Looking on the bright side, Kentucky Coach John Calipari suggested that Louisville's signature style of pressure defense and the ability to create a chaotic game can help his freshman-dependent team.
"The good news for us is this is a game of less plays and more players making plays," Calipari said Friday. "That plays to our favor. It's less having to do with execution, which we are really too young to be a great execution team. And it's more reacting to three-on-two, two-on-one, four-on-three. Attacking the basket. Stuff we do better."
Of course, there's a qualifier. To get to the part about making instinctual basketball plays, Kentucky must first handle Louisville's pressure defense.
"If you can't physically withstand this game, then it's going to show," Calipari said.
Kentucky (8-3) doesn't figure to be ill-prepared for Louisville's pressure on Saturday.
"We've been working on press breakers for two weeks now," reserve guard Jarrod Polson said.
One of the analysts working the game for CBS saw Kentucky as a team in need of a return to the basics of beat-your-man basketball. The nuances of the game can elude UK.
"Really raw from a basketball understanding standpoint," Greg Anthony said of the Cats. "Right now, they're doing what you really don't want your athletes to do, and that's that they have to think a lot about everything they do on the floor. ...
"That's what the challenge for Coach Cal is going to be: Get these kids to just go out and play basketball. Right now, they're thinking basketball."
When asked what he saw that told him Kentucky players were thinking rather than playing, Anthony noted action-reaction coming a step slow.
"Is this the right pass? Is this the right rotation? Is this the right penetration," Anthony said. "When you think like that, that means you're not reacting on instinct."
During his news conference Friday, Louisville Coach Rick Pitino downplayed the notion that there's no doubt his team will apply the kind of relentless pressure he once dubbed "mother-in-law defense" (translation: constant harassment).
"In order to put pressure you have to shoot a good percentage," he said. "And very few teams shoot a good percentage against their defense."
UK opponents have shot with 37.7-percent accuracy (30.4 percent in the last three games).
"It's a catch-22," Pitino said. "We obviously turned it over a lot at their place last year, and they killed us on the backboard. So you can't let a team dominate you on the backboard like that."
UK outrebounded Louisville 57-31 in Rupp Arena last season. The Cats won 69-62 despite committing 21 turnovers. In the rematch staged at the Final Four, the Cards won the boards 40-33. But UK won again, this time 69-61, thanks in part to committing only 14 turnovers. In the two games, Louisville made only 44 of 131 shots (33.6 percent).
Calipari lauded Louisville, 11-1 and ranked No. 4, as a gauge for how much Kentucky has benefited from the added practice time during semester break. The workouts, which included morning conditioning sessions dubbed Camp Cal, were intended to toughen a young team and make it more relentlessly competitive. He suggested Louisville will compete.
"We have to fight and battle for 40 minutes, be strong with the ball, make sure you're getting open," Calipari said. "... the score will take care of itself for us. This thing is, 'All right, let's battle. Let's go after them. Let's see what we've worked on.' "
Louisville returns four starters from its 2012 Final Four team. The exception, Wayne Blackshear, played 14 minutes in the national semifinal game against Kentucky.
Of course, Kentucky started over this season with another freshman-oriented team. UK notes that it's the only program from a BCS conference that did not return a player who started a game for its team the previous season.
"You're talking about a team that should be or is an odds-on favorite to win the whole thing," Calipari said of the Cards. "That's how good I think they are. ...
"They are a well-oiled machine. We are a work in progress."
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com