BOZICH | Praise for Pitino; UK chasing UCLA; Hoosiers at the Cro - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Praise for Pitino; UK chasing UCLA; Hoosiers at the Crossroads

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville easy. Kentucky easier. And nothing figures to be easy for Indiana. That's the college basketball forecast for this weekend.

Here are 10 items to help you countdown to tipoff in Bowling Green (U of L at Western Kentucky), Chicago (UK vs. UCLA) and Indy (IU vs. Butler).

1. It's easy to grumble about the non-conference schedules that Rick Pitino has arranged at Louisville. Even Pitino admitted the 2013-14 U of L non-league home schedule was less than blah.

But Pitino deserves credit for continuing to play Western Kentucky, especially once every four seasons in Diddle Arena, where the teams will meet Saturday at noon on FoxSports1.

Pitino could send Western's calls to voicemail, build another rivalry or insist that all the games in the series be played in Louisville and Nashville.

Pitino has not done that – and also said that he's more interested in maintaining the rivalry with WKU than resuming a series with Memphis or Cincinnati.

Good for him. And good for basketball in the state.

2. There's always a long list of milestones the Kentucky basketball program is chasing. Here is one that belongs at the top of the list:

Most NCAA titles.

The current count is UCLA 11, Kentucky 8.

How long will it take the Wildcats to win the three championships they need to catch the Bruins?

I'll say a dozen years.

The easy answer would be 15 seasons. John Calipari has delivered one title in his first five seasons in Lexington. Fifteen more seasons would bring three more.

But if Kentucky wins another NCAA title this season, the math changes to two titles in six seasons. That would translate to nine seasons to win three more.

So I'll split the difference and say a dozen years. Kentucky and UCLA play Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Chicago at the United Center. CBS will televise.

3. Indiana makes its annual stop at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis Saturday, and it's not forcing the narrative to say the Hoosiers' season is at a crossroads.

IU sits at 8-2. Their best wins have come against Southern Methodist and Pittsburgh. Their bad loss was against Eastern Washington.

But if you check the schedule, and Ken Pomeroy's computer rankings, you'll notice one thing:

Indiana will be the underdog in five of its next six games, including Saturday against Butler in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (FoxSports1 will also televise this one at 2:30 p.m.) Tom Crean's team also plays Georgetown in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27.

The Hoosiers need to beat either the Bulldogs or the Hoyas to enter the NCAA Tournament discussion.

4. I'll take Nebraska in the Where Will Akoy Agau Land? sweepstakes.

The Cornhuskers worked overtime to recruit Agau out of Omaha Central High School. Nebraska coach Tim Miles was one of the first guys to call Scott Hammer, Agau's former AAU coach, after Agau announced that he planned to leave the University of Louisville Thursday.

5. Kentucky will beat UCLA by at least 20 points Saturday at the United Center in Chicago. The Bruins don't have an answer for Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns or Dakari Johnson. I'm not even certain UCLA knows the right question to ask with its undermanned frontcourt.

What the Bruins do have is a prolific backcourt. And it's led by Bryce Alford, son of UCLA coach Steve Alford.

At 6 feet 3, 180 pounds, Alford is slightly larger than his father, who scored 2,438 points at Indiana from 1983-87.

How do they compare as sophomores?

Bryce Alford leads UCLA in scoring at 18 points per game, but is also averaging 6.7 assists. He's a 45 percent shooter. Steve Alford averaged 18.1 points as an IU sophomore, but that was before the three-point shot. Dad was also a 54 percent shooter, but he averaged less than three assists per game.

6. Indiana had a chance to fill the spot Ohio State has in the CBS Sports Classic doubleheader in Chicago that features UK vs. UCLA. The Buckeyes will play North Carolina.

IU turned down the invitation because of its commitment to the Crossroads Classic, which also features Notre Dame and Purdue.

Air ball.

The Crossroads Classic has no juice outside the 46202 Zip Code. Beat Butler and that's what Indiana is supposed to do. Lose to Butler (and the Bulldogs are favored) and the howling will begin in three, two, …

7. Louisville junior Montrezl Harrell leads the Atlantic Coasts Conference with 21 consecutive double-figure scoring performances. It gets better. Harrell has also delivered five consecutive double-figure rebounding games.

In the last five games against Cleveland State, Ohio State, FIU, Indiana and North Carolina Wilmington, Harrell averaged 16.2 points and 12.6 rebounds.

Yes, he is a legitimate player of the year candidate.

8. UK and UCLA have played 10 games, with the Wildcats winning six. The most unforgettable game was played nearly 40 years ago in San Diego.

UCLA outlasted Louisville in the national semifinals and then handled Kentucky, 92-85, in the NCAA championship in John Wooden's farewell as the UCLA coach. It ended a stretch when the Bruins won 10 titles in a dozen seasons.

9. To beat Butler, Indiana will have to stop two former Louisville high school stars – Kameron Woods of Eastern and Kelan Martin of Ballard.

Woods is Butler's leading rebounder at 9.1 per game. Martin, only a freshman, is Butler's second-leading scorer at 10.8 per game, including a 17-point, six-rebound performance when the Bulldogs toppled North Carolina.

10. Parting shots: Vegas says Louisville by 13 ½, UK by 16 and Butler by three.

Jeff Sagarin's computer formula says Louisville by 17.08, UK by 19.71 and Butler by 5.98.

Ken Pomeroy's computer formula says Cards by 12, Wildcats by 14 and Bulldogs by two.

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