Pregame Breakdown: Louisville vs. WKU

Louisville looks to improve on its unbeaten record as the Cards make the short trip to Nashville for a Friday night matchup with in-state opponent Western Kentucky.

Louisville last played on Sunday in a close win over Akron. The Cards are 6-0 and ranked 2nd in the AP poll. Western Kentucky is 6-1 with its only loss coming to Bowling Green last week in the Paradise Jam. Louisville leads the all time series 40-39. The last game played between the two was a 22-point Cards win at home in 2015. The most recent win for WKU came in 2008 when the Hilltoppers won by 14 points in Nashville over a Louisville team that would eventually earn the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

For Louisville, Jordan Nwora has been the guy this season. He’s averaging 21.3 points and 7.2 rebounds so far. The preseason ACC player of the year is looking to bounce back after a rough outing versus Akron when he scored 18 points, but only had three in the second half in a game that Louisville nearly lost. Ryan McMahon is shooting 20 of 35 from three through six games and is the second leading scorer at 12.7 points per game. Dwayne Sutton (10.5 pts, 8.7 reb) and Steven Enoch (11.7 pts, 8.7 reb) are off to strong individual starts as well on a Louisville team that is much more balanced than a season ago.

WKU is off to its best start under 4th year head coach Rick Stansbury. The Hilltoppers roster has seven players from the state of Kentucky, including transfers Camron Justice (14.0 ppg) and Carson Williams (13.6 pts, 5.2 reb) who have been solid additions to a WKU team that has lost in its conference tournament championship game in each of the last two seasons. It’s a team with three former top 100 recruits, including sophomore and former 5-star prospect Charles Bassey (15.7 pts, 9.7 reb, 1.6 blk) who surprisingly chose to return to school for a second year. Taveion Hollingsworth (11.6 ppg) is a junior guard from Lexington that has already reached the 1,000-point milestone in just over two seasons.

There’s plenty of guys on this WKU team that could play at the high-major level. They have struggled to be consistent over the past few seasons, but the Hilltoppers have brought it when given the opportunity to beat a power conference school. Over the past two years, WKU is 7-3 over power conference opponents. Its beaten at least one team from the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC in that span.

While Friday’s game is already going to be the toughest of the season to date, it comes with an added wrinkle as 2nd ranked Louisville could potentially move to the number 1 spot in the AP poll with a win. It’s pretty remarkable to think that that could be the case only 41 games into the Chris Mack era, but the opportunity is right there.

WKU will be one of the better mid major teams in the nation this year, but Louisville is a top-5 level team in the nation and should win this game. Its in Nashville, so they avoid the atmosphere of Diddle Arena in Bowling Green and will have plenty of fans in attendance. WKU has proven that it will come to play when given the chance to beat a top team like Louisville. It’s the most all-around balanced team that Rick Stansbury has had there, and they are more than capable of stealing a win if Louisville cannot play a complete 40 minutes. In a game that starts a tough stretch for Louisville, a win here could go a long way in building momentum for the next couple weeks.

The game tips at 5:00 p.m. EST and will be broadcast exclusively on Facebook Live

Prediction: Louisville 81 Western Kentucky 74

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