Western Kentucky comes to town for an in-state matchup with Louisville on Tuesday night. WKU is 2-1 after placing 2nd in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic in South Dakota over the weekend. The Hilltoppers picked up two notable wins over Northern Iowa and Memphis before falling to now 11th-ranked West Virginia in the title game by six. Louisville sits at 3-0 so far, most recently defeating Prairie View A&M at home on Sunday night.
Time: 6:05 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Line: Louisville -4.0
Louisville narrowly leads the all-time series 41-39, most recently beating the Hilltoppers 71-54 last season in Nashville. Louisville has won eight straight games against WKU.
Western Kentucky is a team that has had plenty of success over power conference opponents since Rick Stansbury took over as head coach. WKU is 8-6 against power conference teams since the start of the 2017-2018 season. This could be Stansbury’s best team to date. His team’s biggest flaw has been continuity, but the Toppers have plenty of that this year..
WKU brought back four players who started at least 16 games a year ago, not including former five-star recruit Charles Bassey who missed most of the season with a knee injury after starting the first nine games.
Bassey is the name everyone has talked about so far this year, and Louisville will need someone to step up against him. Three games into his junior year, he looks as polished as ever in the post and has been an elite rim protector for WKU. The Cards might struggle to defend him, but their small lineup could give Bassey problems on the other end. The key will be to draw him away from the basket. Bassey struggles defending on the perimeter. Expect someone like Jae’lyn Withers to try and space the floor as much as possible. West Virginia had quite a bit of success against Bassey in the second half this past weekend. He can be beaten off the dribble, but if you let him hang around the rim he will hurt you.
The biggest question for Western Kentucky will be the health of leading scorer Taveion Hollingsworth. The senior point guard is a game-time decision after picking up a couple injuries this past weekend. Hollingsworth has been the heart and soul of this WKU program since stepping on campus; his status on Tuesday will play a big role in how things go.
If Hollingsworth cannot play, graduate transfer Kenny Cooper and former top-100 recruit Jordan Rawls will step in. Freshman Daveion McKnight has been the breakout player for them so far and can take over ball handling duties as well.
This is a deep WKU team that absolutely needs to be taken seriously. It might be Louisville’s toughest opponent so far, and the in-state aspect only adds more intrigue.
Louisville has looked good, though, and has plenty of reasons to be confident themselves. You have to give them the advantage on the perimeter with their size. WKU thrives in the mid-range and gets to the line as much as any team out there. David Johnson and Carlik Jones should not have too much trouble penetrating inside, but finishing will be a different story.
If Charles Bassey can be contained, and if Louisville can keep the Hilltoppers off the free throw line, the Cards will be in good shape. Those are big ifs, though. WKU has tons of experience in these big games and plays with a confidence that can trouble an inexperienced group like Louisville.
We are going to learn quite a bit about the Cards tonight. WKU is a tournament caliber opponent. Many are predicting an upset. It would not be a bad loss by any means, but a convincing win would say a lot about this group. Can Louisville step up to the challenge?
Louisville 72 Western Kentucky 67