2:00 p.m. Tipoff. UK Favored by 3.5 (opening line was PICK)
The game is SOLD OUT. As of this posting the cheapest ticket on StubHub is $211.68 in the Upper Corner and the cheapest Lower Level is $596.61.
The Yum! Center holds 22,000 for basketball. Louisville is 74-9 and is in the middle of its 5th Season at the facility.
Kentucky holds a 15-32 series advantage over the Cards dating back to 1913. The series has been played continuously without interruption since the 1983 MidEast Regional Final in Knoxville, TN. Following that meeting, Louisville and Kentucky agreed to a regular season meeting each year, beginning with the 1983-84 season.
Prior to the 1983 agreement, Louisville and Kentucky played its last regular season match-up on January 21, 1922, but did play in the 1948 Olympic Trials, the 1951 NCAA Eastern Regional, and the 1959 NCAA Midwest Regional.
Kentucky holds a 8-11 series advantage in Louisville. The last meeting between the two programs was in the 2014 Regional Semi-Final in Indianpolis, IN at Lucas Oil Stadium. Kentucky won that match-up 74-69.
UK ranked #1 and UofL ranked #4 is the highest combined ranking (5) between the two teams ever. Also, Saturday’s game marks the first time the Cards and Cats will meet with undefeated records in a game that isn’t the season opener (UofL & UK opened the 1984 and 1993 seasons against each other).
Louisville is 4-5 all-time against teams in the regular season ranked #1, including 3 of its last 4. Louisville has a 31-5 record in December over the last four years, including a 19-1 mark the last three seasons.Louisville’s 107 victories over the last four years are the most wins in the nation in that stretch. Louisville is the only school in the nation with three straight 30-win seasons, including a school-record 35 victories by its 2012-13 NCAA Title team. Louisville has a 175-40 record (.814) against non-conference opponents in Coach Rick Pitino’s 14 seasons (includes post-season). The Cardinals are 120-11 at home in regular season non-conference games under Pitino, including
a 44-2 mark over the last five seasons in the KFC Yum! Center.
The Battle for the Bluegrass will be broadcast on ESPN2 with Dan Schulman doing play-by-play, Jay Bilas providing color commentary, and Shannon Spake on the sideline.
The Louisville version of the Radio broadcast that features the award-winning and classic vocals of Paul Rogers will be broadcast on 790 AM WKRD in Louisville. You may also find Paul’s call on Sirius 91, XM 91. Rogers will be joined by Doug Ormay.
Karl Hess, Roger Ayers, and Michael Roberts
This is a big game. Two undefeated in-state rivals in what IS THE BEST COLLEGE BASKETBALL RIVALRY ON THE PLANET. It’s at the KFC Yum! Center, which does not mean a home-court advantage for Louisville. Louisville & Jefferson County is GROUND ZERO for the Cards and Cats rivalry. UofL should have more fans, but it won’t be the unified crowd that Kentucky enjoys in Rupp Arena when the game is in Lexington.
Kentucky, when fully invested in the game, has looked outstanding all season….especially on defense. Defense also happens to be Louisville’s specialty as well. UK has the edge in Blocks, Louisville has the edge in steals. Kentucky holds opponents to a lower percentage from every space on the floor than Louisville…. and the Cards are also another outstanding defensive team. Kentucky has the edge on the glass, in assists, and in turnovers.
Both teams are undefeated, but when looking statistically the Cats edge out the Cards in almost every category. That’s impressive, mainly because by comparison Louisville has played some really good opponents in Minnesota, Ohio State, Indiana, and Western Kentucky…..but also Kentucky has played perhaps even better teams in Kansas, Texas, North Carolina, and UCLA. We can debate the schedules, but it doesn’t matter. These teams play on Saturday and both teams have been incredible….the Cats just have better stats.
The average margin of victory in the last 5 meetings has been 6 points (5, 7, 3, 8, 7), and while the series history does have some blowouts….those are few. Especially lately. Neither teams quits. We saw Kentucky comeback in the NCAA Tournament last year, Louisville has closed the gap after big leads in several of the last 5 games.
To win, Louisville needs to take advantage of the open looks that it gets. Rick Pitino talks all the time about not taking challenged shots……Kentucky doesn’t unchallenge shots. So Louisville is going to have to work hard on ball movement and when the opening happens, they have to execute. Going back over the games over the past few years and there are a series of missed layups and crucial open jumpers that made beating Kentucky even harder than it is.
The Cards have size, maybe more than they’ve ever had and the rebound rate shows it. Louisville lost in the Sweet 16 because the Cats dominated the Cards on the glass. A lack of depth inside really hurt UofL. Now Louisville has the bodies, but they do lack the experience. Akoy Agau has transferred and Matz Stockman is expected to miss the game with a knee injury. Neither player would play big minutes, if at all….but because of fouls Pitino has had to go DEEEEPPP into his bench the last two meetings vs. UK.
Montrezl Harrell needs to stay out of 1st half foul trouble. He is an outstanding weapon on the glass, but even better when Chris Jones & Terry Rozier get into the lane. Against Platoon #1, that’s exactly what I expect Louisville’s offense to be. Louisville’s smaller guards trying to get around to either get layups, get contact, or make passes to Trez or Wayne Blackshear. Blackshear could also be a major weapon in the lane against Platoon #1. I don’t think Louisville will mind running against Platoon #1
Against Platoon #2, I think Louisville will use a different approach and try to slow down Kentucky and the pace of the game. #1 to try and take UK’s speed out of the game after a period of running against now fresh bodies…..and #2 to try and catch some wind…and #3 force Kentucky to make jump shots (something they have been streaky with in 2014).
I’ll be looking to see if Calipari uses Willie Cauley-Stein (or someone else with height, maybe Lyles) at the top of a zone like he did in the December 2013 meeting to frustrate Chris Jones and Russ Smith. Lyles & Cauley-Stein both have the make up to be able to do that, and Calipari has used it in the past against UofL’s smaller guards. If that does happen, Louisville MUST get around and make the pass…if not Game Over.
This should be an exciting game, the crowd will be into, the players and coaches most certainly will be too. I think this is a game that won’t be outside of 6-7 points either way. But for now I’ll say Kentucky wins by 7 with foul trouble (Kentucky has more bodies) and rebounding the key difference. This game won’t mean as much as the one that happens (inevitably in the NCAA Tournament) so if UofL does pull off the win, the Cards should get prepared to meet the Cats again in Indy….and vice versa.
TEAM STAT COMPARISIONS
|Points Per Game||77.3 (25th)||76.8 (27th)|
|Avg Scoring Margin||+22.9 (6th)||+29.1 (1st)|
|Field Goal %||44.1% (120th)||47.5% (34th)|
|Rebound Rate||55.8% (18th)||57.0% (9th)|
|Blocks Per Game||7.2 (6th)||8.7 (1st)|
|Steals Per Game||10.7 (3rd)||8.5 (28th)|
|Assists Per Game||13.3 (113th)||17.3 (11th)|
|Turnovers Per Game||14.1 (240th)||11.2 (36th)|
|Opponent Turnovers Per Game||19.0 (5th)||17.0 (11th)|
|Team Fouls Per Game||18.5 (157th)||16.8 (56th)|
|2-point FG%||52.6% (44th)||54.2% (25th)|
|3-point FG%||29.0% (303rd)||31.4% (241st)|
|Free Throw %||64.1% (284th)||65.9% (253rd)|
|Opponent Shooting %||34.3% (7th)||30.0% (7th)|
|Opponent 2-point FG%||37.4% (8th)||31.6% (1st)|
|Opponent 3-point FG%||27.7% (21st)||27.0% (13th)|
|Opponent Block Per Game||1.9 (8th)||2.1 (17th)|
|Opponent Steals Per Game||7.1 (260th)||4.8 (30th)|
|*351 teams Play Division 1|
PLAYER STAT COMPARISONS
Because Kentucky plays a “Platoon System” it’s a little abnormal to look at these as player for player. And in the case of both teams, the Cards and Cats have players that can fit into multiple positions. This won’t be perfect. But it is the representation we thought would be best to use.
These are your likely point guard match-ups. In the case of Louisville Terry Rozier will be used at point guard at some point during the game.
|Chris Jones||Andrew Harrison||Quentin Snider||Tyler Ulis|
|5-10,175 Sr.||6-6, 210, Soph||6-2, 180, Fr.||5-9, 155, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||32.00%||38.4%||Field Goal %||39.1%||48.7%|
|3-point %||30.80%||29.6%||3-point %||20.0%||52.6%|
|FT %||72.50%||77.8%||FT %||61.5%||100.0%|
|Terry Rozier||Aaron Harrison||Anton Gill||Devin Booker|
|6-1, 190, Soph||6-6, 212, Soph||6-3, 190, Soph||6-6, 206, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||47.7%||38.4%||Field Goal %||32.6%||48.1%|
|3-point %||34.1%||27.1%||3-point %||19.2%||45.8%|
|FT %||71.9%||68.2%||FT %||41.7%||80.00%|
David Levitch and Dominique Hawkins often see the court, so we will list them here also.
|David Levitch||Dominique Hawkins|
|6-3, 180, Soph||6-0, 195, Soph|
|Field Goal %||36.4%||25.0%|
Again this isn’t perfect and it made a lot more sense before the Alex Poythress injury.
|Wayne Blackshear||Trey Lyles||Shaqquan Aaron||Derek Willis|
|6-5, 215, Sr.||6-10, 235, Fr.||6-7, 170, Fr.||6-9, 216, Soph|
|Field Goal %||40.5%||48.6%||Field Goal %||0||429.0%|
|3-point %||29.6%||14.3%||3-point %||0||33.3%|
|FT %||74.4%||69.0%||FT %||0||100.0%|
|Montrezl Harrell||Willie Cauley-Stein||Anas Mahmoud||Marcus Lee|
|6-8, 240, Jr.||7-0, 240, Jr.||7-0, 200, Fr.||6-9, 220, Soph|
|Field Goal %||61.0%||61.9%||Field Goal %||50.00%||58.1%|
|3-point %||21.1%||0.0%||3-point %||0.00%||0.0%|
|FT %||59.3%||61.1%||FT %||70.00%||26.7%|
Jaylen Johnson will likely see clock here as well but the Cats don’t have a player that matches not already listed elsewhere.
|6-9, 215, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||46.20%|
|Chinanu Onuaku||Karl Anthony-Towns||Mangok Mathiang||Dakari Johnson|
|6-10, 230, Fr.||6-11, 250, Fr.||6-10, 220, Soph||7-0, 255, Soph|
|Field Goal %||66.7%||52.9%||Field Goal %||39.3%||60.7%|
|3-point %||0.0%||20.0%||3-point %||0.0%||0.0%|
|FT %||53.8%||73.3%||FT %||40.0%||56.7%|
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