Remember that Kentucky team that was supposed to have the perfect mixture of talent, experience, and of course coaching to string together a 40-0 season? Well that same team is now 9-3 resulting in a mediocre position in the AP poll at #18 after starting the season with the top spot.
At this point, Kentucky has had three big stages to show how good they are against some top tier programs in Michigan State, Baylor, and North Carolina. Unfortunately, the Cats have fallen to each resulting in a 0-3 record against ranked teams this year, which is unacceptable for the Big Blue Nation.
But all of that can become irrelevant on the 28th of December as the Cats face the little brother of Kentucky sports– the Louisville Cardinals, in a game that could determine the fate of this Kentucky season. Not to over-exaggerate, but yes, this game is that important for UK for a few reasons…
Getting back on track
It’s not like Kentucky is getting blown out of the water when they play these top teams. All three of Kentucky’s losses have been against very good, and most importantly, very experienced teams where the Cats just let the game slip away in the final minutes. But now, Kentucky has the biggest game of their season thus far against #6 Louisville where a loss becomes detrimental to the losing team and the fan base alike. A win against Louisville could help the Cats get back on track and focused on the upcoming SEC competition that awaits to kick off the New Year where every team will have UK circled on their calendar.
Next up is confidence, which a win against Louisville would give this Cat’s team a ton of. For such a young team that had so many expectations to be 0-3 against their only serious competition, a victory over their most hated rival could do wonders for this young team. This young team needs to prove to themselves that they can step up during show time with everyone watching, not to mention against the defending National Champions. A win could jump start the chemistry and passion that this team at most times has seemed to lack. Of course we all want a 30-point thrashing just because it’s Louisville, but how about a close game that comes down to the wire where the Cats don’t hang their heads and compete all the way through for a close victory. That would do much more for their confidence to know they can now finish and overcome teams that should be there come tournament time.
You can make the argument that if you really are a championship team, your seeding in the tourney doesn’t matter, but of course, a higher seeding is the best scenario for anyone. A loss against Louisville would pit Kentucky at 0-4 against ranked teams and surely would not look good on the rÃ©sumÃ© come Braketology time. And once again, a loss could damage this team’s confidence, as they will see some very good and competitive teams in conference play with LSU, #25 Missouri, and #13 Florida twice.
Then of course there are bragging rights. If you know anything about these teams you know the hatred between them is real. The losing team will be trolled between fan bases, social media, and sports networks alike until next year.. The losing team along with their fan base also suffers as a result. To top that off, for a Louisville team that seems inferior to last year’s championship team, to beat this highly glorified Kentucky squad would make matters even worse for the BBN.
Without a doubt there is a lot on the line on Saturday, but if Kentucky steps up to the plate and lives up to their potential, it will be a long 90-mile drive back to the ‘Ville for Pitino and his boys.