NCAA Basketball Picks: Louisville vs. Kentucky

Steven Suarez

Saturday, December 28, 2013 9:02 PM GMT

Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 9:02 PM GMT

Bragging rights are up for grabs in the state of Kentucky again. Will John Calipari's Wildcats be able to hold off the challenge from Russ Smith and company?

Odds Overview

Rupp Arena plays host to this afternoon's marquee matchup, but that hasn't stopped oddsmakers from listing Kentucky as home underdogs on the college basketball odds board. The Wildcats, who are 9-3 SU and 4-5-1 ATS this season, are getting 2.5 points from sportsbooks. The visiting Cardinals are 11-1 SU and 6-4 ATS.

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":253182, "sportsbooksIds":[43], "LineTypeId":2, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

Louisville Cardinals

The Cardinals may have lost just one game this season, but it's hardly as if they've had the hardest of schedules.

Their one truly tough test (against North Carolina on a neutral court) ended up with Louisville losing, so it's hard to gauge just how good Rick Pitino's team really is this season. We'll find out a lot here this afternoon.

We last saw the Cardinals in action last Saturday against Florida International. Their offensive prowess was on show again, as they shot 48.1 percent overall and hit an impressive 13-of-24 from beyond the arc.

Russ Smith had a team-high 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting (four threes) and also had three assists, while Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell also scored in double figures. With the game well in hand, Pitino was able to give playing time to 11 different players in the blowout win.

It was Louisville's first true road game of the season and they passed with flying colors. That being said, perhaps it would have been wise for the Cardinals to schedule a couple more challenging road games in preparation for this showdown in Lexington.

Kentucky Wildcats

The Wildcats rebounded from a five-point road loss at North Carolina to beat Belmont 93-80 at home. They couldn't cover as 17-point chalk, but it was still an impressive performance from John Calipari's boys.

Julius Randle, as usual, was dominant in the win. He put up 29 points on 8-of-10 shooting (he got to the free throw line 19 times and connected on 13) and also had 10 rebounds before fouling out late.

Randle got help from Aaron Harrison, who chipped in with 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting while also dishing out seven assists and pulling down six rebounds. Willie Cauley-Stein had 16 points, seven boards and two blocks.

Calipari wasn't afraid to schedule tough with his talented young group and that's only going to help prepare them for March. The Wildcats have already played the likes of Michigan State, North Carolina and Baylor, while Providence, Boise State and Belmont are hardly slouches either.

We'll get a chance to see just how much Kentucky is growing when they welcome the defending national champions. There's no better test than that.

Make sure to check out our:

NCAA Basketball Picks of the Day

College Basketball Pick

Louisville won last year's meeting by three, but obviously this is a completely different Kentucky team now.

The Wildcats are still learning to play together, but their talent level is undeniable. They're going to get hyped up for this game and, as long as they can avoid a slow start, we think they'll be on the winning side this time around.

Russ Smith is going to be hard to contain, but ultimately we are picking Kentucky to hold serve at home and pick up a big statement win in front of Big Blue Nation. Take the Wildcats, who are much more battle-tested already this year, to cover the short chalk inside Rupp Arena for our college basketball pick.

comment here