Kentucky Basketball: Why the Louisville Showdown Can't Arrive Fast Enough

Matt OveringContributor IIIDecember 21, 2012

Rick Pitino and John Calipari
Rick Pitino and John CalipariBob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats square off against No. 5 Louisville on Dec. 29. Each team has one final tune-up on Dec. 22 before this elite rivalry game at the KFC Yum! Center. 

For the Wildcats, the game can't come soon enough.

Louisville will be the clear favorite—rankings alone show as much. Kentucky will likely remain on the fringe of the top 25 until the end of the month. An upset would vault them into the top 25.

With a win over Marshall on Dec. 22, Kentucky will be on a four-game win streak, their longest of the year.

Winning builds confidence, something the Wildcats—namely Ryan Harrow—have been short on this season. 

Harrow and his teammates will have a chance to show they belong in the Top 25, and more importantly, belong in the national championship picture.

At the beginning of the season, this game was pegged as a matchup of two top five teams. Louisville held up their end of the bargain. Kentucky has slipped three times—twice in alarming fashion.

The loss to now No. 1 Duke was predictable. Kentucky played well for the second game of the year, and stayed in the game until the last few minutes.

But the Wildcats' second loss was eye-opening. Kentucky visited Notre Dame (then unranked) and scored a season low 50 points. John Calipari said his team "didn't compete."

The third loss, at home to Baylor on Dec. 1, ended a 55-game win streak in Lexington. Kentucky only scored 55 points.

When the Wildcats square off against Louisville, they'll have a chance at redemption. Harrow will have a chance to prove he belongs in Calipari's starting five. Freshmen will have a chance to show they've matured.

Calipari will have a chance to show he can make this team work.

Kentucky doesn't need a win over Louisville. An upset would be wonderful, but a competitive game can suffice—if the Wildcats play a full 40 minutes. 

They're young. They're inexperienced. But in the 12th game of the season, those excuses should be terminated. 

Will Kentucky step up to the challenge? 

Dec. 29 will be a defining day for the 2012-13 Kentucky Wildcats.