Kentucky Wildcats vs Louisville Cardinals: 5 Keys to Victory for the Wildcats
One of the greatest rivalries in all of college basketball will go down this weekend. This Saturday, the third-ranked Louisville Cardinals will travel to Rupp Arena to face the fourth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats (rankings are from B/R's Writer Ranks).
It is interesting to note that both coaches have announced they will not be coaching after their contracts run out—Rick Pitino has said he will stop coaching after 2017 and John Calipari has said he won't coach more than 10 years at Kentucky
This is just more fuel to the fire for this rivalry. Both teams want to hold the title of best team in the state every year, especially the years leading up to these two prominent coaches leaving.
I'm not sure if any would argue against Kentucky being the more talented team in this matchup. However, Louisville's experience and scrappy play style could keep them in this game.
Here are the five keys to a win for the Wildcats.
5. Keep Peyton Siva out of the Lane
It's safe to say that Peyton Siva is the motor for this Louisville team. It also goes without saying that this offense runs through him, not only because he is the point guard, but because he facilitates and passes well. He leads the Cardinals with 6.4 assists per game, good for Top 20 in the nation.
Don't be surprised if Michael Kidd-Gilchrist guards Siva in Saturday's matchup. Last year, DeAndre Liggins was tasked to guarding the Louisville point guard, which resulted in Siva shooting 2-of-9 from the field and added only four assists. Kidd-Gilchrist is Kentucky's best defender on the perimeter, much like Liggins last year.
Whoever is guarding Siva, their main priority will be keeping him out of the lane. If Siva does get in the lane, help defense is a must because he is great at scoring at the rim. Rotations will have to be sharp as well to prevent open looks from outside, especially if Siva breaks down the defense.
4. Push the Tempo
Kentucky is at their best when they are pushing the tempo. With this kind of talent, maximizing possessions will help score points and keep the opposing team on the ropes. Marquis Teague is struggling in part because he wants to slow his play down to match the game speed. But if the game speed is revved up, Teague should feel right at home.
Coach John Calipari hinted in Kentucky's live stream of their practice that they will be executing some zone and press in the near future, which should keep the tempo up.
Terrence Jones should be back for this game as well, which helps Kentucky both on offense and defense. If a press is implemented in this game, expect his length to be a problem for Louisville.
3. Be Efficient
There's no denying it, at some point in this game, Kentucky will have to play in the half court. When the game does slow down, Kentucky will need to be efficient.
Louisville plays great defense, allowing over 60 points in only three of their contests this year. Kentucky, on the other hand, has yet to score under 62 points in a game this year. Something's gotta give.
This game could be decided by who has the last possession, which means each one matters. Preventing turnovers and bad shots will be a crucial aspect of this game for Kentucky's offense.
2. Stay out of Foul Trouble
Getting into foul trouble will work right into Rick Pitino's scheme for this game. If starters for Kentucky foul early, John Calipari will have to slow the game down because of the lack of able bodies.
Louisville will want to slow the game down in any way possible. The best way is to get to the free throw line.
Against Indiana, Anthony Davis was in foul trouble for most of the game. Although Indiana didn't really take advantage of having Cody Zeller on the inside, it did change the way Kentucky had to play defense.
Having a defensive stopper like Davis in the lane allows for guards and wing players to be more aggressive on the outside. Keeping Davis on the court is key for the Wildcats in this game.
1. Control the Glass
Both of these teams are great at rebounding. As of this writing, Kentucky is ranked eighth in the nation with 41.3 rebounds per game. Louisville is ranked ninth with 41.2 rebounds per game (the totals are 496 and 494, respectively).
Louisville, however, does more on the offensive glass. This means that on defense, Kentucky will have to dominate the boards and prevent second opportunities for Louisville. Second opportunities allow for Louisville to work the clock and keep the crowd out of the game.
All in all, this should be a great game. Two Top Five teams squaring off on New Year's Eve? It doesn't get much better than this.