Here in the commonwealth, we have arrived at the most wonderful time of the year.
It's also Christmas week.
We are now days away from No. 1 Kentucky (12-0) visiting No. 4 Louisville (10-0) in what could be the most anticipated regular-season college basketball game in our state's history. The answers to these four questions should have a dramatic impact in shaping who will win our state's hoops Armageddon:
1.) Will Kentucky have the big head?
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It could be that UK is simply too good for this to matter, but I'm not sure going into the KFC Yum Center off of last Saturday's 83-44 obliteration of UCLA is the greatest "setup" for the Cats.
UK players will spend this holiday week being told how great they are. On Saturday, they will walk into a basketball holy war.
Under John Calipari, Kentucky is 6-1 against Louisville. The Wildcats have knocked the Cardinals out of the NCAA Tournament twice in the past three seasons. With even opposing coaches now speculating on whether Kentucky will complete an undefeated season, one way for U of L players and fans to get back some rivalry swag would be to foil UK's unbeaten record.
On the flip side of that, Kentucky has so far seemed every bit a team that thrives on the biggest stages. Ask Kansas, North Carolina and poor, poor UCLA about that.
Other than NCAA Tournament games, college basketball platforms don't get any larger than the one Kentucky will be on Saturday.
2.) Can Louisville make outside shots?
Opinions vary on what game tempo — slowed down or sped up — would make Kentucky most vulnerable to an upset. Seems like everyone believes, however, that to overcome Kentucky's defensive length and shot blocking a foe must drain a high percentage of three-point shots.
For Louisville, the problem is that, other than Terry Rozier (34.2 percent on treys), the Cardinals have shot the ball abysmally so far from the perimeter. As a team, U of L is making 27.5 percent of its three-point shots. Louisville is 7-of-35 on treys in its last two games.
Starting guard Chris Jones is making 31.9 percent of his threes. Swingman Wayne Blackshear is at 25 percent. There's been no boost off the bench, as backup guards Anton Gill (21.7) and Quentin Snider (22.2) have struggled. Heck, even standout big man Montrezl Harrell has started firing treys — and mostly missing (21.1).
Bottom line: The perceived No. 1 prerequisite to beating Kentucky has been one of Louisville's biggest weaknesses.
3.) Can Louisville create easy baskets off UK turnovers?
One way not to have to navigate Kentucky's suffocating half-court defense is to shoot layups in transition off of steals. So far this season, U of L is plus-4.9 a game in turnover margin.
However, in two games against Kentucky last season, the Cardinals forced only 12 (NCAA tourney meeting) and 11 UK miscues.
A year ago, Kentucky starting guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison combined for seven turnovers (four by Aaron) in the regular-season matchup with U of L but the duo committed only three (two by Andrew) in the March Madness showdown.
Even if Louisville unleashes a withering full-court press Saturday, three of Kentucky's four guards — the Harrison twins and Devin Booker — stand 6-foot-6. Couple that with UK's towering front court, the Cats would seem perfectly equipped to "play over the top" of Louisville pressure.
4.) What will the blue-to-red ratio be in the Yum Center stands?
In the modern UK-U of L rivalry (since 1982-83), the Cats have had much more of a home-court advantage (13-4 UK edge in Rupp Arena) than the Cards (UK leads 8-7 in Louisville).
How much a factor in that is the large number of Wildcats fans that always seem able to get tickets in Louisville? "There's 5,000 of them getting into our building," U of L Coach Rick Pitino said earlier this season. "We got five getting into their building and they get 5,000."
In football, some U of L fans seem to be creating such a nasty environment for Kentucky supporters in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium that many Cats fans, surprisingly, appear to be giving in and no longer attending games there.
Will UK basketball fans risk the red wrath and again show up Saturday as unwelcome holiday season guests in The Ville?