Louisville vs Kentucky Odds, Picks | Can Cards Avoid Blowout?

Louisville vs Kentucky Odds, Picks | Can Cards Avoid Blowout? article feature image

Pictured: Head coach Kenny Payne of the Louisville Cardinals. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Louisville vs Kentucky Odds

Saturday, Dec. 31
12 p.m. ET
Louisville Odds
-110o / -110u
Kentucky Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Saturday will mark the 55th meeting in one of the most historic and fierce college basketball rivalries. The Louisville Cardinals will make the trip down I-64 to Rupp Arena to take on the Kentucky Wildcats.

I grew up on this rivalry. It's a rivalry people plan Christmas, vacations, New Year's Eve and their whole lives around. This rivalry has given me some of my greatest college basketball memories.

Kentucky vs Louisville, 2012 Final Four

The last time the Final Four was in New Orleans, the ‘Cats topped rival Louisville en route a National Championship. Does UK win big in the Big Easy in 2022?

📹:@CBSSports |#MarchMadnesspic.twitter.com/Ug08O73lNZ

— The 14 (@14Southeastern) March 17, 2022

It's also given me some of my most painful.

Flashback to 2009: Edgar Sosa buries a deep 3 to beat Kentucky 74-71 🎯 @Edgarsosa10#BeatUKpic.twitter.com/4SHdmGjwwh

— CardsGonePro (@CardsGonePro) December 24, 2018

However, for the first time in my life, I'm not looking forward to this game at all.

Louisville is 2-11 and the most exciting part about the Cardinals season is that Cal is somehow worse. On the other side, Kentucky is 8-4, but it's an ugly 8-4 as their marquee wins have come against Michigan and Yale.

The Wildcats are 0-3 in Quad 1 games and 2-1 in Quad 2 matchups. Louisville, meanwhile, is a combined 0-5 in both. So while both teams are bad, just how bad is Kentucky? Does Louisville stand a chance against the Wildcats?

Vegas doesn't think so and has listed the Cardinals as massive underdogs.

Louisville Cardinals

Louisville has yet to do much of anything well all season. Its 0-3 start in conference play is the Cardinals worst since the 97-98 season. The Cardinals rank outside the top 300 in effective field goal percentage and have posted a scoring margin of -12.1.

Has Louisville improved since the start of the season? Sure, but there wasn't anywhere to go but up. Regardless, the Cardinals have shown some promise over their past five games.

Louisville hit 39.8% of its shots from three over its past five games, putting the Cardinals in the 96th percentile of all Division I teams. That comes after Louisville hit just 28.8% from the three-point range in its first nine games, ranking among the worst in all of college basketball.

The Cardinals have also been much better about getting to the free-throw line and making it count when they do. Louisville is drawing 17.2 fouls and averaging 20.2 free-throw attempts per game over their past five games. They're also converting 73.3% of the time in that span.

Louisville has made significant improvements when it comes to putting opponents at the charity stripe as well. In its first eight games, opposing teams averaged 17.1 free throw attempts per contest. In the five games since, they've averaged 13.6.

Is this due to Louisville finally winning two games and playing a Florida A&M team that ranks 357th per KenPom? It could be. However, Louisville's first three games came against opponents ranked outside the top 200, and their most recent game was against N.C. State. I'm not saying this team will make the Sweet 16, but improvement is improvement.

Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky's resume gets worse by the second — Michigan lost to Central Michigan as a 21-point favorite while I was writing this. The Wildcats return to Lexington following an embarrassing start to conference play, a 14-point loss to Missouri.

In the loss to Mizzou, Kentucky racked up 21 fouls and made just eight of 23 three-point attempts. Mizzou racked up 34 points in the paint, 14 points off of turnovers and added 17 fast-break points.

To make matters worse, the effects of the Missouri loss don't end with the box score. CJ Fredrick left the game with a hand injury, which was later said to be a dislocated finger.

Kentucky ranks in the top 30 per Kenpom in adjusted efficiency on offense and defense. When you look at this team on paper, its easy to say the Wildcats are miles ahead of Louisville, but this is a rivalry game.

If Kentucky gives Louisville the same opportunities it gave Missouri beyond the arc and on the fast break, this won't be the blowout many are anticipating.

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Louisville vs. Kentucky Betting Pick

Cardinals fans are voicing serious concerns about Kenny Payne just 13 games into his Louisville career. In my opinion, the concerns are exaggerated. No one expected things to be this bad, but you don't give up on a guy before the end of his first season.

Payne spent 10 years on staff with John Calipari at Kentucky and also won a National Championship with Calipari. This is the game Louisville hired Payne to win. He needs to make it competitive, at the very least.

The Cardinals have not played a game since December 22. Payne has had nine days to prepare his team to play against a coach he knows incredibly well. And over the past two weeks, he's seen two teams provide the blueprint on how to beat Kentucky.

I have no doubt Payne has put together a solid game plan. The only question is if his team will execute that plan.

I don't think Louisville will beat Kentucky, but this game will be much closer than the line indicates.

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