(1) Kentucky Wildcats (12-0) vs (4) Louisville Cardinals (11-0)
Both teams come into this game with perfect records thus far, so something will have to give. Kentucky has a well balanced attack with nine players averaging over five points per game, which means that Louisville will have to bring their A game on defense because it is very difficult to keep up with the Wildcats, who have absolutely manhandled opponents on a number of occasions. The battle on the boards should be a very interesting one, since Kentucky is ranked 11th in the nation; while Louisville is 3rd. Kentucky does not shoot the three ball well, at all, but two players-Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis-are shooting at 46% and 52%, respectively, so the Louisville guards still have to “guard” behind the arc. With the likes of Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns and Dakari Johnson protecting the basket, it will be very tough for Louisville to get anything going inside, as the Wildcats rank 1st in the nation in blocks per game. As a team, Kentucky only allows 47.7 points per game (2nd in nation) and opponents shoot 30% from the field (1st in nation), so to say that Louisville has its work cut out for them in this game, would be an understatement. As I already mentioned, Kentucky has struggled mightily with shooting the three and they have one of the worst free throw shooting teams, so if Louisville can build a lead, it could be difficult for Kentucky to shoot themselves back in. It should also be noted that Kentucky has not played “down” much at all this season. Louisville will be very fortunate to get Montrezl Harrellback for this game as he will have served his one game suspension. Harrell leads the Cardinals with 16.7 points per game and 10 rebounds. Louisville has at times struggled on the offensive side of the ball, but their bread and butter is their defense. The Cardinals rank in the top 10 in almost all major defensive categories. Similar to Kentucky, Louisville has some serious inside presence when it comes to protecting the rim with the likes of Chinanu Onuaku and Mangok Mathiang. Again, very similar to Kentucky, Louisville struggles shooting the three and they, as well, rank towards the bottom of the nation when it comes to free throw shooting. If I had to make a prediction, I think this will be a very defensive game, most likely finishing in the mid-50s, maybe 60s. Onuaku and Mathiang, along with Harrell, will have their hands full dealing with Towns, Cauley-Stein and company inside.
Kentucky-Trey Lyles, Freshman, Forward, Saskatoon, SK-19.5 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG
Prediction: Kentucky Wildcats by 5
Game details: Tipoff on Saturday, December 27th at 2:00 PM EST from KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky
(8)Gonzaga Bulldogs (11-1) vs BYU Cougars (10-3)
Gonzaga has had a great start to their 2014/15 campaign with a bunch of Canadians emerging as the leaders on the team. The Bulldogs can score with the best of them, as they average 83 points a game, which is good for 11th in the nation, Gonzaga also shoots at a blistering 53% from the field, which is good for 2nd in the entire country. Kyle Wiltjer has been the go-to guy for the Zags, putting up a career high 16 points a game, and shooting 43% from three. Gonzaga, as a team, shoots 39.6% from three with Kyle Wiltjer, Gary Bell Jr., and Kevin Pangos doing most of the damage. Freshman, Domantas Sabonis has been doing a great job for Gonzaga in his first season, averaging just under 11 points and six rebounds per game. Sabonis is also shooting a blistering 72% from the field and close to 80% from the free throw line, which is pretty good for a big man. BYU has won three in a row and will look to extend that to four, if they can come out with a big victory over a very good Gonzaga side. BYU ranks 1st in points per game with 89 and Tyler Haws is responsible for a chunk of that, as he ranks 5thin the nation with 22.3 PPG. The Gonzaga guards-Kyle Dranginis and Byron Wesley-will have their hands full trying to keep tabs on Haws, who cannot be given any time, once he receives the ball. This match-up also features two of the more unselfish teams in the NCAA as both rank in the top 20 in assists per game. Similar to Gonzaga, BYU has a handful of guys who can make three point shots, one of them being Chase Fischer, who ranks 12thin the NCAA with 100 three pointers attempted (shoots 41%). Even though BYU intends to score a ton of points, they still give up a fair share, allowing 74 a game and they let opponents shot a fairly high 42.6% from the field. Keys to victory for Gonzaga will be slowing down Haws, Fischer and Winder, without a doubt. They also must contest three pointers and not allow BYU any time to get their feet under them. Getting the ball to the hoop with drives should be a priority for the Zags, as BYU has no shot blocking down there. Look for Sabonis to play a key role off the bench for Gonzaga. BYU must contain Wiltjer, if they have any chance at winning this game. The Cougars cannot give the Bulldogs any open shots, especially when you consider that Gonzaga shots a very high percentage from the field. Get to the basket-no real inside presence for Gonzaga who can alter shots.
Gonzaga-Kyle Wiltjer, Junior, Forward, Portland, Oregon-25.3 MPG, 16.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 42.9 3P%
Gonzaga-Kevin Pangos, Senior, Guard, Holland Landing, ON-31.2 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 4.9 APG, 48.8 FG%
Gonzaga-Dustin Triano, Freshman, Guard, Vancouver, BC-3.9 MPG, 1.2 PPG
Prediction: Gonzaga Bulldogs by 7
Game details: Tipoff on Saturday, December 27th at 6:00 PM EST from Marriott Center in Provo, Utah
Overall record: 4-7
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.