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Indiana Hoosiers at Kentucky Wildcats: Hoosiers seek first win over UK in Rupp since 1988 (preview).

Kentucky Wildcats
Current record: 6-2
Current RPI: 7
Current Sagarin: 7
Current Pomeroy: 6
2009-10 record:  35-3/14-2, lost to West Virginia in NCAA regional final
2009-10 RPI: 2
2009-10 Sagarin: 3
2009-10 Pomeroy: 3
Pomeroy scouting report
Series:  Kentucky leads 30-23
TV: 5 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
Blog: A Sea of Blue

Indiana renews its rivalry with Kentucky tomorrow night when the Hoosiers travel to Lexington to play the Wildcats at Rupp Arena.  This is the fifth consecuitve year that the game will be played at one of the schools' home arenas, after a 15-year run of alternating the game between "home-neutral" sites in Louisville and Indianapolis.  The last 20 years have not been kind to IU in this series.  IU led the series 19-15 after a win in Bloomington in 1990, but since then, IU has gone 4-15 against UK, with all wins coming in Indianapolis.  IU's last win over Kentucky in the state (sorry, Wildcats fans, I won't engage in your pretensions--it's a state) of Kentucky was a win at Rupp in 1988.  While IU hasn't beat Kentucky in Lexington in over two decades, two of IU's best wins of the last decade came there: the Sweet 16 upset of Duke and Final Four-clinching win over Kent State in 2002. 

While the Wildcats have dominated IU during the 21st century, one thing that they haven't done, not since 1998, is advance to the Final Four.  After growing stagnant in the later years of the Tubby Smith era and the disaster of the Billy Gillispie experiment, the Wildcats hired John Calipari from Memphis, who has immediately turned around the Wildcats' recruiting and on-court fortunes.  Calipari, of course, is a controversial figure who has taken two schools to the Final Four, only to see the accomplishment vacated both times because his players were on the take.  Cal is either really good at turning a blind eye to corruption or in the unluckiest coach in the history of college basketball.  Still, it's true that he's never been personally implicated by the NCAA in any of the violations that led to the sanctions.

This year's Kentucky team is similar to last year's team, at least in the experience and composition of the roster.  Last season, Kentucky's top four scorers included three freshmen (John Wall, Deandre Liggins, and Eric Bledsoe), all of whom have moved on to professional basketball, and Patrick Patterson, one of the few holdovers from the prior regime who played a major role.  In 2010-11, once again, the Wildcats are led in scoring by newcomers: Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, and Doron Lamb, all highly touted freshmen.  We will see if this formula leads to long term success for Kentucky.  Deandre Liggins and and Darius Miller are the leading returning scorers. 

At this point, the Pomeroy numbers do not reveal an overwhelming offensive or defensive focus for the Wildcats.  They rank #13 in offensive efficiency and #15 in defensive efficiency.  If there is any positive for the Hoosiers in this number, it's that UK is not particularly good at forcing its opponents to turn the ball over (17 percent).  The Wildcats' offensive strength is from behind the arc, where they shoot 41 percent.  Lamb is shooting 48 percent from back there.  Unsurprisingly, considering their youth, the Wildcats are not a good free-throw shooting team.  Defensively, the Wildcats play solid field goal defense and block lots of shots. There isn't much merit in comparing the numbers of IU and UK: UK has played the #3 schedule in America, per Pomeroy, and IU has played the #298 schedule. 

There are no moral victories, particularly against Kentucky,but it will be encouraging if the Hoosiers can remain in this game, in a tough road venue against a talented team.  Given the course of IU's recruiting, we can hope that the lopsided era of this rivalry is coming to an end.  Unfortunately, it probably won't end this year.