December 26th 2012
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After back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Baylor, with no clear cut answer about the point guard position, Kentucky's chances of winning the annual rivalry showdown with Louisville looked bleak. When the game tips off this Saturday, four weeks later, the Wildcats are far from a favorite but Big Blue Nation can at least say UK is a much-improved team--and we'll see how it goes from there.
Ryan Harrow is coming off his best game as a Cat and looks like he has seized command of the point guard position. And Alex Poythress' play last Saturday--while not the complete performance his coach is looking for--was still his best all-around game since the streak of four straight 20-point games ended in the loss at Notre Dame.
Poythress may well be the key to Kentucky's chance at an upset. To me, he's the most hard-to-guard player on UK's roster when he's playing at his best. And those are the kinds of players who lead their teams to wins in games they're not supposed to win.
It'll be interesting to see how Louisville attacks the Cats. The Cards' press can be suffocating but Kentucky has not been a high turnover team thus far and UK is at its best in transition. My guess is that UofL will focus more on its halfcourt defense and force the Wildcats to beat them by executing their halfcourt offense.
This is surely Rick Pitino's best chance to get a win over his former program--in fact, if the Cards can't get a 'W' now, one wonders when it will ever happen, given the recruits Calipari has lined up for next season.
Louisville was expected to win two years ago but instead, Kentucky scored a convincing win. One key was putting Deandre Liggins on UofL point guard Peyton Siva but the Cats don't appear to have that kind of lockdown defender. Calipari has suggested it is a role Archie Goodwin could fill and this Saturday would be a good time for him to make that case. Also, Brandon Knight had the kind of breakout game that I mentioned earlier for Poythress. And Josh Harrelson had the game of his life. Often in this series, the hero was been a player that was overlooked in the pregame analysis, ala Jarod Polson in the Maryland game.