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Columnists | Message Board  | Jeff Borzello's Blog

By Jeff Borzello

December 16th, 2005


Game of the Week: Louisville at Kentucky

Saturday December, 17th - CBS 2:00

In one of the slowest weeks of the season, as far as quality games go, Louisville at Kentucky is the clear-cut choice as the Game of the Week. No matter how good each team is, or how average each team is, this game is always worth watching. Next to Duke-North Carolina, this might be the best rivalry in college basketball. This year’s game should be a solid contest, and a very good barometer for both teams. Louisville is a top five in the polls, but no one really knows anything about them. They are 6-0, with each of the wins coming at home. None of the victories are truly noteworthy, considering the best win is over 4-2 Tennessee-Martin and 3-2 Akron. They are averaging close to 80 points per game, while allowing just over 60 a game. Kentucky has had a much more difficult schedule than Louisville, and is currently 6-3. Their best win of the season is over West Virginia on a neutral court, while their losses have come to quality clubs—Iowa on a neutral court; North Carolina at home; and Indiana in Indianapolis. They are only outscoring their opponents by an average of 10 points per game, putting up 71 and giving up 61.
Louisville came into the season with mostly undeserved accolades. They were lauded as a top ten team by many publications, even though they lost three starters and their sixth man. They have moved into the top five of the polls on the shoulders of senior guard Taquan Dean (20.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.7 spg). His three-point shooting has gone down this season, but he has found more ways to score, and has been the go-to-guy. He had 30 of the Cardinals’ 53 points against Richmond. Also in the backcourt is Brandon Jenkins (11.5 ppg, 3.7 apg). He is an excellent defender who has improved his scoring this season. His ability to play the point has allowed Dean to play off the ball and focus on scoring. Terrence Williams (9.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.7 spg) rounds out the perimeter starters. He is extremely athletic and gives the Cardinals someone who can get out in transition and score. The perimeter has plenty of depth, including Andre McGee, Perrin Johnson, and Bryan Harvey. All three average at least 12 minutes per game. Up front, the Cardinals have one of the best post duos in the country, when they are healthy. Juan Palacios (11.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.0 apg) is a versatile player that can score inside and out. He can also run the floor and handle the ball well for a big man. He has excellent potential, as does his partner on the low block, David Padgett (10.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.8 bpg). The transfer from Kansas was expected to miss several games due to injury, but only ended up sitting out one. He is somewhat inconsistent, but gives the Cardinals a very good scorer up front. Padgett shoots an astonishing 72.4% from the field. Brian Johnson comes off the bench to give Palacios and Padgett a breather.
Kentucky also came into the season with high expectations. They have come nowhere to living up to those projections, although some of that can be attributed to the lack of an inside player. Randolph Morris was expected to play most of the season at the outset, but then the NCAA suspended him for the season. Just this week, however, his punishment was reduced to only 14 games, of which he has already served 9. That won’t help them against Louisville, though. No matter what, Kentucky is a guard-driven team. Rajon Rondo (15.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.1 spg) is one of the best point guards in the country. He is an excellent defender and can penetrate past most defenders. He is the leading rebounder for the Wildcats, which is good for him but does not say much about the post players of Kentucky. Shooting guard Patrick Sparks (10.1 ppg) is shooting 42 percent from long range, but has been very inconsistent in the past few games. He is 7 for 25 in his past five contests. A trio of guards share the third starting backcourt role and are the main players off the bench for the Wildcats. Ramel Bradley (8.4 ppg) is very quick and is a good scorer, but tends to shoot too much; Joe Crawford (6.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg) has the most potential of the three, and is a solid scorer and defender; and Ravi Moss (6.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 41% from three) is the best shooter of the group and is a decent rebounder for his size. Brandon Stockton also sees minutes in the backcourt. Three forwards see most of the time down low. Rekalin Sims (8.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg) started strong but has struggled lately. He is an inside-outside threat that can rebound. Bobby Perry (7.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg) is a versatile frontcourt player that can rebound and get a few baskets here and there. Sheray Thomas (4.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg) is a good rebounder that does not score much. Three seven-footers—Shagari Alleyne, Lukasz Obrzut, and Jared Carter—produce a combined 7.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game, and are not counted on for much of anything down low.
One of the best rivalries in the country will have another chapter added to it this weekend, but it will not be a very exciting chapter. Louisville is the better team of the two, both on the perimeter and in the post. If Kentucky had Randolph Morris, it would be a different story, but they don’t get him until January 10th. That won’t help them against the superior Cardinals, even if the game is being played at Rupp Arena. Taquan Dean will likely go against Rajon Rondo in what could be an outstanding match-up of guards. Louisville has the edge at every position, though. Brandon Jenkins has shown the ability to be a very good complement to Dean, while David Padgett and Juan Palacios should have a huge advantage down low. If one of Kentucky’s inside players—i.e. Rekalin Sims, Shagari Alleyne, etc.—have a big game in the paint, the Wildacts have a chance. I don’t see that happening. However, in rivalry games, strange things happen. And I have seen stranger things than the Kentucky Wildcats beating Louisville Cardinals—at home, nonetheless. I won’t see it Saturday, though.
Prediction: Louisville 79, Kentucky 68
For the third straight week, I was wrong in my Game of the Week prediction. However, nearly every expert chose the wrong team. Not that it makes it any better that I chose a team that ended up losing by 31. Texas did not look like a very good team, never mind a top five squad. Duke ran through them with relative ease, led by JJ Redick’s 41-point performance. The Longhorns can bounce back, though, as the season isn’t over (this isn’t college football, folks). I can bounce back, too. Hopefully, I will get my first win of the season this week.


Check out Jeff Borzello's March Madness All Season blog for detailed coverage of the college game on a daily basis.




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