The Battle of the Bluegrass: Bragging Rights for the State of Kentucky Up for Grabs
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What a season it has been thus far for the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
After producing the #1 recruiting class for 2020, Head Coach John Calipari seems to be having a tough time getting things going in Lexington. The Wildcats are 1-5 following 5 straight losses, which hasn’t happened since 1927. Many questions need to be answered in a hurry if we want to turn this season around because it isn’t going to get any easier as conference play approaches. Although the Cats have struggled early in the season, the last two games against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the North Carolina Tar Heels have been promising. They have began to play with heart, energy, and together as one. The Cats will need everything they have as they face the Louisville Cardinals (5-1) on Saturday.
Turnovers, inexperience, foul trouble, and poor shooting all around have been the main struggles for the Wildcats this season, but their recent games have shown that when these factors are not in play, Kentucky is dangerous. After finishing with 17 points against North Carolina in his second start of the season, senior guard Davion Mintz has taken some pressure off of star freshmen Brandon Boston Jr. and Terrence Clarke. Boston Jr. leads the team with 14.5 points per game followed by Clarke who averages 12.5 points per game. The talented freshmen on this team have had spurts of great basketball, but these highlights have been plagued by turnovers, simple mistakes, and downright inexperience. Having played 6 games in the season already, there is no excuse to still be having these problems. Coach Cal has to do something if he wants a successful year.
The "Red Team" has had a bit more success this year during their start to the 2020-2021 season. After picking up wins against average teams, the Cards were beaten by the Wisconsin Badgers 85-48 on Dec. 19th. The Cards are coming into this game after a win against a short-handed Pitt team, and Louisville would love to get a win against Kentucky. Led by senior guard Carlik Jones, who averages 16 points and 5.6 assists, the Cardinals are a relatively young team as well. It seems like Louisville will go with the same lineup they have for the majority of the year, which averages 70.5 ppg on 48.7% shooting.
What to Watch For
Even though the game will be played with limited attendance at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky, this rivalry game will be nothing short of a classic. The Kentucky Wildcats are desperate to get a win and to do so against their in-state rivals would be huge, while the Louisville Cardinals are hoping to keep their strong season going. Look for both teams to come with the hatred they have for one another, regardless of wins and losses, the amount of fans in the arena, or what lies ahead during the season. This game will determine one thing: Who gets to claim bragging rights for the year in the state of Kentucky. Riding a 3-game win streak in the Battle of the Bluegrass, Kentucky needs a win tomorrow. There is no doubt in my mind that the Cats will wake up in the morning with nothing but hatred for the Cards, and that'll transfer over to the game. Although Christmas is today, this would be a big present for Big Blue Nation tomorrow.
The game can be seen on ESPN at 1:00pm tomorrow.