Matchup: #1 Kentucky Wildcats at #4 Louisville Cardinals
Date/Time: December 27, 2:00 p.m. ET
The biggest matchup of the year so far in college basketball will take place on Saturday afternoon from the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY when the unbeaten Louisville Cardinals host the unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats. The top-ranked Wildcats have hardly been tested this season, but they should expect a big test from the Cardinals in this one. This will be a raucous environment and some must-see TV for any college basketball fan.
The Kentucky Wildcats dominated the UCLA Bruins in an 83-44 win back on December 20, which was the last time they took the floor. The Wildcats have beaten every team by at least 10 points so far this season. Kentucky is the country’s second-best defensive team, holding opponents to 47.7 points per game. What’s most impressive for Kentucky is that their perfect record and dominant statistical profile includes wins over Kansas, Texas, and North Carolina, so they haven’t played a schedule full of pushovers. They’re also scoring nearly 77 points per game.
John Calipari’s squad has shared playing time very well this season. No Wildcat has more than 10.6 points per game because nobody has played more than 25 minutes per night. Part of that has to do with a lot of blowout wins, but it also has to do with the ridiculous amount of talent the Wildcats have. Aaron Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Devin Booker are the three Wildcats with 10 or more points per game. The loss of Alex Poythress, one of the country’s best defenders, to a torn ACL has not had much of an impact yet, but this could be the type of game where it shows up.
The Louisville Cardinals don’t have as impressive of a resume as the Wildcats have, but they have beaten three pretty good Big Ten teams to date. The most notable is a 64-55 win over Ohio State back on December 2. The Cardinals are among the league’s top 10 teams in several defensive categories, but the key one is that the Cardinals are allowing just 54 points per game. They are one of the country’s top rebounding teams and they have averaged over 77 points per game.
Montrezl Harrell missed the Cal State Northridge game due to a suspension and sophomore Terry Rozier responded with 16 points in just 27 minutes. Rozier and Harrell are tied for the team lead in points with 16.7. Harrell is shooting 61 percent from the field and has also pulled down over 10 rebounds per game. Unlike Kentucky, Louisville has been more reliant on their starting five, as only eight players have averaged 12 or more minutes per night, compared to Kentucky, with 10 players averaging 14 or more minutes per night.
Kentucky is a perfect 12-0 straight up on the season, but they are just 7-5 against the spread, despite a big margin of victory most nights. Ten of their 12 games have stayed under the total. Louisville is a perfect 11-0 straight up, but they are just 3-5-2 against the spread in their 10 lined contests. Their totals record is 4-3-2 in nine lined contests.
Free College Basketball Pick: Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats are a much deeper team than Louisville, though this is their first really big test in a hostile environment. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a Louisville upset, but the Wildcats are capable of being the country’s most dominant team on any given night and that potential is dangerous to bet against. UK should be able to handle business in this game, though they should get their first legitimate test of the season.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.