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Preview: No. 17 UConn Huskies, No. 18 Louisville Cardinals face off in the weekend’s marquee matchup

We have two top teams competing, as No. 17 UConn hosts No. 18 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

Syndication: The Courier-Journal
Louisville’s Olivia Cochran converts a contested layup during a Cardinals’ victory.
Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Due to the length of the college basketball season, not every game has the same importance. However, Saturday’s game between the No. 17 UConn Huskies (6-3) and No. 18 Louisville Cardinals (10-1) is an important one (12 p.m. ET, FOX). Both teams are evenly matched and next to each other in the rankings, and this matchup will be a good barometer of where they currently stand.

Here's the keys to the matchup for both sides:

Protecting home-court

With this game projecting to be close, UConn will need to utilize every advantage they have—starting with homecourt. The fans will be on their side; they have to use that energy to come out strong and do all the little things. Winning the 50-50 balls. Closing out on shooters. Winning the rebounding battle.

The Huskies also have a great inside-outside game with Paige Bueckers and Aaliyah Edwards. Bueckers leads the team in scoring with 19.8 points and Edwards flirts with a double-double every game with 15.8 points and 7.7 rebounds. If those two are at the top of their game and the rest of their supporting cast takes care of the small details, the Huskies be in a good position to win.

Can Olivia Cochran dominate?

Someone on the Cardinals will have to offset Edwards' production. That task likely belongs to Olivia Cochran. She will have to win those rebounds and have a big offensive game to pull off the road upset.

The guard duo of Kiki Jefferson and Sydney Taylor also will be a key factor for Louisville. Both are averaging double digits in points and the Cardinals will need that firepower to keep up with the Huskies' offense.

Closing thoughts

This isn't the UConn of yore. They are no longer a giant in the basketball world—they are just one of the bunch. Yes, they can still be great and will undoubtedly be in the mix for a title. But that's it. They are not frontrunners anymore. Louisville is just as good. If the Cardinals play their best, they can win. If I'm wrong and UConn is a top-five team in the country, then Friday should be a dominant win for the Huskies.

Game information

No. 18 Louisville Cardinals (10-0) vs. No. 17 UConn Huskies (6-3)

When: Saturday, Dec. 16 at 12 p.m. ET

Where: XL Center in Hartford, CT

How to watch: FOX