As if the title doesn’t say it all, the No. 10 Louisville Cardinals host the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats tonight at 7pm, the game can be watched on ESPN.
Kentucky comes into the game with an identical record to Louisville (10-1) but both teams have had different ways of getting here. Kentucky once again is known for it’s solid slate of freshmen phenoms. Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and Bam Adebayo are the headliners of this year’s group. While this Kentucky team is scary on offense (95.2 PPG), they are noticeably lacking on the defensive end. UK is allowing a Cal Era worst 71.6 PPG, and if you truly think that offense is more important I’ll refer you to the last 10 NCAA champions. Only 1 out of the last 10 NCAA Tournament Champions has allowed over 70 PPG (UNC ’09), my point being: defensive style teams typically best their offensive counterparts.
While UK’s offense has been very impressive this year, they have not played anything near a top defense. They now enter their first true road test of the season (UK has not fared well in the first true road game of the season under Calipari) against the No. 1 defensive team in the nation in the Louisville Cardinals (per Ken Pomeroy). So yes, Kentucky has a lot of firepower, but they have yet to play a team that will challenge every move and every shot and we can expect that out of the Cardinals tonight.
Malik Monk leads the way for the Cats offensively, the true freshman averages 21.9 PPG and is coming off a 47-point performance against North Carolina. I’d like to see Monk guarded by Deng Adel to allow Adel’s height advantage (6’3 against 6’7), I’d also like to see Donovan Mitchell guard De’Aaron Fox and the rest of matchups will sort themselves out. Bottom line, if the Cards contest every shot and play the hounding defense we’ve seen all season, Kentucky could get rattled if their first few shots don’t drop.
It’s no secret, Cal has had Rick’s number in this rivalry. Everyone assumes it to be more lopsided than it is though. While Cal gets the bigger recruits, and has won most of the games against his rival school’s coach, the games haven’t been blowouts. It seems every year, we’re left talking about that one play that could’ve changed the game. This is the year we talk about the play that DID change the game and finally grab that coveted win against the disliked but respected school 70 miles way. The defense holds Kentucky to below 70 points, Monk scores his points but not efficiently and the Cards capitalize down the stretch to win by a final score of 73-68.