The annual battle for the bluegrass is here again. Cards took down Kentucky in last years game. Largely, it was a rout, but Kentucky had a flurry of 3’s at the end and damn near took the game away.
I expect this game to be much closer.
- Kentucky boasts its usual refresh of NBA talent. Louisville with its experience and a few NBA guys of their own.
- Kentucky dominates the glass. Louisville got outrebounded by FIU.
- Kentucky loves to turn the ball over. Louisville is likely on pace for fewest in a season.
- Louisville boasts a Hall of Fame Coach. Kentucky boasts a gas bag (there it is, I have to have one jab).
- Louisville guards are ferocious on defense, Kentucky guards still adjusting from High School defense.
- WCS blocks every shot in sight, Louisville hasn’t quite recovered from the loss of Gorgui in the paint.
- Randle has almost shot more FT’s (at 70%+) than Russ, Trez, and Chane put together. Crazy.
- I could do this all day. I am stopping.
Mango has been improving, really improving. Can he stop Julius Randle? Hell no, but he might be able to “give us enough” help to neutralize the front court advantage.
The team has been contributing at an extremely high rate post UNC loss. Not just due to opponents. they look in synch. They are working harder on team ball.
Chane has been on a tear, and is getting closer to taking over season leader Harrell.
What TVT – UNC taught us.
UNC is more similar to UK than most realize. They have a strong Front Court, and capable guards – who can have break out games on occasion. Unfortunately for us – Paige DID HAVE A BREAK OUT GAME.
Here are some predictions based on latest TVT scores AND the similar opponent (UNC) TVT production rate.
Front Court Predictions
(Steady) Trez and Chane: Average Production Score: 0.73, solid.
- They held their own, and will do just fine vs UK – barring foul trouble.
- I think their averages will be about the same.
- I think one will be in foul trouble, and the other one picks up the slack.
(Steady)Mango and SVT: Average production score 0.26, whoa.
- They DID NOT do well vs. UNC bigs.
- Pessimism says, they are in for a long day.
- Optimism says “they have been playing good ball lately, really improving there production consistency”.
- What do I say? I am an optimist. I think they will both improve their production scores against a Kentucky team that is better than UNC’s. Believe it. How much? I am hoping enough to offset a UK advantage. They will not be player of the game here folks, we just need them to make it harder on the bigs to get their work done. Scouting can do that.
Back Court Predictions
(Star) Russ Smith: His worst producing game in the past 7 games was his most recent, FIU. Watch this, hopefully he was just coasting. Against UNC however, he led the team in production with a score of 0.82, super good. Russ has played well everytime in Rupp, so I think that trend will continue.
(Steady) Chris Jones: gives you about 0.58 a game, and I expect him to do the same. I only fear him pressing too hard. He is super competitive and has NEVER SEEN a stadium filled with this much hate. I can see that as a proving ground for him – or if he forces it – an “over proving” ground. Hopefully, Pitino keeps his competiveness in an effective place.
(Steady) Terry Rozier: Remember a few years ago, when nobody could hit anything, but Swop was draining 3’s? Impervious to the pressure. I see Mr. Rozier as Mr. Cool. I see him delivering in this environment despite it will be his largest road crowd he has ever seen. I am not saying he will take over the game. I just think he will be a frosh that plays like a soph. What was his TVT versus UNC? -0.33, negative production. Pitino made the right move to put him as starter, and get his confidence back – since then he has been producing at a 0.64 clip – better than Chris Jones. Ignore the UNC TVT, I think Rozier will give us a POSITIVE 0.50 number, and that would be huge.
(X Factor) Wayne Blackshear:
This is a tough one. I think he has a bad matchup. Yes, his production recent has been good (0.56), but against UNC it was bad (-0.03). Why did I not shower optimism on him like I did for Rozier’s -0.33 against UNC? I think James Young is lightening fast, and I see Wayne being in foul trouble if Pitino plays man to man. The bad news about that is Luke is even slower. I think Wayne is the X factor for UofL in this game. TVT is not liking his matchup. He is a wait and see.
(Star) Luke Hancock
Luke’s production has been way down, but funny enough, it is still higher than his last season’s average. True, it sbarely higher and against patsy opponents – but still. Luke played WELL against UNC. What? In the past 7 games, it was his second best game – the toughest opponents. THAT IS TELLING. We have seen Luke step up in big games. I am thinking we see a new Luke in this game. Let me paint the picture – he sits in the shadows, we forget he is there, and then the team needs him – they shine the BatMan light into the sky – he comes crashing in and next thing you knew he is marching around the court pumping three fingers in his dome. I think Luke busts out. But he is slow? How can he guard Young? Not sure he can, but Luke is SMART, and I think he will find crafty ways to get Young sent to the bench.
Rest of the pack
SVT: He will play a huge role. Didn’t play well against UNC 0.25, but what has he done for us lately? Last 4 games 0.94, WHAT? Sure, his minutes are lower – but he has been making good use of them. We need SVT to come off the bench and rebound for us. I think he will be outmatched athletically, but he will come to play. I really can’t say what he will do, but I think he will give us the best he has. SVT will help this team against UK, and Matt Jones calling him “Van Stink” was not only baseless, but bulletin board material.
Henderson: I have no idea. He will either not play at all, or win the game for us.
Gill: He can produce, but he plays 3 minutes tops. I just think he is going to be foul trouble reserve this year, and we get to see him more next year. He is totally capable. Its just crowded in the backcourt this year. he is calm under pressure, and fear nobody – If I was coach – AND I AM NOT – I wouldn’t be worried about playing him in Rupp. I think he would handle the first time rivalry on the road just fine. He is a cool cat.
Louisville 78 Kentucky 75
I think the wing matchup decides the game. Louisville with slight edge on guards, UK with slight edge on bigs. Young is lightening fast which could land Blackshear on the bench. I think Mr. Big Game Bearded Luke saves the day. Louisville will be so focused on rebounding that UK might have a few UNC-esque run outs, but ultimately I think UL will adjust and handle that – and keep the boards honest. There will be a ton of free throws, so we need to make sure our guards are doing most of the driving to draw fouls. Harrell and Chane are shooting FT’s in the 40%’s, Randle in the 70%. That is not what we want. We want Russ at the line vs. WCS at the line.
I think this game scores well, despite it being a rivalry game.
I take Louisville 78-75, and Louisville fans will be freaked out from tip to final horn.
Should be an awesome game, and I hope both teams represent their schools proudly. The state Kentucky is where basketball is king, and hopefully this game will server as a reminder to the nation.
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