint, things are back-on-track just in time to host their biggest rival for a mid-week clash just days before Christmas. The Louisville Cardinals are coming to town Wednesday evening for a 6:00 p.m. ET tip-off inside Rupp Arena.
The game will be televised on ESPN.
Without getting too far off on a tangent, I have to say that under no circumstance do I believe that this game should be played on any day of the week but Saturday.
I don’t want to hear about any scheduling conflicts or rationale as to why it shouldn’t.
It should be played on a Saturday — end of the story.
The Louisville Cardinals surely won’t be riding a wave of positive vibes into Wednesday’s matchup with Kentucky.
Unlike UK, Louisville had an emotionally draining weekend after falling on the road to Western Kentucky in a game they really should never be vulnerable enough to lose.
That now makes losses to Furman, DePaul, and Western Kentucky before January 1st. Chris Mack’s seat is warming up more and more with each passing day.
The Louisville men’s basketball team has been underwhelming this entire season and has not provided much reason to think they’ll turn this thing around. Getting beat by their biggest rival after losing to WKU would send Floyd Street into a frenzy.
A major reason why UofL hasn’t been able to get going is the lack of production from Jaylen Withers. Many believe Withers to be the Cards' best scoring option heading into the season, but after 11 games, he’s only averaging a measly 5.5 points.
Chris Mack even implied that Withers was an NBA guy who would potentially only be on their campus a short amount of time. His non-existent offensive contributions have left the Cards reeling a bit looking for answers.
Florida transfer Noah Locke has done his best to fill the scoring void, but even he is only getting 10.5 per game.
This is a Louisville team that lacks continuity and one that has really yet to find its ultimate identity as a basketball team.
6-foot-11 senior forward Malik Williams missed the game against the Hilltoppers due to Covid-19 protocols. As a guy who’s been around the program as long as Williams has, it’ll be important to get him back for the matchup with Kentucky.
As of this moment, his status and the status of the entire game is still very much up in the air.
On Sunday, Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones reported that he was hearing rumblings that the game was in jeopardy of being canceled due to Covid protocols on Louisville’s side.
Assuming the game is played and the Cards do have Williams available, UK will have to game plan to make sure he doesn’t outpace his near double-double average.
Covid protocols will be something to watch up until game time and from here on out.
I could go on and on about Calipari’s dominance over Louisville since taking over the reins of the program, but at this point, it’s common knowledge amongst college basketball fans.
Coach Cal has bested Louisville time and time again when entering the game as the favorite.
As of Sunday evening, ESPN’s matchup predictor likes Kentucky. It lists the Cats with an 83.6% chance of winning.
You’d have to think that despite being on a Wednesday night — the rivalry game will produce the best crowd that Rupp Arena has seen since the introduction of the coronavirus to the United States.
Another big win could really build up some momentum as the calendar turns to next year. It will be a real bummer if for any reason the game isn’t played as scheduled.
Just when it seemed like some normality was back for good — we’ll now be on cancellation watch game-to-game for the remainder of the season.
Kentucky Wildcats Basketball vs. Louisville Cardinals
Time: 6 pm ET Wednesday, December 22nd
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.
TV Channel: ESPN
Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will be on the call on the UK Sports Network.
Prediction: KenPom is going 74-64 for Kentucky!