Kentucky vs. Louisville: Complete Preview and Predictions
The clash between the Louisville Cardinals and the Kentucky Wildcats is always an exciting game and Saturday's battle in the KFC Yum! Center could become one of the greatest battles in the history of this rivalry.
This will be the 45th time that Louisville and Kentucky play each other. Kentucky leads the series 30-14.
The Cardinals come into the game ranked fourth in country with a record of 11-1. Their only loss was to top ranked Duke in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Louisville junior center Gorgui Dieng has missed seven games with a broken wrist that he sustained against Missouri on Nov. 23. Head coach Rick Pitino told Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com Wednesday that Dieng would be able to play against Kentucky.
"He's in great shape," Pitino told Goodman of Dieng. "His defensive timing is off, but he looks good offensively."
Dieng's parents, who are from the Senegal, will be in town to watch him play for the first time since coming to Louisville.
Kentucky comes into the game unranked with a record of 8-3. They have lost to Duke, Notre Dame and Baylor; however, they have won four straight.
“They have a veteran team,” head coach John Calipari said of Louisville via CoachCal.com. “They’ve got everybody playing well. They’re beating everybody by 30 and 40. Hard game for us. They’ve got terrific players, really good players.”
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
There is a lot of history in this rivalry and anything can happen. Last year Kentucky won both of the two battles between the schools, including in the Final Four.
When: Saturday, Dec. 29 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
Listen: WKRD Radio (790 AM) Louisville, Ky.
C Gorgui Dieng, 6'11”, 245 lbs.
PF Chane Behanan, 6'6”, 250 lbs.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
F Wayne Blackshear, 6'5”, 230 lbs.
G Russ Smith, 6'0”, 165 lbs.
PG Peyton Siva, 6'0”, 185 lbs.
C Nerlens Noel, 6'10”, 228 lbs.
PF Alex Poythress, 6'7”, 239 lbs.
G Archie Goodwin , 6'4”, 198 lbs.
G Julius May, 6'2”, 192 lbs.
PG Ryan Harrow, 6'2”, 170 lbs.
Injury Report via USA Today
Guard Jon Hood is expect to miss the game due to an illness believed to be mononucleosis.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Mike Marra is out for the season with an ACL tear in his left knee.
Matchup to Watch: Gorgui Dieng vs. Nerlens Noel
Both centers are exceptional blockers. Dieng averages two blocks per game, playing in only five games this season. Noel is averaging 3.7 blocks per game.
Dieng is a lot more physically strong than Noel and is a lot better passer from the post. Dieng has the ability to do a lot of little things to make Louisville's guards get open.
Noel is very athletic and runs the floor very well for a big man. He also can use his good ball handling to drive to the basket.
Dieng's experience will be key in this matchup. He knows what to do in big games, whether he is playing well or not. He is coming off of a wrist injury, but I don't expect that be a big issue.
Both Louisville and Kentucky have very good backups at the center position. Kentucky with Willie Cauley-Stein and Louisville with Stephen Van Treese and Montrezl Harrell.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Louisville has forced an average of 21.4 turnovers per game, scoring 35 percent of their points turnovers.
Kentucky is shooting a 49 percent field goal percentage.
Louisville averages 11.9 steal a game.
Kentucky averages 78.5 points per game and is allowing their opponents an average of 61.1.
Louisville averages 78.1 points per game and is allowing their opponents to score just 55.5.
Both Louisville and Kentucky average 1.12 points per possession.
Kentucky averages 7.9 blocks per game.
Whenever these two teams play it is a heated battle and I expect it to be very physical, especially in the first-half.
The Wildcats will attempt to use their athleticism on both sides of the floor, whether it be trying to block shots or driving to the hole.
Who will win?
Louisville's defensive pressure will be the key to the game. If Louisville is able to score and get into their full-court pressure Kentucky will be in trouble. Kentucky will also try not to have a lot of forced turnovers.
Archie Goodwin will lead Kentucky in scoring, but will have five or six turnovers.
Chane Behanan will lead Louisville in scoring and also in rebounds. He knows the importance of this game and will be very prepared mentally and physically, but his aggressiveness will get him into foul trouble late in the game.
Louisville fans will be loud throughout the game, forcing Calipari to have to waste a few timeouts.
Louisville will win 72-65.
All stats used came from StatSheets.com unless otherwise noted.
You can follow Jon on Twitter @JonKYSportsCo.
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