Pitino's Bombinos are back: In its past two games, Louisville has hit a scalding 33-for-53 from three-point range. Whether U of L can keep it going against a Kentucky defense that has held its six most recent foes to 27-percent accuracy from behind the three-point line might determine the game's outcome.
The Replacements: Even with the status of guards Mike Marra and Elisha Justice uncertain because of injuries, Louisville has a 10-deep playing rotation filled with players of (mostly) interchangeable skill levels. The Cardinals figure to try to create a war of attrition against a UK team that basically goes six deep. Remember: In Kentucky's only other game on an opponent's home court at North Carolina, four Cats fouled out, and the Tar Heels nipped UK at the finish line.
Second That Emotion: When the Kentucky women's hoops team visited U of L earlier this month, the KFC Yum Center crowd crackled with intensity. It figures to be about 100 times more intense Friday. Question is, will all that passion lead U of L to an Emotional Rescue or a Train Wreck of Emotion?
The "Baby Big Three": UK's super freshmen Terrence Jones (18.2 points per game, 9.3 rebounds), Brandon Knight (17.4 points, 3.9 assists), and Doron Lamb (14.4 points, 54 percent on three-point shots) will be the three most talented players in Friday's showdown.
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Battle scars: The Cats have played a schedule that should have them prepared for a big-time game. According to RealTimeRPI.com, Kentucky has faced the 23rd-most difficult schedule in the country. By contrast, Louisville (94th-toughest schedule) has not yet played a team from one of college sports' six major conferences (think football's BCS automatic-qualifying leagues).
A 'regular' guy: If history is a guide, the fact that this is a regular-season matchup, not a tournament game, should favor UK. Calipari and Pitino have faced each other 14 times as college head coaches. Pitino is 4-0 against Calipari-coached teams in post-season tournaments. But Cal has had the edge in regular-season games, 6-4.
Handed down from on high, the immutable first commandment of coaching in big-time college sports says thus:
Thou shalt win against the team your school's fan base hates most — or else.
Other than NCAA Tournament games, Rick Pitino and John Calipari will coach no more important contest this season than Friday's high noon showdown between Louisville and Kentucky.
To an unusual degree, the first UK-U of L men's basketball game in the KFC Yum Center finds the coaches of both teams entering their high stakes battle appearing to hold an equal number of aces.
When: Noon Friday | Where: KFC Yum Center, Louisville | TV: CBS-27
During the game: Break down the showdown with columnist John Clay on his live blog.
After the game: Stay with Kentucky.com for post-game reaction, statistics and photos.
Getting them ready: Calipari tells his players to expect an intense game. Page B1
Make it a good one: Fans of both teams deserve a well-played contest. Page B1