MBB Hosts UK Today at 2PM
There isn't much on the schedule as far as Louisville sports go. The next women's game isn't for nearly a week, and there isn't anything other than this game on the calendar before that. This annual match-up is a pretty good one, though, and there is a lot to be excited about for Louisville fans this year. First, if you haven't read Mike Rutherford's article about what this game means for Calipari for the college basketball SB Nation site yet, I would advise you to go do that. You can find it on his Twitter or on Google. Mike is a great guy and he is really the reason that I am still writing about sports five years after deciding to give it a go (big shoutout to Paulie as well). The article is about how Cal has owned Louisville during his time at UK, which is no surprise to Louisville fans, but how this game may be a key to UK's season and to Cal's legacy at the school.
There are a few things that are working in Louisville's favor for the game today. (I was going to say two things, but then the list kept getting longer in my head.) The first two things that came to mind are in a very similar vein; Louisville looks a lot better than people expected them to be this year, and Kentucky looks a lot worse. That is not to say that Louisville looks on paper like they could beat the brakes off of Kentucky, it just means the game looks a lot closer than it would have three months ago. Vegas agrees, as they've tabbed UK as just a one point favorite. A favorite has not covered the spread in 8 of the last 10 meetings.
The next major thing is that this is a home game. The Yum! Center at its best is an insane environment. I've been a part of a lot of the biggest games there. Add on the fact that this is a game against the team's most hated rival and the environment ratchets up one or two notches. As Rutherford pointed out in his article, the two times that Calipari has lost to Louisville while at Kentucky were both games in which his team was playing its first true road game of the season. Guess who hasn't played a true road game yet this year... (Also, can we talk about the fact that we're two months into the season and a perennial powerhouse hasn't yet played a true road game? Come on, man. Man up with the schedule.) In addition to the "first true road game" issue, this rivalry against Calipari has mostly been determined by home court advantage. Cal is 9-2 against Louisville, which is admittedly bad for the Cardinals. However, only two of those nine wins have come in Louisville. Cal is 7-0 in Rupp or on a neutral floor, but is only 2-2 in Louisville (against the Cards). Chris Mack's squad has a chance to push that to a winning home record.
The last item I'll talk about that is working for Louisville this season is the addition of head coach Chris Mack. John Calipari was in Rick Pitino's head. He lived there. Pitino hated the way that Calipari succeeded at the forefront of the one and done era, and he regularly couldn't get it done against Cal. More than that, though, Pitino really wasn't great against UK before Cal got there. Louisville was only 4-4 against UK under Pitino before the Cal era and almost half of those games were against Billy Gillespie. Chris Mack is different. He allows himself to be caught up in the rivalry, but no differently than he allows himself to be caught up in any other game. To say that rivalry games don't mean more to Mack would be a lie, but that doesn't mean it's going to eat him up to the point where he doesn't know how to coach for a week. Mack is ready for this game, and he's clearly getting his team ready for it. He said himself of the game, "As a competitor, if you haven't internalized that and thought about that 90-61 ass-whooping, then I don't want you on my team." Chris Mack comes from a history of a fierce rivalry. You'd better believe he's excited to be in charge of another one.
I'm not going to give a prediction for today's game. Call me a coward if you'd like, but I just can't do it. Neither team has been consistent enough this year to be defined in any way. I wouldn't be surprised by an extremely close game that comes down to the wire (although I'm already a bit worn out on those types of games from the Cards this season), but I also wouldn't be particularly surprised if this game was a blowout in either direction. Only the guys on the court will be able to tell us how this game will go, and we'll find out that answer in a matter of hours.
Cards-Cats, Yum! Center, 2PM, ESPN2. Appointment television.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
My return to the pages coincides with my return to the studio! I'll be back on Mellwood Avenue today with the gang for the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour. I can't imagine what we'll talk about. Join us on WCHQ from 11AM-Noon. WCHQ is available on 100.9 FM, the new WCHQ app, wchqfm.com, and on Facebook Live. We don't take call-ins, but if you ask questions on FB Live, I do my best to at least bring attention to them.
LINK: THE CARDINAL COUPLE RADIO HOUR
LINK: THE CARDINAL COUPLE RADIO HOUR
Until next time, Go Cards!!