Kentucky vs. Louisville: Why This Game Means More to the Cardinals

Matt OveringContributor IIIDecember 25, 2012

Nov 22, 2012; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Louisville Cardinals guard Peyton Siva (3) and forward Chane Behanan (21) react to a foul call against the Northern Iowa Panthers during the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Louisville won 51-46. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 4 Louisville Cardinals will host the Kentucky Wildcats on Dec. 29. The rivalry has been one-sided with John Calipari on the sidelines for Kentucky, but this year, the Cardinals are expected to come away with a win.

This is why this game is vital for Rick Pitino and the Cardinals.

Louisville is sporting one of Pitino's best squads in his time coaching the Cardinals. Their recent four-game losing streak to Calipari's Wildcats makes the stakes that much higher.

The Cardinals have only one loss (Duke), and have played dominating basketball in games against other quality opponents like Memphis and Missouri.

Calipari's squad, however, has not lived up to their billing this year as potential national title contenders.

The 8-3 Wildcats have struggled against experienced teams, and have yet to play a quality game against a quality opponent.

Losses to Notre Dame and Baylor were fueled by a lackluster and turnover prone offense. Kentucky has controlled lesser opponents with superior athleticism and skill, but that won't be the case against Louisville.

Peyton Siva and Russ Smith headline one of the best backcourts in college basketball.

Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan are two formidable forwards.

If Gorgui Dieng plays, Kentucky may not have an advantageous matchup in their starting five.

Lineup advantages are just another reason why this is a must-win game for Louisville. Fans are expecting a win. They've had to listen to the insufferable Big Blue Nation for the past three years. A win is needed.

Kentucky could use a win, but the need for a win resides in the Louisville locker room.

Many of these Cardinals were on the 2011-12 team that lost to the Wildcats twice, including a stinging loss in the 2012 Final Four. Kentucky, on the other hand, is full of players that weren't on the national championship squad.

Louisville is out to prove they're the best team in the Bluegrass State.

Kentucky may want to win, but this game means more to the Cardinals.