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Louisville Cardinals vs. Kentucky Wildcats Preview and Pick

Louisville Cardinals (10-3 SU, 4-3 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (14-0 SU, 6-6 ATS), 3:30 p.m. EST, Saturday, January 2, 2009, Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky. TV: CBS
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Louisville +7.5/Kentucky -7.5
Over/Under: 149.5

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In one of the best rivalries in college basketball, Louisville won 74-71 last season on a buzzer-beater 3-pointer by Edgar Sosa. This season, Louisville has taken a step backwards and Kentucky has taken a large step forwards as the 'Cats try to get revenge for last season's loss to the Cards.

Kentucky is off to an undefeated 14-0 start with quality wins over North Carolina and Connecticut. They've had a ton of close calls, but freshman sensation John Wall has bailed them out every time it's been close down the stretch, as the 'Cats pulled close ones out against Miami of Ohio, Stanford, North Carolina and Connecticut. Since the quality back-to-back wins over UNC and UConn, Kentucky has won each of its last five games by at least 13 points, including a dominant 104-61 win over Hartford on Tuesday.

Louisville has been a very disappointing team this season but that doesn't mean the Cards won't show up for this intense rivalry and give the 'Cats everything they can handle. Louisville has losses this season at UNLV and at home to Charlotte and Western Carolina. But the Cards five in a row, all by at least 15 points, including a 73-52 Big East win over South Florida on Wednesday. This is only Louisville's second road game of the season, losing the other one on November 28 at UNLV, 76-71.

Wall leads Kentucky with 17.2 points and 7.5 assists per game. In the win over Hartford, he had an all-time single-game Kentucky record with 16 assists. He is also grabbing 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game, and shooting 52.1 percent from the field, 43.3 percent from beyond the arc, and 81.9 percent from the free throw line. Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins combine to form one of the best big man duos in college basketball. Combined, the two of them are averaging 31.8 points and 17.6 rebounds per game. Patterson is shooting 62.5 percent from the field and Cousins is at 54.5 percent. Other than Wall, the 'Cats have three legitimate 3-point threats with Eric Bledsoe, Darnell Dodson and Darius Miller each making more than 42 percent of their 3-pointers.

Sophomore big man Samardo Samuels is much improved for Louisville this season, leading the team with 16.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. But still, the Louisville guards need to step up for the Cards to win big games. Edgar Sosa is stepping up as a senior with 13.3 points per game, 48.8 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from beyond the arc, but Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva are all averaging less than nine points per game and shooting under 40 percent from the field.

Louisville has held its opponents to less than 60 points six times this season and has scored at least 80 points in eight games. Kentucky has only allowed more than 73 points once this season and has scored at least 86 points eight times.

The total has gone over in six of Louisville's last seven games. The total has gone over in each of Kentucky's last five games. Louisville is 6-0 ATS in its last six games when its opponent scored at least 100 points in its previous game. The Cards are 26-8-1 ATS in their last 35 road games. Kentucky is 12-3-1 ATS in its last 16 games against Big East teams. The 'Cats are 1-5 ATS in their last six games when they scored at least 100 points in their previous game. The under is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings between Louisville and Kentucky and 4-1 in the last five when this game is at Kentucky. Louisville is 1-4 ATS in the last five games against Kentucky and the road team is 5-1 ATS in the last six games between these teams.

Kentucky is one of the best rebounding teams in the country with a +12.3 differential, while Louisville is at +5.6. Kentucky is shooting 42.2 percent from 3-point range as a team and 50.5 percent from the field, while holding opponents to a 38.2 field goal percentage. Louisville is attempting more than 24 3-point attempts per game but only making 32 percent of them. The Cards' biggest strength is their ability to force turnovers (17.8 per game). Kentucky, especially Wall, is prone to committing some silly turnovers (15.3 per game), so it will be interesting to see how well Louisville is able to pressure and well Kentucky can take care of the basketball.

Ryno's Pick: There is no doubt that Kentucky is a much better team than Louisville. The 'Cats shoot better, rebound better, have better players and are at home. But this is a rivalry and anything can happen. Both teams will play extremely hard and should be a very physical game. Kentucky has a lot of freshmen and newcomers, so the Louisville players may want to win this rivalry game a little more than the Kentucky players. If Louisville can rebound well and knock down some 3-pointers, the Cards can hang with the 'Cats and possibly pull off the upset. Take Louisville.

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