Louisville and Kentucky have been two of the more exciting women's basketball teams in the country the past few seasons, but their games have been anything but.
The state's biggest rivalry game has fallen flat with a suspense-lacking thud.
In each of the past four seasons, the home team has won.
The past five games have been decided by an average of 22.2 points.
It's been six years since one of these so-called rivalry games has been competitive (decided by single digits).
But for this season at least, Jeff Walz hopes the game stays to script.
"Let's keep it the way it's been," the Cardinals' coach said with a laugh. "I'd love to win by 22 at home."
Kentucky's coach had a different perspective, as one might imagine.
"I'd disagree with him on that one," said UK's Matthew Mitchell, whose team has won two of the past three, including a 74-54 win over the Cardinals in sold out Memorial Coliseum last season. It was the Cats' largest margin of victory over a top-10 team in program history.
"I really hope the home team doesn't do that this time."
But both coaches can agree that it's been puzzling how teams that have gone deep in the NCAA Tournament the past few seasons can't seem to keep it close with each other.
"It's just been a little crazy how things have worked out the past few years," Walz said.
Finally, Mitchell agreed with his counterpart.
"I don't really have an explanation for that; it's been surprising to me," he said.
Both coaches agreed on one more thing: They don't think this year's battle of top-10 teams on Sunday in front of a nationally televised audience is going to be a lopsided blowout like the past few.
"I'd expect a good basketball game on Sunday," Walz said. "I'd expect a competitive game. I don't think either of us would say we expect it to be a 20-point win for either side."
"I would suspect that this is going to be a really tough game, a really competitive game," Mitchell said Friday.
On paper, it looks like it will be. For the first time in the annual series, both teams are ranked in the top 10 with Louisville at No. 7 and Kentucky at No. 9.
Louisville is 8-0, and Kentucky's lone loss was at defending national champion Baylor in the second game of the season. The Cats (5-1) have won their last four by an average of 44 points.
Both teams return at least four starters and 10-plus regulars from last season.
Both have serious depth and balance with at least 10 players averaging double-digit minutes and at least five players averaging six points or more on each bench.
Both teams have a star guard on all the national watch lists.
For Louisville, it's junior Shoni Schimmel, who has come up big for the Cardinals in their games against Kentucky, including scoring a then-career high 26 points in Louisville's dominant 78-52 win over UK in 2010 at the newly christened KFC Yum Center.
Louisville native A'dia Mathies, Kentucky's star guard, remembers that loss well.
"That is a loss we don't want to suffer ever again," she said. "It being a rivalry game, stakes are going to be high so we just want to go out and play the best we can."
Kentucky has had a daily reminder of the upcoming top-10 clash outside its locker-room wall for several weeks in the form of a countdown clock with the words "Beat Louisville" underneath.
If the Cats could manage that, it would be the first time they topped the Cardinals in Louisville since 1999 (six straight).
The clock has provided just a little extra motivation for UK, the players said.
"Every day you walk out and you know you've got to keep pushing and preparing because it's getting closer and closer to game time," junior guard Bernisha Pinkett said. "It's not going to be an easy game."
Hammond a difference maker?
Before the big game last season, Sara Hammond, the 2011 Kentucky Miss Basketball from Rockcastle County, publicly talked about growing up a UK fan, but not getting an offer from the Cats. She wasn't much of a factor in last season's first matchup.
The state's first McDonald's All-American scored just two points and grabbed four rebounds in nine minutes.
But Hammond could be a big factor in this season's meeting. The 6-foot-2 forward is second on the team in scoring (10.9 ppg) and the Cards' leading rebounder (8.1 rpg).
Walz has been impressed by Hammond early this season.
"I'm really excited for her," he said. The game "has slowed down for her. It was all going so fast for her as a freshman. She just wasn't being as patient, as relaxed. She just really looks to enjoy playing and that has a lot to do with it."
Hammond is one of five Cardinals from the state of Kentucky, including Tia Gibbs (Butler), Monique Reid (Fern Creek), Shelby Harper (Allen County-Scottsville) and Antonita Slaughter (Louisville Christian).
UK has two players from the state in Mathies (Iroquois) and Samantha Drake (Nelson County).
O'Neill expected to play
Kentucky guard Jennifer O'Neill, who missed the Cats' game with Miami (Ohio) on Wednesday with a sore right foot, has been able to practice since then and is expected to play Sunday.
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com