Even though rivalry games are known for unpredictable outcomes, it’s hard not to have some level of expectations heading into tomorrow’s annual Kentucky/Louisville basketball game. Louisville undoubtedly has high expectations, entering the game as a Top 5 ranked team with its sights on the school’s first national championship since 1986. Kentucky on the other hand has tempered the expectations a bit after a somewhat slow start to the season, hoping to gain a signature win before the SEC schedule begins.
Before, during and after the game– a number of things will fall into the “expected” and “unexpected” categories. I’m here to help break that down for you as we countdown to the 4:00 p.m. tipoff when all of the unanswered questions that have been building since the start of the season when looking ahead to this game will disappear.
In what feels like a tradition in the UL/UK rivalry game, someone unexpected often steps up and puts his stamp on the game with a breakout performance. In some cases, the breakout game has led to a breakout season. In other cases, the Louisville game has been somewhat of a “one-hit wonder.” Whether we are talking about Josh Harrellson or Lukasz Obrzut…chances are that this game could very well produce a performance that will go down in history (one day to be chronicled on KSR’s “Best of Louisville” series moments). And as we’ve mentioned before, that performance often comes from an unexpected place. Rick Pitino has made it a point of emphasis to take away whatever is perceived to be Kentucky’s best option, forcing someone else to be the player to break the Cards down. Which Kentucky player is most like to have that kind of “breakout performance” tomorrow?
I’ll throw out my prediction: Willie Cauley-Stein.
Despite rave reviews in the pre-season from Calipari, which led to Cauley-Stein jumping significantly on many NBA draft boards, Willie Cauley-Stein has been quiet in many games so far this season for Kentucky. Perhaps with Dieng having to give a lot of his attention to Nerlens Noel, a guy like Cauley-Stein can cause a match-up difficulty for Louisville. Much like Harrellson benefitted from the attention given to Terrence Jones two years ago, often leaving him open for easy passes and finishes around the rim– Cauley-Stein might find himself with a similar opportunity tomorrow.
Any other predictions on which Kentucky player might have his breakout performance against Louisville tomorrow?
Whatever the outcome tomorrow, this much is certain: John Calipari and Rick Pitino will brush off any speculation about the heated rivalry/hatred between them. They never quite give in like we hope they might after the game, taking the bait and leaving us with a “zing” moment. In fact, this week the two have seemed to be quick to dish out compliments to one another more so than usual. A few things can be expected from the coaches in their post-game interviews though…
John Calipari if Kentucky wins:
“I like my team.”
John Calipari if Kentucky loses:
“I like my team.”
Rick Pitino if Louisville wins:
“We are just ready to focus on the actual tough games ahead against our grueling Big East schedule. The Big East should easily put 19 teams in the NCAA tournament this year.”
Rick Pitino if Louisville loses:
“I root for Kentucky all the time. I wanted them to win that game.”
Chane Behanan if Louisville wins/loses:
Oh wait… no media appearances for him right now. Right. Nothing to see here folks, move along.
…Any other expectations as to what Pitino/Calipari might say following the game?