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Kentucky 1-Point Favorite in Annual Rivalry Game vs Louisville

Chris Amberley

by Chris Amberley in College Basketball

Updated Apr 7, 2020 · 4:06 PM PDT

Kentucky Wildcats
No. 19 Kentucky is looking to avoid a third straight loss when it hosts No. 3 Louisville on Saturday. Photo by: Altackett2 (Wiki Commons).
  • No. 19 Kentucky is a 1-point home favorite versus No. 3 Louisville on Saturday (3:45 PM ET, Dec. 28)
  • The Wildcats have lost back-to-back games and are 0-3 ATS in their last three outings
  • The Cardinals rank second in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metrics

A new chapter in one of college basketball’s most storied rivalries will be written Saturday (3:45 PM ET, Dec. 28). No. 19 Kentucky hosts No. 3 Louisville in Lexington, and it’s the Wildcats who opened as 1-point favorites.

No. 3 Louisville vs No. 19 Kentucky Odds

Team Spread Total
Louisville Cardinals +1.0 (-110) Over 132.0 (-115)
Kentucky Wildcats -1.0 (-110) Under 132.0 (-105)

Odds taken Dec. 28.

Each team has been ranked as high as No. 1 this season, but it’s Louisville who enters this contest playing more consistent ball. The Cardinals are 11-1 this season and have covered in five of their last six outings.

The Wildcats meanwhile, have suffered back-to-back losses and are 0-3 ATS in their last three contests. They’ve covered in just three of eight home dates this season and are fresh off a pair of atrocious shooting performances.

Offensively Challenged

In consecutive losses to Utah and Ohio State, Kentucky shot 41.8% from the floor and a dismal 22.5% from three. They rank 323rd in the nation in three-point field goal percentage, and none of their top-four scorers average above 31% from beyond the arc. They’ve failed to eclipse 67 points in three straight outings and the main reason their points per game sits at 74.5 is thanks to a very soft schedule.

The Wildcats have exceeded 69 points five times this season, and each time it was versus an opponent that ranks 239th or worse in KenPom’s overall efficiency metrics. The majority of their scoring comes from two-point field goals, which just happens to be an area that Louisville excels at defending.

Dominant Defense

The Cardinals rank second in defensive efficiency according to KenPom and 14th in points allowed. They’ve held eight of their 12 opponents below 60 points, including No. 11 Michigan, who they limited to just 43 points. Enemy shooters are hitting just 35% of their field goal attempts and only 40.7% of their two-point attempts. They’re long, athletic and force plenty of bad shots. Their size gives them a big advantage on the glass and their +18.2 average point differential is sixth best in the country.

Their offense revolves around Jordan Nwora, who averages 21.2 points per game and takes twice as many shots as anyone else on the roster. On paper, Kentucky doesn’t have a single defender who matches up well with Nwora, so the Wildcats could wind up doubling him often. That will force Louisville’s secondary pieces to step up offensively, which they’ve done often this season. Big man Stephen Enoch averages 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and Ryan McMahon is connecting on 46% of his threes.

Cash a Ticket with the Cardinals

Saturday will mark the first time since 2013 that the Cardinals have been ranked higher in this annual matchup. Louisville is just 2-10 versus Kentucky since John Calipari took over the program, but this year’s Wildcats lack the firepower that most Kentucky teams typically possess. They’re averaging the fewest points of any Calipari led team since 2012-13, a season in which the Wildcats failed to qualify for March Madness. Louisville has the shortest 2020 NCAA Tournament odds in the nation and is stronger at both ends of the court. Take the point with the Cardinals.

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