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CBSSports.com Senior College Basketball Columnist

Weekend Look Ahead: Louisville-Kentucky rivalry has all you need

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Are there better places to spend New Year's Eve than Kentucky?

Yes.

Are there better places to spend Saturday than Rupp Arena?

Absolutely not.

Let's do the Weekend Look Ahead.

Top game: Losing to Georgetown on Wednesday took a little luster off of Louisville's Saturday showdown vs. Kentucky, but not much. Because this is still the No. 4 Cardinals vs. the No. 3 Wildcats. And it's still Rick Pitino vs. John Calipari. (And they still despise each other.) And it's still rival programs separated by only 80 miles, and if there's a better way to start a New Year's Eve party, man, I don't know what it is. Rupp Arena will be bananas from early morning till the final buzzer. Can't wait to get there.

Another interesting matchup: How much fun has this season been for Indiana fans? Not only are they getting to watch Tom Crean's rebuilding project start to look rebuilt, the home schedule has allowed them the opportunity to see two elite opponents enter Assembly Hall in a span of four weeks. First it was then-No.1 Kentucky on Dec. 10. That went well. Now it's No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday night, and if Christian Watford sinks another 3-pointer at the buzzer for a win I really do think the building could crumble.

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Yet another interesting matchup: Creighton's loss Wednesday at home to Missouri State was similar to Louisville's Wednesday loss at home to Georgetown because it came at a time in the schedule when a tough road game followed -- point being that an upset loss at home was always likely to turn into a two-game losing streak. As you know, Louisville is now at Kentucky, and that's tougher than going to Wichita State. But Creighton's game at Wichita State on Saturday is still undeniably tough. Don't believe me, ask UNLV.

Guaranteed to be a blowout: Kansas State is 10-1 and only 14 points shy of being ranked in the AP poll. Howard is neither of those things. In fact, Howard is the school that just lost 84-39 at Kansas. The nation will see why on Saturday when the Bison visit Bramlage Coliseum.

Guaranteed to be an upset: It won't be an upset in reality, but if you're looking for an unranked team over a ranked team take Wichita State over No. 21 Creighton. And when it happens, somebody is gonna write, "Wichita State upsets Creighton." I promise you it'll happen. I'll tweet a link to the headline just as soon as I see it.

Player trying to keep rolling: Draymond Green is Michigan State's best player, but there are going to be nights when he just isn't going, and on those nights the 16th-ranked Spartans need somebody else to fill the scoring load. The past two games that guy has been Keith Appling. The sophomore guard got 19 points in last week's win over Lehigh and 25 in Wednesday's win over Indiana. Let's see if he can continue to look like a true second option Saturday when Michigan State visits Nebraska.

Player trying to get rolling: Pittsburgh was pretty OK -- or at least it seemed that way -- before Travon Woodall suffered a groin strain and abdominal tear that sidelined the junior point guard for six games. The Panthers lost the sixth of those six games (to Wagner), then lost (to Notre Dame) in Woodall's return as he finished 0 of 5 from the field and went scoreless in 18 minutes. He'll need to be better Sunday or else Pitt could lose to Cincinnati and, more specifically, lose for the third consecutive time.

Three things you need to know

1. Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor has played 55 Big Ten games in his career and committed a total of 52 turnovers. His 56th Big Ten game will come Saturday when the 11th-ranked Badgers host Iowa. If the senior point guard turns it over even once he'll be messing up his average.

2. Only one team ranked in the top 12 of the latest AP poll started the season with zero AP votes. That team is Georgetown. The 12th-ranked Hoyas -- who are coming off a win over No. 4 Louisville -- host Providence on Saturday afternoon.

3. I love a good nonleague matchup between non-BCS powers, so I'm down with Saturday's Gonzaga-Xavier matchup at the Cintas Center. Both teams are just outside the AP Top 25. The winner might get back into the rankings on Monday.

Final thought: I know Duke-North Carolina is the perceived premier rivalry in college basketball.

It's like Yankees-Red Sox.

It's like Ohio State-Michigan.

But for my money, in the Year 2011, there's no better rivalry in sports than Kentucky-Louisville because it meets every possible criteria. The two schools are near one another. Both are nationally relevant. They're led by elite and high-profile coaches, one of whom used to coach at the other school. And those two coaches don't care for each other at all. "They hate each other," UK freshman Anthony Davis answered Friday when asked what he's heard about the relationship between Calipari and Pitino. "One always goes out and parties when the other loses."

So what we have Saturday isn't just the Louisville vs. Kentucky rivalry.

We have the Pitino vs. Calipari rivalry, too.

And the Pitino vs. his old school rivalry.

So this is Duke vs. North Carolina, Pete Carroll vs. Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban vs. LSU all rolled into one. And that it's happening while both schools are ranked in the top five of the AP poll only makes it that much bigger. Will it decide a national championship? Of course not. But, trust me, Louisville and Kentucky fans -- not to mention Pitino and Calipari -- will be just about as thrilled with a win Saturday as they would with one on the first Monday night in April.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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