A lot of Kentucky and Louisville fans both had predicted the Cardinals may go into the rivalry matchup on December 28th between the two as the number one team in America, but then the Cards ran into the Texas Tech Red Raiders tonight in the annual Jimmy V Classic event in New York, and lost 70-57 in lackluster fashion.
Texas Tech, a 5-3 team going into the game, had some early season struggles, losing to Iowa and then Creighton and Depaul in overtime, but showed great confidence and played hard against the Cardinals, knocking them off as yet another number team goes down this season.
This is how it affects Kentucky:
First off, what Louisville’s loss as an overall picture does is they more than likely will not be going into Rupp Arena as the number one team on the 28th, but that does give a chance for Ohio State to jump to number one by the time Kentucky matches up with them on December 21st. Also, it makes Texas Tech look like a more viable opponent on the schedule of Kentucky that the committee will look at when March comes.
Another validation made by the loss the Red Raiders handed Louisville is that while the Cards are really strong in the frontcourt, they still are kind of lacking in the backcourt, specifically at the point guard position, making the matchup against them not look as daunting as it might have before.
Sophomore Darius Perry, the starting point guard for the Cardinals, finished with two points on 1-4 shooting and zero assists against Texas Tech, and his backup, senior Lamarr Kimble, finished with just four points on 1-5 shooting and two assists.
Even in the game at home against the Michigan Wolverines, who came in the number four team in the country and got obliterated by Louisville 58-43, Perry and Kimble only combined for nine points on 3-9 shooting and five assists. Add both those games, the Cards toughest games yet, and the point guards just have not showed up, being the most glaring weakness for the team which was deflating against Texas Tech as Louisville could not find a guy to penetrate and either score or kick the ball out to a shooter.
When going against Kentucky, point guard Ashton Hagans, who I wrote about in a separate column, is having an excellent year averaging 12.8 points per game along with seven assists and 1.8 steals per game, and should absolutely dominate against whoever he is matched up with, Perry or Kimble, when the two teams play later this month, unless either of the Louisville guards step up big-time in the next few weeks, which I do not see happening.
In the frontcourt, Kentucky will have to play the combination of Nwora-Enoch-Williams, a very formidable combination led by preseason All-American Jordan Nwora who is averaging 21.6 points per game, to either a wash or a slight loss, and the game as a whole will be advantage Cats because of the glaring difference in the level of play of the guards. What have we seen from sophomore forward Nick Richards, who leads Kentucky in scoring and rebounding with 14 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game, and sophomore forward EJ Montgomery, who has had a career high in points in each of the last two games, that says they cannot at the very least do that, barring a jump back to last year which I do not think will happen, along with Brooks and Whitney splitting time defending preseason All-American Jordan Nwora, along with the change-up of having sophomore Immanuel Quickley matched up with him, as he is having a decent season averaging 11.7 points per game. Of course, the Cats will be helped even more if grad transfer Nate Sestina is back as he adds leadership and talking along with a three-point threat, although it would be on limited play coming back from injury.
Point of this is — Louisville is not as intimidating as it was maybe before tonight. Also, the Head Coach for Texas Tech Chris Beard continues to be a star, and that matchup with them later in the season will definitely be a tough one, especially playing in Lubbock.