The SEC named Brandon Knight its Freshman of the Week for Dec. 20-26. He's scored 14 or more points in seven straight games. During that span, he's made 42 of 77 shots (54.5 percent) and 18 of 41 three-point attempts (43.9 percent). He had a career-high eight assists against Coppin State.
Peyton Siva was the Big East Player of the Week for the same time period. He had career highs with 29 points and eight assists in a 114-82 victory at Western Kentucky. That marked the most assists by a U of L underclassman since 2007. He's had at least seven assists in four of the last five games.
Advantage: None. Both are McDonald's All-Americans who are playing well.
DeAndre Liggins won't fill up the basket, but it's dangerous to leave him alone (19-for-40 in the last five games, including 8-for-18 from three-point range). Plus, he's become adept at driving and dishing, as 15 assists in the past two games suggests. His 15 steals ties for the team lead and signals his role as a high-energy player.
Preston Knowles is a "truer" shooting guard. He leads the Cards in scoring (15.2 ppg), field goals (61) and three-pointers (34). In the past three games, he's averaged 23.3 points and made 15 of 29 three-point shots (51.7 percent).
Advantage: Louisville, but can Knowles, who is only 6-foot-1, shoot comfortably over taller defenders?
To borrow a John Calipari term, Darius Miller can "evaporate" in games. But lately, Miller has been condensing. He tallied 15 assists in the past five games, and grabbed 32 rebounds in the past six. His hustling play against Coppin State brought another word to Calipari's mind: "blossom."
Manhattan transfer Chris Smith doesn't yet play like his brother (J.R., for the Denver Nuggets), but he's scored 28 points in the past two games. His 18 points at Western Kentucky were a career high, so were his six assists against Morgan State.
Advantage: Kentucky. Miller has experienced two UK-U of L games, although he evaporated in them (no points, two rebounds, one assist).
Terrence Jones broke out of a mini-slump with 18 points against Coppin State. He dominated early this season with five double-doubles in UK's first eight games. But in the past four games, he's had four assists and 10 turnovers while making one of seven three-point shots. Still, he leads UK in scoring, rebounding and blocks.
Kyle Kuric has started the past three games. He ranks seventh among Big East players in three-point accuracy (45.2 percent). He made seven of 10 three-point shots en route to a career-high 25 points against Morgan State.
With only six free-throw attempts, Josh Harrellson is no low-post anchor. But he's contributed double-digit rebounds in six games and given Kentucky a steady presence since he reduced his fouling (six fouls in the past four games). He's also blocked at least one shot in the past four games. Calipari would like him to take at least one charge in every game.
Freshman Gorgui Dieng is not a big scorer either (5.8 ppg). He ranks second among Big East players with an average of 2.6 blocks. His seven blocks against both Florida International and Gardner-Webb tie for seventh-most among U of L players in a game.
Advantage: Kentucky (senior over a freshman).
Doron Lamb gives Kentucky one reliable player off the bench. His 32 points against Winthrop were the most ever scored in a game by a UK freshman and equaled the most scored by all other UK reserves in the five most recent games.
Louisville boasts nine healthy players who average 9.4 or more minutes and six averaging 7.9 or more points. Terrence Jennings ranks fourth in the Big East with an average of 2.5 blocks.
Advantage: Louisville, although injuries to Mike Marra (sprained ankle), Jared Swopshire (strained groin), Elisha Justice (concussion) and Rakeem Buckles (spiral fracture in a finger) lessen the advantage.
Louisville has the home-court advantage and the revenge motive after Kentucky won 71-62 last season. As the lower-ranked team with a scarcity of eye-catching victories, U of L might also have a greater need to win.