- Louisville is 4.5-point home favorite over Kentucky when the in-state rivals meet Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.
- Kentucky is 1-5 for its worst start since the 1926-27 season
- The Wildcats have the fourth-youngest team in the country
One of the fiercest rivalries in college basketball take places under rather unusual circumstances when Kentucky visits Louisville at 1 p.m. ET Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.
Despite being two of college basketball’s most successful programs, neither the Wildcats nor Cardinals are ranked.
Kentucky has lost five games in a row to drop to 1-5, the Wildcats’ worst start since the 1926-27 season. Louisville is 5-1 but was routed 85-48 at Wisconsin last Saturday, a loss than knocked the Cardinals out of the Associated Press media poll.
Kentucky is 2-4 against the spread and Louisville is 3-3.
Louisville is the favorite at home.
Kentucky vs Louisville Odds
|Kentucky||+180||+4.5 (-105)||Over 133.5 (-110)|
|Louisville||-215||-4.5 (-115)||Under 133.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Dec. 25 from FanDuel
Louisville Bounces Back
Louisville rebounded from the shellacking in Madison with a 64-54 road win at Pitt on Tuesday as a six-point favorite.
Sophomore guards David Johnson and Samuell Williamson had their first career double-doubles to lead Louisville. Johnson had 17 points and 11 rebounds while Williamson finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots.
🎥: Highlights from the Cards 64-54 victory at Pittsburgh.#GoCards pic.twitter.com/DvmzcMjZ3W
— Louisville Basketball (@LouisvilleMBB) December 23, 2020
Louisville’s best player, Carlik Jones, provided a boost with 11 points and seven assists in his return to action.
Pitt, though, was short-handed, as it was missing two of its top players.
Jones, a graduate senior guard and transfer from Radford missed the Wisconsin game because he had not cleared COVID-19 protocols. The coronavirus caused Louisville to pause basketball activities and the Cardinals went 17 days without playing a game before facing the Badgers.
Coach Chris Mack was forced to use a rotation consisting of freshmen and sophomores.
Jones leads the Cardinals in scoring (16.0 points a game) and assists (5.6). He is also pulling down 6.4 rebounds a game.
Coach Mack just landed the #1 Grad Transfer in the country. Welcome to the Cardinal Nation Carlik Jones… 👀pic.twitter.com/xjE5q0CWS4
— The Cardinal’s Beak 🐤 (@RU4UofL) April 6, 2020
Also averaging double figures are Johnson (13.0) and Williamson (11.0).
Louisville has held its own despite having two projected starters yet to see action this season in senior forward Malik Williams and graduate student Charles Minlend, a guard who transferred from San Francisco.
Kentucky’s Struggles Historic
Kentucky’s latest loss came to North Carolina last Saturday, 75-63 in the CBS Classic at Cleveland as a two-point underdog. That continued the longest losing streak in coach John Calipari’s 12 seasons leading the Wildcats.
Particularly disturbing to Calipari was how his team was unable to hold a lead.
Kentucky went up by double digits in the first half and still had the game seemingly in hand with a six-point lead before North Carolina outscored the Wildcats 33-15 to end the game.
Graduate student guard Davion Mintz scored a game-high 17 points and made all three of Kentucky’s 3-point field goal. However, the Wildcats missed their 10 shots from beyond the arc for 23%.
While Calipari recruits as many one-and-dones as any coach of the country and still wins big on a consistent basis, Kentucky has only one scholarship player who saw action for the Wildcats last season. That is sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr., who has yet to play this season because of a strained calf.
According to KenPom.com, Kentucky is the fourth-least experienced team in the country with an average of 0.83 college seasons per player.
Kentucky basketball by the numbers:
Five-star players on roster: 3
Four-star players on roster: 5
Number of wins on season: 1
Not how John Calipari and Co. imagined this season going. pic.twitter.com/b1xfWXgFQU
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) December 19, 2020
Freshman guards Brandon Boston Jr. (14.5) and Terrence Clarke (12.5) are Kentucky’s leading scorer. Senior center Olivier Sarr, a transfer from Wake Forest, has a 10.5 scoring average.
Kentucky in Control
Kentucky has won three games in a row over Louisville and seven of the last eight. Last season, the Wildcats won at home in Lexington 78-70 as two-point favorites.
However, there are signs of dissension with Kentucky, including Calipari asking reserve forward Cam’Ron Fletcher to leave the team. Upset over lack of playing time, Fletcher was seen crying at the end of the bench in the final minutes of last Saturday’s game.
John Calipari says he’s put 3 players in charge of dealing with attitude so it’s off his plate. pic.twitter.com/vbQo2Q0qhp
— rickbozich (@rickbozich) December 24, 2020
Kentucky will probably be the better team by season’s end. Right now, though, Louisville is the superior team and should handle its in-state rival.
Pick: Louisville -4.5 (-115)