Louisville - Kentucky Breakdown

Will No. 3-ranked Kentucky's talent and home court edge prevail against No. 4 Louisville Saturday at Rupp Arena? Or will the Cardinals experience and toughness win out in a hostile road environment? InsideTheVille.com breaks down the game.

Heated Rivalry: The fans don't get along. Rick Pitino and John Calipari can't stand the other. Louisville vs. Kentucky may be college basketball's most fiercely contested rivalry. Expect fireworks to erupt when the Cardinals and Wildcats meet Saturday at Rupp Arena. The last time these two rivals met in Lexington, DeMarcus Cousins intentionally elbowed Jared Swopshire in the head – and got away with it. This rivalry always has been an intense one, but it's become especially testy the past few years. While it probably won't turn into fisticuffs, this game will be hotly contested between the two sides.

Top Five Teams: Both teams enter Saturday's contest with identical 12-1 records and ranked in the top five in both major polls. Still, neither team has been firing on all cylinders. Louisville has dealt with significant injury issues that have prevented cohesion, while John Calipari is battling to get Marquis Teague to play under control and Terrence Jones to snap out of his slump. Kentucky definitely has the edge talent-wise with a starting lineup that features five players who all project as NBA draft choices.


Louisville needs Chane Behanan to help control the backboard against Kentucky.
Louisville Keys: For Louisville to upset Kentucky on the road, the Cardinals must limit fast-break opportunities. If Teague gets out in transition, Kentucky is extremely dangerous on the break with Jones, Anthony Davis, Doron Lamb and a host of other capable finishers. To slow Kentucky down, the Cardinals must be patient offensively, take good shots, and hit a higher percentage than they did against Georgetown. Defensively, Louisville will probably zone Kentucky, which means they'll have to locate Lamb and Darius Miller, UK's best outside shooters. Louisville also needs veterans Rakeem Buckles, Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith to produce offensively against Calipari's talented youngsters. Lastly, Louisville must stay within striking distance to have a chance to allow their grit and experience to shine at winning time. The Cardinals have a bad habit of digging second holes against mid-major opponents this season. They won't be able to get away with that approach against Kentucky away from the KFC Yum! Center.

Kentucky Keys: Kentucky must handle Louisville's pressure defense. That job starts with point guard Marquis Teague, who struggled against Indiana's pressure defense in the Cats lone loss this season. Kentucky also has to contain Peyton Siva. If the Wildcats allow Siva to repeatedly get into the lane, he'll carve up Kentucky, drawing fouls on Jones and Davis and finding open shooters on the perimeter. Kentucky also must figure out Louisville's zone, which means getting the ball into the lane, making quick decision with the basketball and hitting outside shots, something the Cards opponents have had success doing this season.

Key Matchup: Gorgui Dieng vs. Anthony Davis. Both players are critical to their team's success. Dieng recorded five double-doubles in a row before first half foul problems limited his minutes in the loss to Georgetown. Davis' foul trouble at Indiana was a contributing factor in the Wildcats loss to the Hoosiers. Davis and Dieng impact the game defensively with their shot-blocking ability and key the fast break for their teams with their defensive rebounding ability. The winner of this individual matchup likely will be on the winning side at the end of the game.

Forecast: Kentucky has won the past two games in the series, has more talent and has the home court edge. John Calipari has a roster loaded with future NBA players and has had Rick Pitino's number the past two seasons. This game is critically important for Pitino and his program. That's why the Louisville's coach didn't conduct his routine pre-game press conference, instead spending every minute preparing to upset the Wildcats. If talent or venue determines the outcome, Kentucky wins. If toughness, experience, preparation and grit become factors, Louisville could pull off a surprising win. Pitino needs this one bad, and he'll have the Cardinals, smarting from a loss to the Hoyas, ready to play. Look for Louisville to win a close game at the end because of their toughness.


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