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Kentucky vs. Louisville viewing info, odds, what to watch for, and predictions

Will the Big Blue Nation reign supreme in the KFC Yum Center?

Louisville v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals

  • Time: 6 pm ET on December 21st
  • Location: The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • TV Channel: ESPN will have tonight’s TV coverage.
  • Announcers: Tonight’s action will be called by Wes Durham and Jimmy Dykes.
  • Online Stream: Stream the game online using WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
  • Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
  • Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
  • Rosters: UK | UofL
  • Stats to Know: UK | UofL
  • KenPom: UK | UofL
  • Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Kentucky listed as a 14-point favorite. The over/under is set at 156. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky an 86.4% chance of victory. Bart Torvik and EvanMiya favor the Cats as well, but slightly lower at 84% and 79%, respectively. KenPom is at 87%.
  • Predictions: Bart Torvik picks Kentucky to win 86-74. EvanMiya has the Cats winning 82-73. Haslametrics projects an 87-72 win for Big Blue Nation. Finally, KenPom projects an 86-73 victory, Kentucky!

What’s your prediction for tonight? Sound off in the comments section!

Coming off another instant classic game vs. North Carolina, the Kentucky Wildcats will hopefully have a much easier contest on Thursday as they travel to face the Louisville Cardinals in the KFC Yum Center.

Just 5-6 on the season, the Cardinals have already surpassed their win total from last season (4-28), but the outlook is not hopeful. With just a 9-34 record overall over the last season and a half, Louisville has been one of the worst Power Five teams in the country under the direction of former Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne.

While the on-court product has been bad, even losing exhibition games to Division II programs Kentucky Wesleyan and Lenoir-Rhyne, the extra controversies have compounded the frustration with things like:

All this put together displays why all signs point to Payne being fired soon, but as of this article, he is still employed and is still set to coach against Kentucky in what will be a red-out.

The Cards’ last game was actually one of their better performances this season, beating Pepperdine 85-63. They also have a buzzer-beater loss to No. 19 Texas and close losses to Virginia Tech and Indiana, so the Cards have shown they can be competitive against good teams.

Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Keep Louisville Off The Free-Throw Line

Louisville is bad at a lot of things, but there is one thing they are good at, and that is drawing fouls and making their free throws. Drawing more than 20 fouls per game and shooting nearly 74% on their free throws, the Cardinals score more than 25% of their points from the line, the second most of any Power Five team.

Their reliance on free throws makes sense when you consider that they are below 300th in the country in 3-pointers attempted and 3-point percentage.

Former Kentucky commit Skyy Clark has arguably been Louisville's best player at 15.4 points per game. He shoots 80.7% from the free-throw line and has made a team-high 46 from there thus far.

Aaron Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso will play big parts in the game plan, providing rim protection. However, Louisville will be looking to draw contact and put them in foul trouble. Kentucky’s guards will have to play better on-ball defense as the front line, and they must improve their high-screen defense, which the Tar Heels picked apart at the end of Saturday’s game in Catlanta.

Paint Yum Blue

Following Rupp Arena’s renovations in 2022, which lowered capacity from 23,000 down to 20,500, the Yum Center became the largest arena in the United States by seating capacity designed primarily for basketball at 22,090. However, it has been years since a sell-out, and this season, attendance has hit a new low.

If you look at tickets sold, you will see numbers between 10,000-12,000, suggesting that the Yum Center is at half attendance. However, in actual tickets scanned, there were just a little over 4,000 against Arkansas State last Tuesday.

With plenty of tickets available, the #PaintYumBlue movement has started on social media. With Big Blue Nation looking to make Thursday’s game a road environment, Louisville season ticket holders are doing their best to capitalize on the interest, selling lower-level tickets for as much as $1,100 dollars. That breaks down to $220 per win.

Louisville is trying to rally their own fans and make it a red-out, but it doesn’t look like that will end well...

Don’t Let Off The Gas Pedal

During his time at Kentucky, John Calipari is 12-1 against his former assistant coaches with an average margin of victory of 24.6 points, the lone loss coming against Josh Pastner in 2020.

While yes, Calipari will want to keep a level of respect, he has never shied away from beating his former assistants handily.

Given that the players understand what this rivalry means to Kentucky fans, a la Aaron Bradshaw wearing a “Louisville Doesn’t Exist” t-shirt, I expect they will want to win by a big margin just the same.

Plus, this is a rivalry game, which can produce the most unlikely of results. If Kentucky doesn’t keep its foot on the gas pedal for 40 minutes, the Cards may be able to keep this close going into the final 10 minutes, where anything can happen.