With Kentucky Coming to Town, Odds Still Against Louisville Coach Kenny Payne

With Kentucky Coming to Town, Odds Still Against Louisville Coach Kenny Payne
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

It's fair to say it's been a good week so far for Louisville basketball coach Kenny Payne, but as has been the theme during his tumultuous tenure leading his alma mater, the good times may not last for very long.

The Cardinals are coming off their best game of the season, an 85-63 win over Pepperdine on Sunday. UofL dominated for most of the game and led by as many as 30 points in the waning minutes against a team that entered the KFC Yum Center as only a one-point underdog.

Now, for the bad news. The Cards' next opponent is Kentucky on Thursday evening. Not only are the Wildcats their archrival and winners in eight out of the last 10 matchups between the schools, but they're also the best team UofL has faced this season by far. UK is ranked ninth in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, and FanDuel Sportsbook Kentucky offers +2200 odds on the Cats winning the national title. They're tied for the seventh shortest odds on the futures board with Creighton.

Thursday's game tips off at 6 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN. Kentucky sports betting  sites on Wednesday afternoon made Kentucky a 15.5-point favorite, with the line dropping to 13.5-points moments later.

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Payne Wants To See Cards 'Fight'

While Sunday's win takes some immediate pressure off Payne ā€” there were several rumors flying that Louisville would make a change if Pepperdine won on Sunday ā€” he still leads our next college basketball coach fired odds. It's also still possible he could be gone as soon as shortly after the Kentucky game, especially if coach John Calipari's Cats run all over the Cards.

Payne did not seem fazed by the rumblings during a press conference Wednesday previewing the game against his mentor, under whom he served as an assistant at UK for a decade. Toward the end, he joked that Calipari "wants to beat me down" while he'd be happy with a one-point victory.

"At the end of the day, look, we got to go fight," Payne said. "We got to go out and fight to get a win, and we got to go out and play our brand of basketball. I know from the outside looking in it looks like we don't have a chance. Well, we've got a chance, and we're going to go out and fight to get that and prove people wrong and see what happens. If we believe, it doesn't matter what nobody else does."

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Season Forecast Remains Bleak for Cardinals

After Sunday's win, Louisville (5-6) has already exceeded last year's victory total. However, the odds are it will still be another long season for a program considered one of the elite in college basketball. TeamRankings.com gives Louisville a nearly 87% chance of ending the season with 20 or more losses. It would be just the third 20-loss season in UofL's history, and two of those would have come under Payne if he's still coach at the end of the year.

ESPN BET Kentucky lists Louisville as +8000 to win the Atlantic Coast Conference, tied with Boston College for the second-worst odds in the league.

Payne still has supporters who say he needs time to rebuild a program that fell sharply in recent years due to NCAA investigations. There is some truth that the program has found it challenging to recruit players under the cloud of tournament bans and other sanctions, but Payne's critics have also questioned his ability to lead a team. Even this season, Louisville can look out of sorts on the court for long stretches. On Dec. 13 against Arkansas State, a mid-major team that entered Louisville with a 3-7 record, the Cards allowed their guests to score at will in the second half. The Red Wolves led by as many as 20 points en route to a 75-63 win.

So, when will UofL move on from Kenny Payne? Here are updated odds on when that might happen. The win over Pepperdine makes it more likely Louisville will keep him on board for the season, but there's still a chance a move could happen before that.


MonthOdds Implied Probability
March+100+50%
February+300+25%
December+400+20%
January+2400+4%
Retained for 24-25+9900+1%
Odds are provided by BetKentucky.com and not available at Kentucky betting apps.
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Author

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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