Like many popular rivalries, this rivalry is rooted in a turf battle. It's an in-state war. No matter if it's Rick Pitino vs. John Calipari, or Rick Pitino vs. Billy Gillispie, just swap out the names and the tension still exists in abundance. These programs flat out don't like each other. It's part of why this series always delivers; whether it be in entertainment, competitiveness, or a most welcome currency -- pettiness.
The rivalry will pick up again on Saturday for Part I of the 2018-19 season in Louisville at 2 p.m. ET in the Cards' house, with a new subplot. Gone is Pitino and in is Chris Mack, and with him a familiar core of talent. Yes, Calipari remains a mainstay -- he's been at Kentucky since 2009 -- but as is usually the case with UK and remains true this season, he's got a new cast of characters. All five of his starters from last year's squad is gone, and Cal's replaced them with a trio of one-and-done caliber players, along with grad transfer Reid Travis and sophomore star PJ Washington.
Despite the hockey line change in the starting lineup, Kentucky remains nationally relevant and then some. The Wildcats got off to a sluggish 7-2 start overall, but come into this game a week removed from their best win of the year: An 80-72 defeat of North Carolina on a neutral court.
- When: Saturday, Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. ET
- Where: KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky
- TV: ESPN2
- Live stream: WatchESPN
Game prediction, pick
Latest odds via SportsLine: Kentucky -2.5
Kentucky has the most momentum, but Louisville has home-court advantage and an army of fans ready to welcome Mack to this rivalry in style. Mack and Co. are 9-3 overall, with a 1-3 record against currently ranked opponents. But a win here would all but erase those struggles against top-end competition in the minds of Louisville fans. And I think Mack gets it. Pick: Louisville 70, Kentucky 67
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