College Hoops Friday: Your Commentary

December 31st, 2010

The final day of 2010 gives college basketball fans the treat of watching one of the sport's most intense rivalries. Kentucky makes the trek up to the KFC Yum! Center to take on a Louisville squad that while ranked has been dealing with a number of injuries. The latest loss was that of forward Rakeem Buckles, who had surgery on a broken finger and will be out a few weeks while the digit heals. Add to him the growing concern that Josh Swopshire will most likely miss the entire season with his injury and Mike Marra is dealing with an ankle injury that forced him to miss the Cardinals' last contest, and you've got a wounded animal that the Wildcats will encounter. But a wounded animal is a dangerous one, especially when being fueled by the idea that the rival Wildcats are overshadowing them in the publicity department resulting in a lack of respect. The key in games like this is to play with passion but to remain under control as well. Last season's meeting at Rupp Arena was heated from the start and very well could have resulted in an ejection or two had players not calmed down. Neither team can afford such extracurricular activities given their depth concerns.

Louisville's a slight favorite due to their overall advantage in terms of experience and playing at home, but the young Wildcats make up for a lack of experience with superior skill. Guards Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb are dangerous in different ways but both have the ability to be lethal. Knight's got the athleticism to get to the rim and finish above it while Lamb is a skilled perimeter shooter who was named USBWA Player of the Week for his play in Kentucky's win over Winthrop. The Wildcats dropped their lone road game by two points at North Carolina and head coach John Calipari's lined up a number of challenges for them on the schedule. But despite the play of his perimeter players, including DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller to the conversation, Kentucky likely only goes as far as their frontcourt takes them come March. Terrence Jones, who was a house afire at the Maui Invitational, had struggled mightily offensively before the second half of the Winthrop game. Jones leads the team in scoring (18.2) and rebounding (8.3) but sometimes has the habit of falling into the familiar freshman trap of thinking that scoring is the only way for him to contribute.

Louisville's going to need to keep Jones and Josh Harrellson off of the boards if they're to defend the home court, and Liggins and Miller can also crash the boards from the perimeter. As for Lousiville, even if Marra can't go they've still got a number of capable offensive weapons on the perimeter to make up for his absence. Preston Knowles, Kyle Kuric and Peyton Siva are all dangerous as each possesses the ability to make things happen on both ends of the floor. What does the loss of Buckles mean for Louisville? More than likely an increase in minutes for starter Terrence Jennings while players such as Chris Smith (a guard who has the ability to rebound), Gorgui Dieng and Stephen Van Treese all have the ability to make Kentucky pay. The Wildcats have been the better offensive team for much of this season but Louisville grabs 36.7% of their missed shots on the season, and that number plays a significant role in the Cardinals' offensive efficiency of 115.5. Don't expect the game to be particularly pretty from a "textbook" standpoint but it will be exciting.

In other matchups there are some very good Big Ten matchups, with Northwestern opening up Big Ten play at Purdue and Minnesota back on the road, this time at Michigan State. Both visitors need the win if they're to be considered a viable candidate for either a Big Ten title of an NCAA Tournament bid. UConn looks to get back in the win column against USF while undefeated Cincinnati hosts Seton Hall in a game the Bearcats need when considering their upcoming schedule. And in a pair of crucial games for the SEC, Tennessee hosts dangerous College of Charleston while Florida heads north to battle Xavier at the Cintas Center. And on the West Coast there are two games to keep a keen eye on: Pac-10 favorite Washington visiting UCLA in a big game for the Bruins in regards to being considered a serious contender, and Oklahoma State taking on Gonzaga. The last time these two met in the state of Washington Adam Morrison was the hero at Key Arena. Unfortunately for the Cowboys they get to take on Mark Few's bunch at The Kennel. Friday's schedule is a great way to close out 2010, and if you happen to be headed anywhere please be safe. Happy New Year.

Top 25
6:00 PM (2) Ohio State at Indiana (ESPN2)
6:00 PM South Florida at (4) Connecticut (ESPNU)
4:00 PM Occidental at (7) San Diego State
12:00 PM Northwestern at (11) Purdue (ESPN2)
12:00 PM (12) Kentucky at (20) Louisville (CBS)
4:00 PM (13) Minnesota at (19) Michigan State (BTN)
2:00 PM Coppin State at (14) Texas (ESPN3)
2:00 PM North Florida at (17) Kansas State (ESPN3)
4:00 PM McNeese State at (18) Texas A&M

NCAA Division I Games
12:00 PM North Carolina A&T at Ball State
12:05 PM Bryant University at Brown
1:00 PM Mercer at Georgia Tech
1:00 PM Eastern Kentucky at Georgia (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Lehigh at Yale
2:00 PM MIT at Harvard
2:00 PM Boston University at Massachusetts
2:00 PM Radford at Coastal Carolina
2:00 PM Texas-Tyler at Texas State
2:00 PM James Madison at Kent State
2:00 PM VMI at UNC Asheville
2:00 PM Utah Valley at Northern Illinois
2:00 PM Charleston at Tennessee (ESPN2)
2:00 PM Eastern Illinois at Western Michigan
3:00 PM Holy Cross at George Washington
3:00 PM Weber State at Montana
3:00 PM Wyoming at Houston Baptist
3:00 PM Eastern Michigan at Samford
3:00 PM Chowan at Citadel
4:00 PM Washington at UCLA (FSN)
4:00 PM Northwestern State at Duquesne
4:00 PM Army at Fairfield
4:00 PM Siena at Saint Joseph's
4:00 PM Florida at Xavier (ESPN2)
4:05 PM Sacramento State at Idaho State
4:30 PM High Point at Charleston Southern
5:00 PM Grambling State at Auburn
5:00 PM Fresno Pacific at UC Santa Barbara
5:30 PM Liberty at Gardner-Webb
6:00 PM Washington State at USC (FSN)
6:00 PM Presbyterian at Winthrop
6:05 PM Northern Arizona at Montana State
6:05 PM Northern Colorado at Eastern Washington
7:00 PM New Mexico State at Boise State
7:00 PM Utah at Portland
8:00 PM Texas-Arlington at Arkansas
8:00 PM Seton Hall at Cincinnati (ESPN2)
8:00 PM Hartford at Saint Mary's
8:05 PM Hawaii at Nevada (ESPNU)
9:00 PM San Jose State at Utah State
10:00 PM Louisiana Tech at Idaho
10:00 PM Oklahoma State at Gonzaga (ESPN2)