When the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals have met recently, it’s been the same results. Typically hard-fought games with close outcomes, which have favored Kentucky each of the last four times.
I think that trend is about to be broken.
With the last matchup coming almost nine months ago in the 2012 Final Four, Rick Pitino‘s Cardinals have held onto that loss, and have used it to motivate them. It’s motivated them towards being the number four team in the nation, as well as one of the favorites to reappear in this season’s semifinals, and I believe it will absolutely motivate them to lay a beat down on their heated in-state rival when the two meet Saturday afternoon.
As well as Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin have been playing for John Calipari, this will be probably their most difficult matchup of the season, not only going against one of the best – if not THE best – backcourts in the country in Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, but also having to try and figure out Pitino’s notorious press. Goodwin has had four or more turnovers in three of Kentucky’s last five games, and with Louisville averaging the second most steals in the nation, they could present a very big problem for an inexperienced Kentucky backcourt on Friday.
Louisville will also be riding the high of getting their best post player, and one of the best interior defenders in the nation, back in junior big man Gorgui Dieng. After missing the last seven games with a broken wrist, Dieng will return to action on Saturday, and after practicing for the first time this week, must be excited to build on the 9 blocks that he recorded in two games against Kentucky last season.
Dieng will have his hands full with bigs Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress, but with a well balanced attack of scoring from frontcourt players Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, the young Wildcats will face an unenviable task on both ends of the court.
Kentucky hung tight when they played now number-one Duke last month, trailing by just three with a little over a minute left in the game, and their experience against tough teams should benefit them come Saturday. I still don’t think it’ll be anywhere near enough.
Louisville should win this one, running away.
For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth