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Numbers project Louisville beating Kentucky by 15 points


This Is It; The Main Event. Cats and Cards

Yes, Big Blue fans, the more things change, the more they remain the same. A small dose of recent history may help place this year’s edition of this Battle of the Bluegrass into clearer context.

Two years ago, the Cats ventured into the Yum Center with two losses and many question marks. The Cards placed its 11-1 record on the line, and entered the game a single digit favorite to even the newest rendition of the Calipari-Pitino rivalry at one game each. However, the Cats rode Josh Harrellson’s back to a huge 15 point road win, 78-63, a swing of 19 points in the Cats’ favor, predicted to actual. Calipari 2; Pitino 0.

A year ago, the Cats and Cards entered their annual bragging rights game with the Cats perched atop the college basketball world, poised for a run that would eventually bring #8 to Lexington. The Cards were not chopped liver, and fought their way to a final four rematch against the Cats. The Cats entered the battle of the Bluegrass at Rupp a solid 14 point favorite, but the Cards showed their fight and kept the game in single digits, finally yielding to the eventual NCAA Champions by 7 points, 69-62, a swing of 7 points in the Cards’ favor, predicted to actual. Calipari 3; Pitino 0.

Add the Final Four encounter to the storyline, another Cats win, 69-61, and we have the current tally, Calipari 4; Pitino 0.

Yes, Calipari 4; Pitino 0!!!

A year ago, prior to the game, I observed that over the “course of a 31 game college basketball season, there are only a handful of games each year the really matter, and when the Cats and Cards square off, that game must be included in the count regardless of the scheduled date, hour, or venue. This is it, the main event. … How can any amount of preparation be enough? How can any amount of hype be too much? Two of the marquee programs of the sport, located 90 miles apart, sporting two of the bigger than life head coaches, representing two of the most rabid fan bases known to exist within a single state.”

So, here again, the Cats will enter the Yum Center with more losses (3 this time) than Louisville, and more question marks than answers. The Cards will again host this event with an 11-1 record, and a solid favorite to end the recent Calipari run, and keep the 2012-13 Cards near the top of the current college basketball landscape. As you will see below, this year’s NGE analysis is a mirror image of last seasons. Last year, the Cats entered the game as a 14 point favorite. This year, the Cards will enter this game as a 15 point favorite. Last year, the Cards extended the homestanding Cats to the end before the Cats could secure a 7 point home win. Two years ago, the Cats’ Yum Center performance was an impressive 19 points stronger than the NGE pre-game analysis, and this year, it will take that level of performance by the Cats to get out of the Yum Center with the win instead of their 4th loss of this young season.

Louisville has opened the season with eleven wins in twelve starts. The Cards’ only loss came at the hands of #3 Duke on a neutral floor by 5 points. The Cards claim wins over #21 Missouri (neutral) by 23 points, #41 Illinois State (home) by 3 points, and #48 Memphis (away) by 9 points, after erasing a 16-point deficit. The Cards and the Cats have played two common opponents. Each team has sustained neutral court losses to Duke (Louisville by 5 points, and the Cats by 8 points), and each team claims a home win over #307 Samford (Louisville by 26 points, Kentucky by 32 points). However, as any objective review of this grudge match will demonstrate, these teams usually find a way to render the pre-game records less relevant.

Louisville has averaged about 70 possessions per game, producing 78.1 ppg (1.11 ppp) and allowing 55.5 ppg (0.80 ppp) against an early schedule that Pomeroy rates as the 120th toughest (0..5624). Louisville has turned the ball over on 18.2% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on an impressive 30.7% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, Louisville has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 39.9%, about 7% above the 33% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 70.2%, also about 7% above the NCAA average.

In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 71 possessions per game, producing 78.5 ppg (1.10 ppp) and allowing 61.1 ppg (0.87 ppp) against a schedule strength of 0..5040 (196th). The Cats have committed turnovers on 17.3% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 21.8% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats’ rebounding rates have been 34.3% and 69.4% on the offensive and defensive ends.

Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of the Cards by 15 points, 76-61 in a game played at a pace of 70 possessions for the Cats and 70 possessions for Louisville. Pomeroy figures the Game in Louisville’s favor by 9 points, 71-62 at a pace of 71 possessions. From my perspective, a Louisville margin on Saturday of more than 20 points would not bode in the Cats’ final exam. However, if the Cats are able to keep this game in single digits, and within 1 or 2 possessions within the final 4 minute segment, I will be impressed that the Cats are accepting the challenges. A Kentucky victory at the Yum Center will send a message to the rest of the basketball world that the Cats intend to defend their title zealously.


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  1. Larry Pup


  2. LindaS

    Changing your name to Danny Downer, Professor, you could have done without writing this one. Go Cats!

  3. Jim Boyers

    I still say UK by 8 – 10.

    1. Jim Boyers

      Numbers and stats are meaningless in this particular game. It will come down to desire and talent. UK definitely has the better talent and Cal definitely knows how to instill a will to win in a team. YES, even this one, which seems to be marching to its’ own beat. I have been saying they will come around and I believe this will be the time and the start of something special yet again.

    2. larryvaught

      Love your optimism Jim Boyers

  4. AndyP

    I disagree that the Cats have better talent – not this year.

    Dieng is better than Noel, Bohanan is better than Poythress, Blackshire is better than Goodwin, Smith is better than Mays, and Siva is better than Harrow.

    Don’t get me started on Wiltjer – I’ll be shocked if he gets one open shot in this game.

    1. Jim Boyers

      In REALIZED potential you are absolutely correct AndyP.

      However, IF UK’s potential becomes realized, they will be far superior to any of Loserville’s athletes. It is only a matter of time before that happens and it might as well start on Saturday.

  5. Little Baron

    Stating the fact that UL is projected to win by 15, based on performances to date, does NOT make the author of the article negative or “danny downer”. Such an insinuation is inaccurate and unfair. The author has labored to prepare a mathematical analysis to project the winner, based on past results. It’s clear that our WildCats have not yet lived up to their pre-season hype, and obviously every fan in the Big Blue Nation, including the author, are wanting to see this team blossom into another Title contender.

    I am very concerned about this game, and yet, as always, whenever UK steps on the floor, I anticipate a win! Somehow, I can never picture anything but a W when the CATS take the floor. I hope the players have such a vision, and then play up to such expectations.

    This team has more potential than any team in the land. I believe the absence of Harrow, so quickly after the season started, is a major factor in this team’s slower than anticipated improvement and gelling into a team. Goodwin had to play PG for several games, which limited his time at SG, and freshmen need consistency in every aspect of their game to develop without any glitches along the way. Now that Harrow has some experience leading this team, I hope they all bring their best game Saturday so we can knock off the Cards and send a message that these CATS are ready for the SEC.

    GO BIG BLUE!!!

  6. Kokamo Joe

    It is a contest between two systems. Calipari preaches the one and done. Pitino takes kids who are not top ten recruits and develops their talent over two to four years. Both have great athletes. I doubt that Russ Smith will be a big time professional, but he is a better college player right now than Goodwin. UL may lose some to the draft this year, but UK will lose 3 and possibly four. Next year UL will be loaded with experienced talent plus 5 new comers, and UK will have the best talent in the land and they will be freshmen. So far Calipari’s system is winning. Don’t count UK out this year. If they can beat UL they will jump into the rankings again and they sail into the SEC where they should dominate. If UL loses the go to the tough Big East where they are sure to lose some games and fall in the rankings. By the end of the season I would not be surprised to find UK ranked higher and receiving a higher seed in the NCAA tournament.

  7. TheProfessor


    UK scored its 77 points in 72 possessions [1.07 ppp] for the game, and LOUISVILLE scored its 80 points on 71 possessions [1.13 ppp].

    Kentucky won the boards, with a rebounding edge 39-36, and Kentucky won the offensive glass with a 12-11 offensive rebounding advantage. LOUISVILLE converted its 11 second chance possessions into 13 second chance points while Kentucky converted their 12 second chance possessions to score 16 second chance points. LOUISVILLE had an offensive efficiency of 0.944 ppp on its 71 first chance possessions and 1.182 ppp for its 11 second chance possessions. UK had 0.847 ppp on its 72 first chance possessions and 1.333 ppp on its 12 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 32.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while LOUISVILLE was able to convert 28.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

    UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 11-23[47.8%]. LOUISVILLE made 17-25 [68.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 28-59 overall [48.3%] and 10-21from long range [47.6%]. For LOUISVILLE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 27-55[49.1%] and from long range, LOUISVILLE hit 3-7 [42.9%].

    The Cats who committed 15 turnovers, one for every 4.8 possessions. The Cats forced 9 LOUISVILLE turnovers, one for every 7.9 possessions.

    Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 15 point UK loss, 76-61 at a pace of 70 possessions for UK and 70 possessions for Louisville. The final score was 80 (76) to 77 (61) at a pace of 72 possessions for the Cats and 71 possessions for LOUISVILLE. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.069 ppp (0.871 ppp) and the UK defensive efficiency was 1.127 ppp (1.068 ppp).

  8. gpm61


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