Don’t look now, but the Louisville Cardinals (9-0) have vaulted up to fourth in the latest polls and will be the favorites this weekend against the Memphis Tigers (5-3).
The Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout matchup features two teams that are quite familiar with each other. This is the 86th meeting between the two schools in a rivalry that dates back to 1949. Louisville has only played Cincinnati more often in its history.
The two teams were previously in the same conference for the vast majority of this rivalry (Missouri Valley Conference 1964-75, the Metro Conference 1968-91 and Conference USA 1995-2005) until Louisville moved to the Big East.
When: Saturday, December 17th, 4:00 p.m. EST
Where: KFC Yum! Center
Watch: CBS with announcers Verne Lundquist (play-by-play) and Clark Kellogg (color)
Listen: WHAS (840 AM) in Louisville, WREC (600) in Memphis and nationally on Westwood One
Live Stream: You can listen live online via the official Louisville athletics website
Memphis Player to Watch: Will Barton
The 6'6" sophomore guard is a special talent. His ability to shoot at a high percentage despite taking long-range shots make him one of the most efficient guards in the country. He is currently shooting an unreal 56 percent from the floor a year after connecting on 42 percent of his shots.
If Barton can speed up the tempo and connect at a high percentage early on, it’s going to be very difficult for Louisville to slow him down.
Barton is the best player on the floor; if Memphis wants to pull the upset, they must have his finest effort.
Louisville Player to Watch: Gorgui Dieng
The 6'11" sophomore is getting better by the game and the numbers are showing as much. Dieng has averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds in his last two games and has shot a ridiculous 13-of-15 from the floor.
If he continues to shoot at such a high percentage, the Tigers are going to have absolutely no answer for him and this game could get away in a hurry.
Keys for Memphis Win: Speed up the tempo
The Tigers are 15th in the nation in scoring, averaging over 81 points per game, and 22nd in field goal percentage. They thrive in chaos and will be looking to push the fast break as much as they possibly can.
In addition to the ultra-talented Barton, Joe Jackson (13.4 points, 3.1 assists), and Adonis Thomas (9.1 points, 3.3 rebounds) will be relied upon heavily.
Keys for Louisville Win: Dominate the glass
The Cardinals are 18th in the nation in rebounding, and it has been the main catalyst for their unbeaten start. In addition to the domination of Dieng recently, Chane Behanan isn’t too far behind, averaging 8.1 rebounds a game. The combination is going to be very difficult for the Tigers to stop.
The more second-half opportunities the Cardinals get, the larger margin of victory the game will be.
Who Wins on Saturday?
The Cardinals height advantage up front is going to be hard to overcome for the Tigers. The Louisville offense is nothing special (ranked 119th), so if Memphis can box out and keep them to one shot on most possessions, then this game will come down to the final seconds.
The pressure is on for Barton to produce in bunches, but it remains to be seen if he can keep up the ridiculous start he has gotten off to.
I think in the end Dieng is too much to contain, and the Cardinals take advantage of their height and home-court in a game that will be in question till the final buzzer.
Louisville 73 Memphis 70