KENTUCKY WILDCATS (8-3)
at LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (11-1)
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Tip-off: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET
Line: Louisville -7.5, Total: 134
In a battle for state supremacy, No. 4 Louisville will host Kentucky, which was a top-five team, but has struggled to start the year.
The key to this game is the health of Louisville center Gorgui Dieng, who broke his wrist in November and is slated to return to action Saturday. The 6-foot-11 post player will need to be in top form on both ends of the floor, with Kentucky featuring 6-foot-10 freshman Nerlens Noel on the block. Whether or not Dieng can battle for the full game will be a key to this matchup between storied head coaches John Calipari and Rick Pitino.
Who will win this clash of in-state titans? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The StatFox experts continue to roll in the past two weeks, posting a collective 46-27-1 ATS (63%) record since Dec. 14. StatFox Scott is 10-5-1 ATS (67%) over this stretch, while StatFox Dave is 16-11 ATS (59%) in these 15 days. The experts now have a collective 54% ATS mark (160-138-7) in college basketball Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Gary, who is a whopping 8-1 ATS since Dec. 19, and sits at 62% ATS (36-22) for the season, while Dave is at 54% ATS (58-50-2) on the year with StatFox Brian at 51% ATS (34-33-2).
Two freshmen lead the Wildcats in scoring, though neither of them is Noel (10.7 PPG, 9.1 RPG), who is more of a force on the boards and defensive end. But he makes his mark there with 3.7 BPG and 2.7 SPG. Dynamic guard Archie Goodwin (16.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.2 APG) has been the team’s leading scorer and has been forced to handle the ball more than expected in the early going. Wing player Alex Poythress (14.5 PPG) is also off to a hot start, hitting 64.9% of his field goals, including 45.5% from deep. Kyle Wiltjer (11.4 PPG) rounds out the double-digit scorers and he is a threat to shoot from outside (41.3% 3-pt FG) despite his size. And if Dieng gives Noel trouble, look for freshman Willie Cauley-Stein (7.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG) to get some big minutes in the post.
Before Dieng went down he was averaging a team-high 8.0 RPG with 8.2 PPG. But he is more of a defensive stud, averaging 2.0 BPG, 1.6 SPG and possessing the ability to match up with any post scorer and shut him down. Russ Smith (19.7 PPG) is the team’s leading scorer, though he has been cold from deep lately—in his last three games, he has hit just 4-of-19 long range attempts. Peyton Siva (11.4 PPG, 6.3 APG) may be the key to the Louisville offense—he is the true point guard that Kentucky lacks and he can be a menace on the other end with 2.3 SPG. Chane Behanan (10.8 PPG) and Wayne Blackshear (10.0 PPG) round out this balanced Louisville squad that features nobody averaging 30 MPG in the early going.