Big Blue Links for Saturday:
With self-improvement in mind, Kentucky men set to face Louisville, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “There seems to be something missing with this year’s Kentucky-Louisville game. Instead of its annual good-versus-evil finality, the game feels like one island (albeit a big island in the eyes of fans) in the stream of a season. Both teams are in flux. Neither is rated in the top 10 (first time in this game since 2010), but each could be there by season’s end.”
How UK and U of L match up with a game prediction, by Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. “At 6-foot-10, 210-pounds, Louisville’s Ray Spalding (6.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg) is all lanky potential. The freshman from Trinity High School showed his promise when he had 18 points and 12 rebounds against North Florida. Spalding has now started four games in a row, and has averaged 7 points and almost 6 rebounds (5.7) over the last three of those starts.”
We should enjoy Pitino vs. Calipari while we can, says my column. “Right smack in the middle of the frantic holiday season, the thought hits with the same cold chill reserved for when you realize you have left someone deserving off your Christmas shopping list. Could this really be the last time we see John Calipari and Rick Pitino coaching against each other in a Kentucky-Louisville basketball game?”
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John Calipari has been almost impossible to beat at Rupp, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “Never a fun place for opponents, Rupp Arena has become an even more formidable venue for outsiders during the Calipari era of UK basketball. Since 2009, it’s been nearly unheard of for the team not wearing white to walk off the Rupp court victorious.”
UK basketball individual game-by-game stats
Rick Pitino’s return to Camelot is complex, writes Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal. The former Kentucky coach comes back to Rupp Arena once again, but this time with a shadow of a scandal hanging over his program.
Kentucky hoping to start over against Louisville, reports Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. The Cats are coming off that 74-67 loss to Ohio State last Saturday in Brooklyn. John Calipari gave his team some time off for the holidays before the players returned to Lexington on Wednesday with a renewed sense of purpose.
Two teams looking for identity, reports Gary Graves of the AP. “Identity-building seems more important right now for No. 12 Kentucky and 16th-ranked archrival Louisville than claiming Bluegrass bragging rights. The winner of Saturday’s annual showdown at Rupp Arena can take a big step in that process, along with giving their fan base something to feel good about entering conference play.”
Post-game analysis before the game begins, from Rick Bozich of WDRB. “If Kentucky wins, folks will credit coach John Calipari for having the Wildcats rested, relaxed and rolling because of the pre-Christmas break he ordered. Cal keeps things cool. If Kentucky loses, lines 1-17 will light up on post-game talk shows. Fans will howl that the UK players were not sharp. They’ll ask what Calipari was thinking giving his guys that much time off. Cal keeps things too cool.”
Five things he believes about UK-U of L, from Eric Crawford of WDRB. “1. THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF INFORMATION I CAN HAVE RIGHT NOW IS THE STATUS OF TYLER ULIS’ ELBOW. To me, this is the big question in the game. Is he 100 percent? If he’s right, Kentucky is a different team. If he’s right, you can’t press them, unless your hope is to wear them down, but that’s a big gamble, because you could be down 20 or more by the time they get tired.”
Kentucky needs a win more than Louisville, says John Gasaway of espn.com. “In short, Kentucky is young, inexperienced and searching for answers. The stakes are even higher than usual for the Wildcats against a Louisville team that's off to a solid, though not terribly challenging, start. No one will begrudge the Cardinals for losing at Rupp Arena, where UK is 61-1 against nonconference opponents under Calipari. But a home loss for Kentucky will unleash the criticizing furies in Lexington and take one more bite out of this team's confidence.”
This weekend is all about Kentucky-Louisville, writes Gary Parrish of CBS Sports. “It's Louisville at Kentucky, Rick Pitino against John Calipari, Big Blue Nation vs. the program that dealt with more negative offseason headlines than any other in recent memory thanks to what's commonly referenced as Louisville's Stripper Scandal. By now, you know the story. The allegations are ugly. The NCAA is investigating. It could end badly for the Cards. Either way, it'll have no bearing on Saturday's showdown.”
Louisville will beat Kentucky, says Myron Medcalf of espn.com. “Losses to UCLA and Ohio State humbled the Wildcats but also highlighted Kentucky’s troubles on offense. Texas-Arlington (1.06 points per possession) outplayed Kentucky (0.97 PPP) in their respective matchups against Ohio State, and the Mavericks faced the Buckeyes on the road. The Wildcats have made 31.3 percent of their 2-point jump shots and 29.7 percent of their 3-pointers, per hoop-math.com.”
Louisville at Kentucky basketball
When: 12:00 at Rupp Arena
Television: CBS with Tom McCarthy, Bill Raftery and Dana Jacobson
Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach, Mike Pratt and Matt Jones