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December 30, 2011

Cats get edge in position-by-position matchups

A look at the matchups for Kentucky's against Louisville Saturday at noon:

Point Guard
Marquis Teague almost opted to play his college basketball at Louisville before choosing to become the latest in a line of prep standouts to play point guard for John Calipari. His growing pains have lasted a little longer than some of Calipari's previous point guards, and Teague faces one of his toughest tests yet in contending with Louisville's press and with the Cardinals' Peyton Siva, a savvy veteran whom Calipari said "makes them go." EDGE: Louisville
Shooting Guard
Louisville will start Chris Smith here, but he'll platoon with Russ Smith (no relation) to provide the Cards with some solid scoring punch at the two-guard spot. That will make Kentucky's Doron Lamb work defensively, but he also presents challenges for the Cards. No longer strictly a jump-shooter, Lamb can finish with the floater or draw fouls as he past a hard closeout. He's quickly become UK's most versatile pure scorer.Edge: Kentucky
Small Forward
Kyle Kuric is an x-factor for Louisville, a streaky shooter who can keep the Cardinals in any contest when he's hot, capable of scoring 25 points on any given night. He's an energy guy, too, though he can't quite match Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in that department. Kidd-Gilchrist doesn't have Kuric's shooting range, but he's a tenacious defender and an offensive slasher who's emerged as UK's best all-around player.Edge: Kentucky
Power Forward
Kentucky might start Terrence Jones here, or might continue starting Darius Miller, who's filled in while Jones first sat out, then played with, a dislocated finger. Either player is more experienced than Louisville's Chane Behanan , but he'll have his advantages in either case. Unlike Miller, he's a true power forward. Unlike Jones, he comes into the game healthy. A motivated, productive Behanan could be crucial for the Cards' upset chances.Edge: Even
Last week, Louisville's Gorgui Dieng predicted he won't meet a center who matches his quickness. Anthony Davis will test that theory. The two players have similar scoring and rebounding statistics, but Davis is the superior shot-blocker and already the more polished player. Even against Kentucky's athletic front line, though, Dieng is capable of a big game. It's key for Kentucky to keep Davis out of foul trouble and on the floor against him. Edge: Kentucky

Brett Dawson, Publisher: Kentucky 71, Louisville 68 On paper, the Wildcats are double-digits better than the Cardinals. There's more talent, fewer roster holes and a heap of home-court advantage at Rupp Arena. But there's some crucial experience at point guard on the Louisville side, and the hunch here is that Peyton Siva's going to keep the Cards close. It'll take lights-out shooting and an off game from Marquis Teague for Louisville to hang around, but with Terrence Jones hurting and the Cardinals smarting from a Wednesday loss to Georgetown, this one has close game written all over it.

Steve Jones, Recruiting Editor: Kentucky 72, Louisville 64: It's hard to come up with the scenario for which the Cardinals overcome UK's advantage in NBA-level talent and hand John Calipari his first Rupp Arena loss since becoming UK's coach. U of L's M.O. this season to fall behind, then storm back in the last 10 minutes of many of its victories isn't likely to cut it against the Cats. The only major runs UK has allowed this season came under a barrage of three-pointers and a crazy crowd at Indiana, and UK still lost only that game because of a last-second basket. UK point guard Marquis Teague has been turnover-prone at times this season, but I think those miscues are more the result of forcing plays in the half court, not buckling under the kind of full-court pressure the Cards will try to employ. Plus, UK has tall guards and forwards who can handle the ball and pass well, so I don't think the press will bother UK much. I do think UK's length inside will cause the Cards to struggle to score, and I think the Cats will win fairly easily. I think a double-digit UK win is more likely than a victory of any kind by U of L.

Ben Jones, Staff Writer: Kentucky 77, Louisville 67 This will be the closest UK-UofL game since John Calipari landed in Lexington, and that has nothing to do with the Wildcats' talent. Louisville has one of its strongest squads in years and while they're still a notch below their intrastate rival, they'll give them everything they can handle. Gorgui Dieng is strong enough defensively to keep Anthony Davis from dominating, and Peyton Siva should give Marquis Teague everything he can handle. The game could come down to Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for Kentucky. Jones can be a matchup nightmare for the Cardinals if healthy. Kidd-Gilchrist is stronger defensively than any UofL player is offensively - so long as the freshman can stay out of foul trouble. Once Kentucky builds a six-or seven-point lead, it'll be hard for the Cardinals to mount a comeback. From there, it's just a matter of making free throws to seal the deal.

T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Kentucky 84, Louisville 73 The biggest question is which Card will guard Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. UK's Mr.Do-It-All has carried the Cats whenever the offense is stagnant or when the defense needs a stop. While matching his athletic ability is challenging, topping his hustle and determination is nearly impossible. Expect him to be the difference in the game.

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