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Its About that Time: Notes on the Big Game

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Its been a crazy few days here in the Ville as we get ready for the Cats to march into the Chicken Shack and get a victory over the Cardinals tomorrow afternoon. The ebb and flow of this week has been fascinating to me. Most people I spoke with around Christmas thought that this was a Kentucky victory without question and the only suspense would be the final margin. But then Louisville shot lights out on Monday and slowly doubt crept into the Big Blue Nation’s mind and by the end of the week, there was full-fledged worry that a defeat was imminent. But then came late news of the Rakeem Buckles injury for Louisville and confidence seems to have once again grown. We have come full circle, with victory expected in downtown Cardville. A few notes:

— The big key for me going into the game was whether a closely called game would favor Louisville and its depth over UK’s seven man rotation. But now with Marra, Justice and Buckles out of the game, Kentucky has essentially the same depth as Louisville. Both teams will play 7 guys and go to the bench for the 8th only if need be. I had a caller on the radio suggest that Louisville’s depth was overrated anyways and Turkey Hunter said the great line that “Louisville’s roster is like the buffet at Golden Corral. There isnt anything really good, but there is a lot of it.” However now, whatever advantage may have been gleaned from the Card depth, is likely negated on Friday.

— The player for UK that needs to have the biggest game is Darius Miller, who may hold the key to a UK victory. Miller has yet to score a point in a UK game versus Louisville and with the matchup advantage Kentucky might have at a few positions, he could be the X factor. Louisville really doesn’t have someone to match up with Terrence Jones and if they put a big man on him, then Miller will likely be guarded by Kyle Kuric. He HAS TO BE AGGRESSIVE and take advantage of what will be a huge mismatch in his favor. He cant sit and let others be the offense….he has UK’s potential biggest advantage on the court and he must respond.

— Outside shooting will be the key and the only real recipe for a Louisville win is through the three point shot. The Chicken Shack has an early reputation as a shooter’s gym and it will be up to the Cats to get out on the three point shooters and make Louisville beat them going to the basket. If the three is contested, UK will be a heavy favorite…but if they get open looks and Knowles and Kuric get hot, it could go the other way.

— The only player that I truly worry about on UL’s roster is Gorgui Deing. In UK’s two losses, this year, long, athletic big men have given the Cats fits. Deing is that guy for Louisville and I worry about Jones and Jorts matching up against him and the blocked shots he can create on defense. He is a Freshman and not ready for the big time yet, but if he has a big game, it will be a huge plus for the Cards.

— I dont understand how Louisville was the opening line Vegas favorite by two points in this game. I know they are home and I know they can win. But if you compare the rosters and the teams, the Cats are the superior group. A caller today said that if Louisville’s uniforms said “Ole Miss” on them with the same collection of players, we would not be worried at all. And in some ways he is correct. But it is a rivalry and the arena will be jumping. Still, UK is better at nearly every position.

— If you havent yet read it, check out my CBSSports.com column on the UK-UL game and why it is the most intense rivalry in America. I think you will agree.

Here is the schedule for these parts tomorrow. If you live in Louisville, I will be on the CBS pregame show at 11 am locally. You may have heard that after the announcement of my participation, Louisville fans began to make threats on message boards and called into the WLKY studios for a day complaining and threatening. Because you never know what a scorned Card will do, they have moved my part of the show from the Woodford Reserve Bar in the arena to the Media room inside the arena. So I will be there, but not available for 40 year old men to yell at uncontrollably. We will have a LIVE BLOG HERE at 11:45 am, moderated by Beisner and then later in the game, with me as well. The postgame show will be on WHAS AM for two hours after the game, where we will either celebrate or wallow in our self-pity. Either way, I hope you will join us.

Its almost gameday….get ready….Cats 78, Cards 69. Leggggooooo…….

Article written by Matt Jones