The state of Kentucky is not big enough for the Louisville Cardinals and the Kentucky Wildcats. The only way to resolve the issue is to play a high-stakes basketball game on New Year's Eve.
The matchup between No. 4 Louisville and No. 3 Kentucky could prove to be one of the very best games of a regular season that has already seen its fair share of excitement. The Cardinals have tact and precision, and the Wildcats have more than enough talent.
So who's going to win?
To answer that question, we need to take a closer look at the matchup.
Where: Rupp Arena
When: Saturday, Dec. 31 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Not Available
Per Yahoo! Sports, Louisville guard Peyton Siva has a bad left ankle that is hindering his ability to make quick cuts. Nevertheless, he's playing through it.
As for the Wildcats, forward Terrence Jones had to miss a couple games with a dislocated finger, but he was able to return to action against Lamar. He logged 27 minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing six rebounds. His finger seems to be fine.
What's at Stake?
This is a pretty huge "show me" game for the Cardinals. They got off to a hot start, but they're coming into Saturday's game off their first loss of the season to Georgetown. Louisville simply didn't play well, and that reality has led some to question just how good the Cardinals really are.
This will also be Louisville's second away game all season. Of its 12 wins, 11 have come at home.
As far as Kentucky is concerned, the Wildcats would like nothing more than to reclaim their lost No. 1 ranking. A win over Louisville would give Kentucky's resume a big boost. The only loss on it is a game Kentucky lost at Indiana on a last-second shot.
What They're Saying
A couple days ago, Louisville could look ahead to Saturday's game as a chance to further cement itself in the national landscape.
But alas, the Cardinals got a big-time reality check at the hands of the Hoyas, and Rick Bozich of The Courier-Jounal had some pretty harsh sentiments to pass along from some NBA scouts who were in attendance:
The only first-round draft picks on the court played for the Hoyas. And the surprise of the night wasn’t that Georgetown defeated the Cardinals, 71-68. The shocker was that Rick Pitino had shaken and stirred a 12-0 record out of this group.
So instead of playing to cement itself in the national landscape, you might say Louisville will be fighting to avoid the dreaded "overrated" label on Saturday.
Oddly enough, Kentucky may be looking at Saturday's game as a way to re-energize itself. Such is the sentiment in this little nugget from Eric Crawford of The Courier-Journal:
UK coach John Calipari seems rankled with his team, and has had very little positive to say about the Wildcats on the whole over the past three games. So the U of L game comes at a good time for the Wildcats. It presents a chance for a reboot, a home game against a rival that could re-focus and energize the team.
If the Wildcats can't get up for Louisville, John Calipari can keep on being rankled.
Louisville Player to Watch: Peyton Siva
Siva has some work to do when it comes to his shooting and shot selection, but the dude knows how to dish the rock. When he's going good, he's racking up eight or nine assists in a given game, and that's when Louisville's offense is clicking on all cylinders.
Kentucky Player to Watch: Anthony Davis
Kentucky has a number of players worth keying in on, but I can never get enough Anthony Davis. He's averaging better than 10 points and 10 rebounds per game, and he's also among the national leaders in blocked shots. There are few things Davis can't do when he's on the court.
Key Matchup: Louisville Defense vs. Doron Lamb
Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis get a lot of love, but Doron Lamb is arguably the most important player in Kentucky's starting five. The Cardinals won't be able to stop him, but bothering him will be key.
You can think back to Kentucky's lone loss against Indiana. Lamb made just five of his 14 shot attempts and scored just 19 points in 36 minutes of action. He also missed some key free throws, ultimately allowing the Hoosiers to grab the game.
Jones, Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are going to get theirs, but the Cardinals can win this game if they frustrate Lamb.
Prediction: Kentucky 78, Louisville 69
The Cardinals are going to give the Wildcats a run for their money, but I think the Wildcats have too much firepower. They'll win this game with relative ease, and will have the No. 1 ranking within reach.