2013-14 Season Analytical Writings

Cats and Cards-Take Two

When the modern rivalry between the Cats and Cards was forced upon the Big Blue Nation, the NCAA and CBS Sports played a huge role in setting the stage for the game by placing the two in state teams on a collision course in the NCAA Tournament. However, these conspirators did not succeed with their devious designs at first, but in 1983, the collision occurred, and the rivalry was on. The rivalry has been a once per year event ever since, but on two occasions, the post-season collisions occurred again. Ironically, the team met again in the 1984 NCAA Tournament. Two years ago, the teams met in the Final Four.

Now, for the second time in three years, these teams will collide in Indianapolis in the Sweet 16. In 1984, the Cats defeated the Cards in their regular season encounter at Rupp, and turned the trick a second time in the tournament. In 2012, the Cats defeated the Cards in Rupp, and turned the trick a second time in the National Semifinals. This year, the Cats defeated the Cards in Rupp. Can they turn the trick again in this year's NCAA for their third consecutive “double-double” against the Cards? The entire Commonwealth has been buzzing about this matchup since Sunday when the Cats sent Louisville home with their first and only loss of this entire season. Cat fans that I hear in this chatter are confident that the Cats will prevail again. Card fans that I hear in this chatter are confident that the Cards will prevail this time, on their trip of destiny with a second consecutive NCAA Championship. Both sides of this family argument have their points and counter points, but we all know the family argument, the art of debate, will not resolve this issue. The only resolution of this argument can occur on the court in Indianapolis on Friday night

In December when these teams engaged in the annual battle at Rupp, the Cards came into the game with an adjusted Net Game Efficiency of 0.326 points per possession, and the Cats had posted an adjusted NGE of 0.226 ppp. However, the venue was Rupp Arena, and the home court advantage tipped the scales in the Cats favor by 1 point, 74-73, for the NGE pregame analysis. The final score was 73-66 in the Cats' favor. As the teams prepare for this rematch, the Cards' adjusted Net Game Efficiency is almost an identical 0.327 ppp, but the Cats' slippage in February has reduced the team's adjusted NGE to 0.207 ppp. When these new efficiencies work with a neutral venue, the gap between the Cats and Cards can't be bridged, and the Cards enter the game as the favorite. The NGE analysis produces an 8 point predicted margin, 75-67 in the Cards' favor. Pomeroy sees the game as a 5 point margin in the Cards' favor, 73-68. The Vegas line opened in Louisville's favor by 5 ½ points, but the line has been slipping to 4 ½ points as of Wednesday evening, 72-67 ½.

If there is a flaw in these analytical models, it is that they are based on the complete body of work for each team, and they cannot account for the surge that has clearly been occurring over the last five games. On the season, the Cats posted an adjusted NGE of 0.256 ppp, but for road games, the team's efficiency dropped to only 0.024 ppp. During the regular season, at neutral court venues, the adjusted NGE was a modest 0.076 ppp. However, in the post season, all neutral court games, the team's adjusted NGE has been an impressive 0.238 ppp. This post season efficiency is evidence of the surge that this team has been displaying.

The relationship between home, away, and neutral venue adjusted efficiency and the season long average for all venues that Kentucky has posted this season is consistent with most teams and most seasons. Therefore, it is likely that Louisville's adjusted NGE for neutral court games is below their 0.327 ppp season average. This probability, together with the surge that this UK team has been experiencing work together to make this game much closer than any of the analytical models can envision.

Again, it is not possible to know whether these factors are sufficient to propel the Cats to victory over the Cards in this NCAA rematch, but I like the Cats' chances. All of that being said, I remain committed to reporting the NGE analysis for this game in the same manner as I always have, i.e. strictly in accordance with the same process and criteria that I have used throughout this and recent seasons.

Louisville will bring an overall record of 31-5 overall record into this Sweet 16 encounter with the Kentucky Wildcats. Louisville's schedule has not been as difficult as the UK schedule. Among the 31 wins, 22 have come at the expense of teams with Pomeroy ratings of 100 or higher, and 18 of those opponents are rated at #150 or lower. That leave 14 games against teams rated in the top 100, but of those, 12 have been against top 50 opponents with a record of 7-5 in those 12 games. However, none of Louisville's opponents have a Pomeroy rating better than the Cats, currently #13. The five losses have occurred on a neutral court once (#27 North Carolina by 9), on the road twice (#13 Kentucky by 7 and #39 Memphis by 6), and at home twice (#39 Memphis by 6 and #26 Cincinnati by 3).

The Cards' schedule has had a strength of 0.5887 (101 st ). LOUISVILLE has averaged 69 to 70 possessions per game, scoring 84.1ppg (1.164 ppp) and allowing 60.7 ppg (0.874 ppp). LOUISVILLE has turned the ball over on 15.1% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 25.0% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, LOUISVILLE has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 37.2% about 8% above the 29% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 67.6%, about 1.5% below the NCAA average.

In contrast, the Cats have averaged 68 possessions per game, producing 75.4 ppg (1.109 ppp) and allowing 66.4 ppg (0.981 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 18.0% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 16.1% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 42.0% and 70.5% on the offensive and defensive ends against a schedule strength of 0.7144 (#8).

Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Louisville by 8 points, 75-67 in a game played at a pace of 69 possessions for the Cats and 69 possessions for LOUISVILLE. Pomeroy has this game in Louisville's favor by 5 points, 73-68 in a game played at a pace of 68 possessions.

See how other Big Blue Fans see this game's likely outcome by clicking the following link.

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Game Summary:

Coach Calipari stays with the all freshmen starting lineup with Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle, James Young, Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison, to start the game. Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Hawkins, Lee, and Polson will probably see action off the bench. The big unknown for this game is the tweak that Coach Calipari has teased the media with all week long, and can the Cats begin to find the level of play that the entire BBN has been waiting to see all season. Despite having a hyper-extended elbow late in the Kansas State game, Andrew Harrison is prepared to give it the old college try and play in this most important game of his young career. Louisville starts Harrell (6-8), Van Treese (6-10), Hancock (6-6), Jones (5-10), and Smith (6-1)

Kentucky controls the tip, but fail to score on the first possession. However, the Cats do get the first score off a Louisville turnover. Louisville responds with back to back baskets before James Young's baseline jumper ties the score at 4-4. Then Louisville made 1 of 2 free throws and a 3 pointers to move on top by 4, 8-4, prompting Coach Calipari to take an early timeout. In the first 3 minutes, the Cats are shooting poorly, 2-8, while the Cards have made 3 of their first 4 shots in building this early lead. Out of the timeout, the Cats turn the ball over on the inbounds pass, and the Cards regain possession with the 8-4 lead at the under 16 media timeout with 15:52 remaining in the first half.

The Cards get a put back basket to go up by 6, and then Hancock commits his second foul of the game, but Young missed his first free thow, so the Cats can only trim 1 point from the lead. After Louisville makes 1 of 2 free throws in response following two more offensive rebounds, the Cats fail to get the ball inbounds for their second turnover on inbound plays. Smith responds with a 3 pointer to put the Cards up 9, 14-5. The Cats miss another 3 pointer, and turn the ball over a third time, and the Cards get a run out basket to go up 16-5, forcing Coach Calipari to take another timeout. Out of the timeout, the Cats commit their 4 th turnover, and Louisville makes them pay to go up 18-5, forcing Calipari to take his third timeout in less than 8 minutes. After the timeout, the Cats miss yet again, but the Cards miss a three pointer. The Cats bring the second segment to a close with a foul on Blackshear which will give the Cats the ball after the under 12 media timeout with the score standing at 18-5. In the third segment, the Cats hold the Cards to 3 points on 6 possessons while the Cats score 9 and trim the lead from 13 to 7, 21-14 at the under 8 media timeout. After the timeout, Andrew Harrison will have a pair of free throws with a chance trim the lead to 5 points.

Through the first 12+ minutes, the Cats are making 27% of their shots and only 1-7 from long range while the Cards are shooting 50% including 2-4 from long range. The Cats have 5 turnovers to 4 for the Cards. The Cats do cut it to 5, but they can't draw any closer, as Louisville force two more Kentucky turnovers, combined with 2-7 shooting, to a 9 point lead, 29-20, at the under 4 media timeout. The Cats have the ball with 3:48 remaining in the first half.

The Cats get their second 3 pointer to trim the lead to 6, but Louisville responds with a basket by Harrell. The Cats then get their 3 rd 3 pointer to trim the lead to 5 again. Louisville responds with 1 of 2 free throws, and Dakari Johnson cuts the lead to 4. On the next possession, Harrell draws a charging foul, his 3 rd foul of the game. In the frantic closing seconds, the Cats cut the Louisville lead to a single point, 32-31, and Randle missed a free throw that would have tied the score. Russ Smith closes the first half scoring and the Cats go to the locker room down 3, 34-31 at the half. After falling behind by 13, at 18-5, the Cats outscored the Cards 26-16 over the final 11 minutes and final 16 possessions of the first half.

UK scored its 31 points on 32 possessions for the half, and LOUISVILLE scored its 34 points on 31 possessions. Kentucky won the battle of the boards 22-19, and UK won the offensive glass, 10-7. Kentucky converted its 10 second chance possessions to score 10 second chance points, and LOUISVILLE used its 7 second chance possession to score 5 second chance points. LOUISVILLE had an efficiency of 0.935 ppp for its 31 first chance possessions, and 0.714 ppp for its 7-second chance possession. UK had 0.656 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 10 second chance possessions. The Cats managed to grab 45.5% of their misses as offensive rebounds while LOUISVILLE managed to get 36.8% of their misses for second chance possessions.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this half, making 8-11 [72.7]. LOUISVILLE was 6-15 [40.0%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 10-30 overall [33.3%] and 3-11 from long range [27.3%]. For LOUISVILLE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 11-18 [61.1%] and from long range, LOUISVILLE hit 2-8 [25.0%].

The Cats committed 7 turnovers in the first half, one for each 4.6 possessions. LOUISVILLE committed 5 turnovers in this first half, one for each 6.2 possessions.

Second Half

Willie Cauley-Stein will not return to this game after suffering an ankle injury in the first half. Louisville opens the second half with Hancock draws the third foul on Young. Then, Aaron Harrison draws the third foul on Van Treese. The Cats pull to within 1 point again, 36-35, but three straight possessions with a chance to take the lead come up dry. Hancock then drives to the basket to lift the Cards back on top by 3 at the under 16 media timeout, 38-35. In the second segment, Andrew Harrison takes the ball to the hoop following a Louisville miss and gets fouled, but he only makes one of two free throws. Following another Louisville miss, Randle drives to the rim from the left side to tie the score at 38-38 prompting a Louisville timeout with 14:44 remaining in the game. This is the first tie since 4-4 with 17:41 remaining in the first half. At that point, the Cards went on a 14-1 run, and the Cats have been digging out of that hole ever since. Out of the timeout, Hancock gets to the rim on a baseline drive, and that was the beginning of a 10-4 Louisville run to put the Cards back on top by 6, 48-42, forcing Coach Calipari to take another timeout with 12:40 remaining in the game. Andrew Harrison makes a baseline jump shot to slow down the Louisville momentum, but the Cards maintain that 6 point lead on a second chance basket prior to the under 12 media timeout with 11:13 remaining and the score 50-44.

In the second segment, the Cats scored 9 points on 8 possessions, but Louisville used its 8 possessions to score 12 points which lifted the lead from 3 to 6 points. After the timeout, Andrew Harrison took it into the paint on back to back possessions, challenging the foul laden Louisville big men, and cut the lead to 2, 50-48, and Coach Pitino called a timeout with 9:47 remaining. After the timeout, the Cards move back on top by 6, 56-50 at the under 8 media timeout with 7:30 remaining in the game, and the Cards will have the ball after this timeout. With the Cards leading by 5, 62-57, Young fouls out with 5:32 remaining in the game. At the under 4 media timeout, the Cards maintain their 5 point lead, 66-61, and the Cats will have the first possession of the last segment.

The Cats put the ball in Randle's hands, and he takes Van Treese to the basket to score. When Hancock turns the ball over, Louisville's 9 th of the game, Pitino takes a timeout with his team on top of the Cats by 3, 66-63 with 2:51 to play. The Cats struggle through the next possession, but Alex Poythress gets an offensive rebound, scores and completes the 3 point play to tie the score at 66-66 with 2:13 remaining in the game. Louisville missed a 3, and the Cats missed the drive after the miss. Louisville turned the ball over, and Alex Poythress gets fouled with 2 shots to give the Cats the lead with 1:26 remaining, and Harrell goes to the bench with his 5 th foul. He makes the second of two to give the Cats their first lead since 2-0. Russ Smith answers with a 10 foot floater, but Aaron Harrison hits a 3 pointer from the left corner to give the Cats a 2 point lead, 70-68, and Coach Pitino takes a timeout with 31.5 seconds remaining in the game, and 28 seconds left on the shot clock. Louisville missed, but in the scramble for the rebound, the ball goes out of bounds, and the officials give possession to Louisville. But, in the final 2 minutes, the officials can review the possession. The officials award the ball to Louisivlle. On the inbounds Randle fouls Blackshear. He missed the first and made the second to cut the lead to a single point with 14.2 seconds to play. When Aaron Harrison had trouble finding a teammate for the inbounds pass, Kentucky uses their next to last timeout, leaving each team with one. Van Treese immediately fouls Randle, who will have two shots, and Van Treese has fouled out with 13.0 seconds remaining.

Randle made them both, and Russ Smith missed on a 3 pointer to tie the game, and Aaron Harrison was fouled with 2.3 seconds remaining. He makes them both, and the Cats win by 5, 74-69.


UK scored its 74 points in a total of 64 possessions (1.156 ppp) for the game, and LOUISVILLE scored its 69 points on a total of 63 possessions (1.095 ppp). Kentucky won the battle of the boards with a 36-29 advantage, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 15-11 Kentucky used its 15 second chance possessions to score 18 second chance points, and LOUISVILLE converted their 11 offensive rebounds into 10 second chance points. LOUISVILLE had an offensive efficiency of 0.937 ppp on its 63 first chance possessions and 0.909 ppp for its 11 second chance possessions. UK had 0.875 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 1.200 ppp on its 15 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 45.55% of its misses as offensive rebounds while LOUISVILLE was able to convert 34.4%, of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit very well from the free throw line in this game, making 22-27 [81.5%]. LOUISVILLE made 13-23 [56.5%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 24-55 overall [43.6%] and 4-14 from long range [28.6%]. For LOUISVILLE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 22-38 [57.9%] and from long range, LOUISVILLE hit 4-15 [26.7%].

The Cats committed 12 turnovers, one for every 5.3 possessions. The Cats forced 10 LOUISVILLE turnovers, one for every 6.3 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: The Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament as the #8 seed in the Midwest Region against the #2 Seed Michigan Wolverines on Sunday afternoon, March 30, 2014.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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