LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky has an extra day to ready itself for Saturday's in-state grudge match at Rupp Arena, but Louisville may be a step ahead in overcoming a massive challenge.
The Cardinals know much of what's to come from their in-state rivals—the speed of John Wall, size of Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins, as well as all the general strengths that come from John Calipari's squad.
Quite honestly, it's been hard to miss all the Kentucky theatrics this season, as Calipari has the Wildcats undefeated and ranked third in the nation.
So if Louisville holds any advantage in a game where it's overmatched physically and playing in front of 24,000 fans on the road, it's that the Cardinals know exactly what's to come. Kentucky players, however, weren't as ready to talk about Louisville after their final tuneup against Hartford Tuesday night.
“I really don't know too much about Louisville because we've just been trying to keep up with our own season and prepare for our next game,” Kentucky's Darius Miller said.
Uh-oh. Don't tell the fans about that one.
The post-game didn't sound quite the same in Louisville after the Cardinals dispatched South Florida by a 73-52 score Wednesday night. Coach Rick Pitino was hesitant to talk about Kentucky before Louisville squared off with USF, but he admitted to scouting two of the Wildcats' games already this season after handling the Bulls.
“We have seen them a lot and we know how great they are, and we know their abilities,” Pitino said. “So we know what we are up against, and it won't be surprising to us.”
Against Indiana and another team Pitino didn't specify, the Louisville coaching staff graded Kentucky's pesky transition attack. Pitino said the Wildcats converted on about 75-80 percent of fast break opportunities, adding that good teams normally grade at 65 percent.
Another point of emphasis were the Kentucky big men, namely Patterson. Pitino said the Wildcats' bigs get up and down the court quicker than his own and may cause problems.
Pitino also talked about Wall, suggesting the freshman guard might be the first “unpressable” player he's ever coached against—and Pitino's coached against Isaiah Thomas.
Yet Wall, when asked about Louisville Tuesday night, didn't put much emphasis on the game—just one of many.
“We try not to focus on it too much, but it's a rivalry game,” Wall said. “We just got to go out there and take it like another game and not try to get over hyped and over excited because it's Louisville.”
To every hardcore hoops fan in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, that's like hearing fingernails on a chalkboard. Or having to watch bowl games instead of basketball.
So if there's any edge left for Louisville to hold over Kentucky with the tables leaning graciously toward the Wildcats, it's that the Cardinals know the opposition better than the opposition knows them.
They know all about Kentucky's athleticism. They've seen the Wildcats' quality wins over North Carolina and Connecticut. They also know about the great Wall. And Pitino, who didn't hold back from talking about Kentucky Wednesday night, is ready for it all.
When a reporter asked him to talk about Kentucky fans and how they'll treat a former coach, Pitino stopped him mid-sentence and asked to keep the topic on basketball.
With no more questions, Pitino's post-game ended on that note.
Because he'd already talked all about what he expects from Kentucky on the court, and that's a lot of talking.