LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Sporting Alert) — No. 1 Kentucky are preparing for what is expected to be their biggest test of the season thus far against No. 4 Louisville on Saturday.
The top ranked Wildcats (12-0) have been dominant on the season — winning all of their games by double figures — but will face a very tough opponent, who is also undefeated and has been taking care of business.
This Kentucky team is the first in program history to open a season with 12 successive wins and by at least a 10 point margin.
John Calipari side, which is averaging 76.8 points per game and giving up just 47.7, has also knocked off three top 25 teams already this season, including the 72-40 hammering of then No. 5 Kansas on Nov. 18.
When these teams last met, the Cardinals (11-0) were beaten 74-69 in the sweet 16 of the Midwest Region last year and will certainly have that in mind when they take the court at the KFC Yum! Center.
Louisville’s physical style of play at both ends of the court has made them a strong candidate for the home victory.
“It’s the next game for us, but it’s a great game because of how they play, how they’re coached, that they got terrific talent,” Calipari said.
“Don’t ever take that away from those kids. They are talented.”
The hosts are ranked third in rebounds per game on offense this season at an average of 44.8 and 28.9 on the defensive end. Kentucky is 11th at 41.6 on offense and 26.6 defensively, which is why both programs have acknowledged that this area on the stats sheet could very well be the key factor in the final outcome.
“We know what they’re all about,” said Louisville forward Wayne Blackshear. “We just have to rebound, stop them from getting on the glass. That’s the main point right there.”
Under head coach Rick Pitino Louisville has defeated a No. 1 ranked team in the AP Poll three times and they truly believe that this team is also good enough to stop the Wildcats’ outstanding start to the term.
Kentucky has dominated its other opponents this season in the dozen win start, but Calipari admits that the Cardinals will bring something a little different at home.
“We need somebody to punch us in the face,” Calipari was quoted as saying in reference to the physical style expected.
“Let’s see if we can still have fun. Can we enjoy this?
“If we’re a world-class team, you enjoy this. Even when they’re coming after you, you enjoy it. And so it’s gonna be a tough game for us. We know that.”
The defending national champions have not played since slaughtering UCLA 83-44 in Chicago, on Dec. 20 and the coach has revealed that not a lot of time was used to prepare for this matchup
“We took a Christmas break, we got our minds off basketball, we came back, we started working,” he said.
“We didn’t have two weeks to work on what we’re doing.”
Also featuring on Saturday in the NCAA top 25 schedule are No. 8 Gonzaga and No. 20 North Carolina.
The Bulldogs (11-1) will take a four game winning streak into the clash against the BYU Cougars (10-3), who have won three straight, but have dropped its two previous meetings against top 25 teams.
The Tar Heels (8-3), meanwhile, will face the UAB Blazers at the Dean E. Smith Center.
NCAA TOP 25 BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Top 25 Games
TIME (ET) MATCHUP TV PPV MOBILE TICKETS
2:00 PM (1) Kentucky at (4) Louisville ESPN2/WatchESPN
4:00 PM UAB at (20) North Carolina ESPN2/WatchESPN
5:00 PM Oakland at (15) Maryland Big Ten Network
6:00 PM (8) Gonzaga at BYU ESPN2/WatchESPN
7:00 PM Wright State at (21) Ohio State Big Ten Network
9:00 PM (24) Colorado State at New Mexico State
12:00 PM Georgetown vs Indiana ESPN2/WatchESPN