Advocate staff writers David Brock and Mandy Simpson constantly aggravate each other — just as most Kentucky and Louisville fans do — about the UK-UofL rivalry.
With the Wildcats and Cardinals set to renew their basketball rivalry Saturday in Lexington, sports editor Larry Vaught submitted questions for each to answer. Enjoy the second of two installments of the good-natured ribbing and back-and-forth between fans who both truly believer their team not only will win Saturday, but will win every game.
Question: Who will win the annual game this year, and why?
Brock: “The answer to this question could fill volumes or be reduced to a simple list: talent, size, speed, Rupp Arena.
If UK and UofL combined rosters Peyton Siva might have a chance at starting, but only because he's a junior. Of course, if Cal coached him when he was a freshman he would be in the NBA already, so hypotheticals are tough here. Kentucky wins because they have better players at every position except point guard. Maybe.
“Last year Louisville made the mistake of leaving the locker room, er, losing Josh Harrellson when they doubled Jones. They inexplicably didn't correct this the entire game. I don't think that will happen again, but regardless, I expect Terrence Jones to have a statement game after his MIA performance against Indiana. I think he can knock Behanan off the block on defense and take him off the dribble on offense.
“Anthony Davis will clean up anything close to the rim and get wide open looks on the other block if UofL collapses on Jones or rushes up the lane to stop our drivers. On the wings, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Darius Miller can neutralize Kyle Kuric, and both of them can individually match or surpass his output on the other end.
“I think UK will be able to break any Louisville press or half court traps for easy baskets if they try that. UofL won't be able to handle the game inside or out once they get in half court situations. I fully expect UofL to bomb 3s from start to finish and we have had some trouble guarding the perimeter, but I think we will have that fixed by Dec. 31. I'm tired of this cliche, but UK is too long.
“Oh, and it is at Rupp. Happy New Year.”
Simpson: “Louisville. We've got to execute in several key areas to make it happen, though. Our big men — Gorgui Dieng, Jared Swopshire and Chane Behanan — have to play better than the Cats’ big men, or at least well enough to neutralize the score. They have to win the rebounding battle, especially on the defensive end, and accumulate more easy points in the paint.
“Then Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric and (hopefully) Russ Smith can take over our offensive and give the Cats more playmaking ability than the young team can handle. Siva's experience in big games and constant ability to thrive under pressure will overwhelm Marcus Teague as much as his speed.
“Louisville will also have a more complete team than we've had all season by game time, and that will work to our advantage. Rakeem Buckles is back and playing with incredible composure and hustle. Plus, Kevin Ware will be a solid addition to the lineup.
“The emotion of this game is always a factor, and UK players are carrying the weight of losing another big rivalry game — whether they view it that way or not — against Indiana. This could enhance their play and motivation or negatively amplify their nerves. If there was any doubt, Terrence Jones proved he was a head case in the Hoosiers game, and the other freshman could fold (under) pressure, as well.
“But either way, it's Kentucky's game to lose, and Louisville always has at least the heart to win.”
Question: Who will be the best player in the game?
Brock: “This is tough. If you asked me before the Indiana game, I would have said Jones, and it still could be him, in theory.
“I have to say Kidd-Gilchrist, though. He consistently finds ways to stuff stat sheets. It has been said a thousand times already this season, but he is relentless, and he has stepped up in all of our marquee games. I think he gets a double-double, but also paces the team on defense with five or more steals and at least one highlight real dunk.
“I know this wasn't part of the question, but it's really nice to have so many players capable of taking over or making big contributions at any time. I know UofL fans would agree. It would be really nice if they had that.”
Simpson: “Peyton Siva. More than averaging 11 points and three rebounds a game (as a 6-foot guard), he constantly makes everyone else better with smart, selfless plays. He had a combined 18 assists in two games against Memphis and Fairleigh Dickinson, and he came up with seven rebounds and 14 points against a ranked Vanderbilt team.