2014-15 Season Analytical Writings

Cats and Cards

Over the last 5 seasons, Coach Calipari has led his Kentucky basketball program to an Elite 8, a Semi-Final, and two Championship games, delivering the Program its 8th National Championship in 2012. Only once during that span did his team fail to advance to at least the Elite 8, and when the heart and soul of the 2013 team, Nerlens Noel went down about midway through the SEC season in 2013, the Cats' hopes for another NCAA run went down with him. Over that same span, Pitino's Cards have flamed out twice in first round losses (2010 and 2011), lost the Cats in the NCAA Final Four (2012), won the Championship in the Cats' only off season (2013), and lost to the Cats in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2014.

That is five final four appearances and two National Championships split between these two rivals over the last 5 years. This competitive dance is not over, and 2015 could produce another year in which the Cats and Cards not only play their traditional home-and-home rivalry game in late December, but also see them collide again in March, or even April.

The 2014-15 season will see the rivalry game move back to Louisville's Yum Center. The Cats and the Cards, again highly ranked, have moved through their non-conference schedules without a defeat for either program. The Cats will enter the Yum Center at 12-0 and the Cards will be defending their 11-0 record on Saturday, December 27, 2014 as these programs meet for the 8th time in the 6 seasons since Coach Calipari arrived to lead the Cats. Entering this game, the Cats stand proud as the nation's most efficient basketball team and Louisville is not far behind as the nation's 5th most efficient team. Both teams have achieved these ratings based on defensive efficiencies that are heretofore unheard. The Cats raw defensive efficiency is 0.723 ppp while Louisville's is just behind at 0.750 ppp. The Cats' offense has been stronger than the Cards, and the Cats have played a more difficult schedule thus far than the Cards.

Kentucky. Louisville.

Cats. Cards.

Calipari. Pitino.

These names represent the very best that College basketball has provided the nation over the last several years, and when these teams meet, the outcome is never certain prior to the game. This year is no different. This year's installment in this rivalry to rival all college rivalries will be played on Saturday afternoon at the Chicken Shack.

The Cats have traversed its 12 non-conference games without a blemish. They have played ten of these games at Rupp, and two games on neutral courts. The Cats have won these 12 games by an average margin of over 29 points, and every game has ended with victory margin of at least 10 points. The Cats' non-conference schedule, leading to this encounter with the Cards has included Kansas, Providence, Texas, North Carolina, and UCLA. Add to the mix the 7 other opponents, and the Kentucky schedule has been tougher than most pre-conference schedules, 0.5682, the nation's 100th toughest schedule as of December 25.

The Cats and Cards do not have a common opponent leading into this game. The Cards have cruised through their schedule to an 11-0 record, winning by an average margin of about 23 points. The closest an opponent has come to the Cards thus far has been 9 points on two occasions. The Cards beat #13 Ohio State by 9, 64-55, and #121 Western Kentucky played the Cards to a 9 point margin, 76-67. The Cards' schedule has been one of the weaker schedules for a national title contender, 0.4135 #277, and of the current top 20 teams, only Ohio State, at 0.3896 (#303) has played a weaker November and December schedule than the Cards.

On December 27, these teams will meet in Louisville for the 2014 edition of the “Dream Game.”

LOUISVILLE has played its first 11 games at an average tempo of about 72 possessions per game, scoring 77.3 ppg (1.069 ppp) and allowing an average 54.4 ppg (0.750 ppp). LOUISVILLE has turned the ball over on 19.4% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 26.2% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, LOUISVILLE has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 40.2% about 8% above the 32% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 69.0%.

In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 66 to 67 possessions per game, producing 76.8 ppg (1.15 ppp) and allowing 47.5 ppg (0.72 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 16.8% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 25.7% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 45.5% and 66.5% on the offensive and defensive ends.

Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of KENTUCKY by 4 points, 66-62 in a game played at a pace of 70 possessions for the Cats and 69 possessions for LOUISVILLE. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 6 points, 62-56 at a pace of 68 possessions. The March towards March in Search of Perfection will continue Saturday afternoon in the KFC Yum Center against rival Louisville.

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

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Game Summary:

The starting players for the LOUISVILLE game are Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison. Platoon 2 consists of Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis, Coach Calipari has said he will leave one player from the starting five in the game rather than insert Derek Willis into the initial platoon rotation. That leaves Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins and E. J. Floreal to provide deep reserve help should the game require Coach Calipari to go to his 10 th , 11 th or 12 th players.

The Cats win the opening tip, and score on their first possession on a put back bach Karl-Anthony Towns. The Cards tie the score at 2, and again at 6, but the Cats ride 5-10 early shooting to a 10-6 lead at the under 16 media timeout with 14:37 remaining and UL in possession of the ball. In the second segment, the second platoon struggles to put the ball in the basket, but they also do not allow Louisville to score, and Coach Calipari brings the first platoon back. Louisville makes the game's first 3 pointer to pull to within 1 point, 10-9, at the under 12 media timeout with 10:45 remaining in the first half.

In the first 9 minutes, the pace has been in the mid 60s. The Cats have committed 5 turnover and the Cards have 4. However, the Cats committed 3 in the second segment, while the Cars protected their possessions in the second segment without a turnover. The Cats are shooting 36% and the Cards 33%. In the third segment, each team managed 2 points on their limited possessions. The Cats are clinging to the smallest of leads, 1 point, 12-11 at the under 8 media timeout with Louisville in possession and 7:44 remaining in the half.

In the 4 th segment, the Cards move into the lead for the first time today, 13-12, but the Cats respond with their first 3 pointer, by Aaron Harrison, to lift the Cats back on top, now by 2 points, 15-13. The open 3 pointer draws a quick timeout by Rick Pitino with 5:18 remaining. The teams trade baskets to the under4 media timeout with the Cats hanging on to a 2 point lead, 17-15 with 3:46 remaining and the Cards in possession.

In the final segment of the first half, Devin Booker drained a 3 pointer to lift the Cats to their biggest lead of the first half, 4 points, 22-18 at the half.

The first half was played at a pace of 27 to 28 possessions (55 full game pace). The Cats scored its 22 points on 28 possessions (0.79 ppp) and LOUISVILLE scored 18 points on 27 possessions (0.67 ppp). The Cats shot poorly in the first half making 10-27 (37.0%) overall and 2-6 (33.3%) from outside the arc. LOUISVILLE shot extremely poorly for the half, making 5-21 (23.8%) inside the arc, and the Cardinals were 1-6 (16.7%) shooting the ball from outside the arc. From the line, UK did not get to the line, while LOUISVILLE made 5-6 (83.3%). Kentucky won the battle of the boards in the first half, out rebounding LOUISVILLE 23-15 overall. Kentucky also managed to grab 9 offensive rebounds to only 7 for the Cards. The Cats hold a 6-2 advantage in second chance points at the end of the first half. The Cats managed to get 52.9% of its misses, while LOUISVILLE grabbed 33.3% of its misses.

The Cats committed 10 turnovers (35.7%) and forced 4 LOUISVILLE turnovers (14.8%).

Second Half:

The Cards open play in the second half with an empty possession, and the Cats score the first 4 points to move on top by a game high 8 points, 26-18. However, before the game reaches the under 16 media timeout, the Cards score the next 6 points to pull within 2 points, and have the ball after the under 16 media timeout with 15:52 remaining in the game. In the second segment, the teams traded baskets before the Cats forced a Louisville turnover that led to a 3 point play by Karl-Anthony Towns, and the Cats' first free throw opportunity of the game to lift the Cats on top by 5, 31-26. Louisville takes a timeout with 13:42 remaining in the game. At the under 12 media timeout, the Cats continue to cling to a 32-28 lead. At the end of the 3 rd segment, the Cats extend their lead to 7 points, 39-32 on Karl-Anthony Towns free throws and a Tyler Ulis 3 pointer.

After the timeout, Chris Jones pulls the Cards back within 5 points with a pair of free throws, but a Tyler Ulis 3 pointer and a free throw by Aaron Harrison lift the Cats to a 9 point lead. Following a Louisville miss, Tyler Ulis makes another basket to extend the Cats to their first double digit lead of the game, 45-34, prompting a Louisville timeout with 6:17 remaining in the game. In an extended 4 th segment, the Cats extended their lead to a game high 12 points, but at the under 4 media timeout, the Cats' lead stands at 8 points, 50-42 with 2:16 to play in the game, and the Cats in possession.

Out of the timeout, the Cats miss a 3 pointer at the end of the shot clock, and after getting the offensive rebound, Karl-Anthony Towns threw the ball from the corner to the Louisville defender. On the Cards next possession, the Cats fouled a 3 point shooter who will get 3 free throws after a timeout with 1:32 remaining in the game. After a Kentucky timeout, Blackshear missed the first two but trims the lead to 7 points. The Cats finish the job and will leave the Yum Center with a 58-50 win. This is Coach Calipari's 7 th win over Louisville in 8 tries in his 6 years at the helm.


UK scored its 58 points in 58 possessions (1.00 ppp) for the game, and LOUISVILLE scored its 50 points on a total of 59 possessions (0.85 ppp).

Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 46-33, but the Cardinals won the battle for the offensive rebounds 18-17. The Cats won the second chance points 12-7. LOUISVILLE had an offensive efficiency of 0.729 ppp on its 59 first chance possessions and 0.389 ppp for its 18 second chance possessions. UK had 0..793 ppp on its 58 first chance possessions and 0.706 ppp on its 17-second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 53.1% of its misses as offensive rebounds while LOUISVILLE was able to convert 38.3% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 10-14 [71.4%]. LOUISVILLE made 17-24 [70.8%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 21-50 overall [42.0%] and 6-14 from long range [42.9%]. For LOUISVILLE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 12-44 [27.3%] and from long range, LOUISVILLE hit 3-14 [21.4%].

The Cats committed 18 turnovers, one for every 3.2 possessions. The Cats forced 9 LOUISVILLE turnovers, one for every 6.5 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday Evening, January 6, 2015 against Mississippi in the first SEC game of the 2015 season at Rupp Arena.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks

Submitted by Richard Cheeks

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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