John Calipari sits at an impressive 10-2 against Louisville during his time in Lexington, but if he wants an eleventh victory against his rival this season, he’s going to have to take down one of the best teams in college basketball.
Led by second-year head coach Chris Mack, Louisville sits at No. 3 in the nation, with the Cards boasting the No. 24 overall shooting team and No. 34 3-point shooting team.
After reviewing the tape, Calipari confirmed what the numbers prove: “Louisville is really good.”
“Louisville is really good,” Calipari said during his pregame press conference on Friday afternoon. “Jordan [Nwora] is as good as they get. Dwayne [Sutton] is playing good. Ryan [McMahon] is shooting. I mean, this is a really good basketball team. Chris [Mack] has done a great job with his team, a veteran team. They run their stuff.”
What impresses Calipari the most, though, is just how well the Cardinals defend. Kentucky allows opponents to shoot just 38.5% from the field, good for a solid No. 38 overall, while Louisville holds opponents to just 35% shooting overall, good for No. 3 in the nation.
“I tell you what they really do is defend,” the Kentucky head coach said of Louisville, who boasts the No. 2 team in the KenPom defensive efficiency rankings. “They really guard and give you tough looks. You’ve had teams scoring 40 against them. It’ll be a hard game for us, I don’t care where it’s played.”
No matter the hype surrounding the rivalry matchup and how good the Cardinals are this season, Calipari knows this game “not make or break” for the program.
Unless the Cats come out on top.
“The good news for us is that it’s December, it’s not make or break for us,” the Kentucky head coach said. “It’s just December. It’s just the next game for us. I say this every year, unless you win, then it’s a huge game.”