Louisville basketball looking to close out year on high notes

Jordan Nwora dunking again and again, scoring 22 points in 82-78 win over Lipscomb on Wednesday (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

As expected, some early ups and downs for the University of Louisville basketball team during the first season under Coach Chris Mack. Some good wins, some unexpected challenges in compiling a 7-3 won-lost record. UofL will get better with four straight games at home, but tournament expectations remain guarded.
 
The Cardinals opened the season at plus-10,000 to end up as national champions in 2019 at online betting sites like BetOnline. Since then, they have moved up the ranks at a few spots to as low as plus-7,000.
 
Louisville isn’t currently in the top 25 in either the Associated Press poll or the Coaches Poll, but TeamRankings predictive power ratings has the Cards at No. 26. They’ve had a pretty tough schedule over the last few games, with wins over Michigan State and Seton Hall and tough losses against Marquette and Indiana.
 
The Cardinals have the No. 38 offense in college basketball, putting up over 89 points per game. The defense isn’t bad at 69.62 allowed on average, but if they want to climb into the top 20 they are going to have to tighten up on the defensive side. Ranking 117th in total defense isn’t going to cut it.
UK rivalry game looms

Now Louisville moves into a four-game home stretch, getting Kent State, Robert Morris, Kentucky, and then Miami (Fla).  Kent State is rated as the No. 143 team but over the last nine games has trended down to look more like No. 150. Robert Morris is first in the Northeast at 4-6 and is essentially a tune-up game.  
 
The team will get a full week off for Christmas before facing a tough, 20th ranked Kentucky Wildcats. This game could go either way.

Points per game – UK 84.2 vs. UofL81.7
Allowed per game- UK 71.3 vs. UofL 69.4
Average margin – UK +12.9 vs. UofL +12.2
Away vs Home Rating – UK #10 vs. UofL #10
Opponent FG % – UK 50.2 vs. UofL 47.6
 
The Miami Hurricanes have to face NC State two days before they come to Louisville, so the Cardinals have the advantage of another long rest period between their games with Kentucky and the Canes. The Cardinals will win at least four out of five as we head into the new year.