For a long time, the conventional recruiting wisdom held that Marquis Teague would play for Louisville in this game. Instead, John Calipari won a recruiting throw-down with Rick Pitino. In his last three games, Teague has 12 assists and 14 turnovers. Out of the last 29 three-point shots he's tried, the UK freshman has missed 23. Expect U of L to attack Teague with pressure in the full-court and back off and dare him to take perimeter shots in the half-court. Showing little effect from the sprained left ankle that hampered him early this season, Louisville's Peyton Siva had 15 points and six assists against Georgetown on Wednesday. The junior has 70 assists and 39 turnovers on the season.
UK's Doron Lamb is 1-for-5 from three-point range in the last two games, but was 14-for-24 on treys in Kentucky's previous five contests. He looks due for a breakout shooting game. Lamb has committed more than one turnover in a game only once (four vs. North Carolina) all season. The sophomore could be a key to helping Kentucky navigate Louisville's pressure defense. U of L's Chris Smith is in a shooting slump (10-for-33 from the floor in the last five games) but plays with pluck and finds ways (38 assists/11 turnovers) to contribute.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been Kentucky's best player so far this season. Since a 1-for-7 shooting performance against St. John's, the 6-foot-7 freshman has hit 63.5 percent of his shots and averaged 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in six games. Kyle Kuric leads Louisville in scoring (13.5 ppg) and has a knack for hitting big shots. However, the senior's three-point percentage (35.2) so far this season is well off what he shot last year (44.9).
Before his now-infamous vanishing act at Indiana, Terrence Jones was averaging 17.5 ppg and 7.5 rebounds. Since the day of invisibility in Bloomington (four points, one rebound), Jones has dislocated a finger, missed two games, then came off the bench (with Darius Miller starting) for nine points and six rebounds against Lamar. Which Jones shows up Saturday? Louisville freshman wide body Chane Behanan has had six rebounds or more in all but one game this season. The former Bowling Green High School star's scoring, however, has slowed as the season has progressed. He was in double figures in five of the season's first seven games, but only twice in the six contests since.
Anthony Davis, UK's elastic man, has been a shot-blocking force, having snuffed three or more shots in 11 of 13 games. Davis has also recorded six double-doubles (points/rebounds) this season, including the last two games. Louisville's rapidly improving sophomore Gorgui Dieng (GOR-gee Jeng) will give Davis a challenge. Before settling for seven points and eight boards against Georgetown, Dieng had recorded five straight double-doubles.
If he doesn't start in place of Jones, Darius Miller gives Kentucky a skilled, versatile weapon off the bench. After some early-season struggles, the senior swingman seems to be getting dialed in from three-point range, having made nine of 22 in the prior four games. Freshman Kyle Wiltjer has had some big scoring games (19 vs. Penn State; 24 against Loyola, Md.) but — having scored a combined two points against Kansas, North Carolina and Indiana — has yet to show he can be a factor in a game at this level. Louisville's Russ Smith is the Cardinals' "now" player having scored in double figures six times in the past seven games, including 24 against Memphis and 23 vs. WKU. A clever defender, he has 16 steals in the past four games. Both back from injuries, forwards Rakeem Buckles (12 points, six rebounds against Memphis) and Jared Swopshire (five or more rebounds in five of first six games) are both former starters.
Kentucky is unbeaten in Rupp Arena (42-0) with John Calipari as head coach. Imagine how much relish Rick Pitino and Co. would draw from handing Cal his first Rupp "L" as UK head man. Conversely, Pitino is 0-2 at Louisville against Calipari at Kentucky, and another defeat in our state's signature rivalry will grate among the Red and Black. Louisville is coming off its first loss Wednesday against Georgetown — does that motivate the Cards or shake their confidence coming into what will be a jacked Rupp Arena atmosphere?