Kentucky Wildcats (11-3) +8 at Louisville Cardinals (8-3) -8
Louisville, K.Y., 4:30PM Eastern, Sunday
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
The Battle of the Bluegrass takes stage center court at Broadbent arena in Louisville, Kentucky. The Kentucky Wildcats from the SEC go to war in a rivalry showdown with Rick Petino and the Louisville Cardinals from the Big East. Louisville has had a really disappointing start to the season losing 3 of their first 11 games over teams like UNLV, Minnesota, and Western Kentucky. The Cardinals were probably anticipating an undefeated record at this point in the season over weaker opponents and will have to hold off the Wildcats to avoid losing 4 games this Sunday. Kentucky has lost 3 games as well this season including the horribly embarrassing season opener to Virginia Military. The Wildcats other two losses came to ranked opponents and they will be attempting to earn their first victory over a top 25 team this weekend.
Louisville suffered a disappointing loss in their last outing falling to UNLV at home 56-55. However, the Cardinals will try and kick of the New Year on good terms and there is no better way to do so than to grab a big victory over in-state rival Kentucky. The Cardinals have shot a poor 43% from the field this season, but have held opposing teams to a very low percentage as well. Louisville ranks 23 in the nation holding teams to a mere 37% from field goal range. The Cardinals defense has been superb this season holding teams to only 56 points per game. Louisville will likely be in another low scoring affair this weekend when they battle the Wildcats.
Kentucky has been one the most effective shooting teams in college basketball this season. The Wildcats are shooting an amazing 51% from the floor that ranks them as the 5th best shooting team across the land. The Wildcats average a strong 81 points per game this season that ranks 8th nationally in scoring offense. The Wildcats hope their high scoring ability will be too much for the Cardinals to handle. The Kentucky defense only allows teams to shoot 36% from the floor this season placing them as the 10th best team in field goal percentage against. The Kentucky defensive schemes could play a big role against a Louisville team that has really struggled shooting the ball this season.
Bookmakers have opened the betting line favoring the Louisville Cardinals by 8 points over the Wildcats. However, early betting action shows the majority of the betting public is favoring Kentucky to cover the spread.
The Wildcats have a stellar guard in junior Jodie Meeks. Meeks has averaged a strong 24 points per game this season. Meeks ranks 6th in the nation for an individual in points per game and will likely be the deciding factor for Kentucky in this rivalry match-up. Teammate and sophomore forward Patrick Patterson has been very effective for Kentucky this season as well. Patterson is averaging 19 points per game along with 9.4 rebounds per game nearly averaging a double-double. Patterson will be a big contributor to helping Kentucky stay competitive on the boards against a Louisville team that ranks 5th in the nation grabbing 39.8 rebounds per game. Both teams rebound the ball well, but the teams can get some second chances this Sunday will likely determine the outcome.
Louisville has a couple of playmakers on their team as well. The most effective Cardinal this season has been Samardo Samuels. Samuels is averaging 15 points per contest along with 7 rebounds. Samuels is shooting an amazing 55% from the floor and will be a key player to keep an eye on against the Wildcats. Earl Clark and Terrence Williams are both two big guys that are averaging 9 rebounds per game while also averaging double figures on the year as well. Louisville big men will have the opportunity to really take advantage of the rebounding game when these two teams square off. The Cardinals inside game must be dominate and force Kentucky to shoot the ball from the outside. The Wildcats shoot the ball well, but Louisville can not afford to give up any easy baskets. If they can keep Kentucky on the perimeter, they will stand firm in this battle.
The Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games and 2-0 ATS this season as the underdogs. Louisville has not faired well against the books in recent weeks going 1-5 ATS in their last 6 contests. The Cardinals have split the over/under total going 2-2 in their last 4 games. Louisville has also lost their last 3 out of 4 games against the Wildcats.
Jays Pick – Kentucky +8.