U of L v. UK: Five Factors

Louisville and Kentucky will meet for the 45th time in one of the nation's most storied basketball rivalries. Cardinal Authority takes a look at five key areas for the Saturday's contest at the KFC Yum! Center.

For the 45th time, Louisville and Kentucky will meet on the hardwood in what many describe as the ‘Dream Game.' The 4th ranked and favored Cardinals will host the Wildcats at 4:00p.m. at the 22,000 seat KFC Yum! Center.

Here's a look at five factors that will play a role in the Cardinals ability to win, and by how much.

1. Gorgui Dieng
The junior center, who has been out of action since breaking a bone in his left wrist during a blowout win over Missouri on Nov. 23, is expected to start on Saturday. The Cardinals have played well during Dieng's time on the bench and his addition should only bolster the team's strengths.

"Our passing gets better," Pitino said on Friday. Pitino added that Dieng is back to form, with one exception, his defensive timing.

When asked who he feels his progress has come, Dieng put his trust in Pitino. "I don't know," he responded, "I've just been doing what coach has been telling me."

2. Defense
The Cardinals enter Saturday's contest leading the nation in turnover margin (+9.8), while the Wildcats rank 45th (+3.1). U of L is flourishing off it's defensive pressure, scoring 35% of its points off of turnovers. Facing a young backcourt, the Cardinals pressure has the potential to play a significant role.

Louisville also ranks second in the nation with an 11.9 thefts per game average. Russ Smith ranks 9th in the country with a 2.8 steal per game average, while Peyton Siva's 2.3 average is good for 38th nationally.

3. 3 Spot
An area of concern during the early season games, the improving play of sophomore Wayne Blackshear is quickly making the three spot on the floor another offensive threat for Pitino's Cardinals. Blackshear is averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds over the last two games. He is proving to be a threat to score from inside and out, connecting on 12 of his last 25 three point attempts.

4. Poise
Louisville responded well when playing in a big game atmosphere at Memphis and now must show poise when having the home court advantages. It would be easy to get caught up in the excitement inside the KFC Yum! Center, so the Cardinals need to maintain focus and approach the game as any other. Foul trouble for Louisville could be a quick equalizer, so poise is key for the veteran Cardinals.

5. Crowd
While it's important to remain poised, it's also to the Cardinals advantage to use the home crowd. Kentucky is a youth-laden squad and many of them have yet to experience this type of game atmosphere.

"The fans get there early and they are all excited," Pitino said of the expected atmosphere inside the riverfront arena. "I love the atmosphere in the arena."

Tip-off is scheduled for 4:00p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally on CBS. Stay tuned to CardinalAuthority.com for complete game coverage.

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