2015-16 Season Analytical Writings

Cats – Cards: 2015-16 Edition

It is time for the 2015-16 edition of the Cats and the Cards.

Over the last 6 seasons, Coach Calipari has led his Kentucky basketball program to an Elite 8, two Semi-Final games, and two Championship games, delivering the Program its 8th National Championship in 2012. Over that same span, Pitino's Cards lost the Cats in the NCAA Final Four (2012), won the Championship in 2013, and lost to the Cats in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2014.

That is six final four appearances and two National Championships split between these two rivals over the last 6 years. This competitive dance is not over, and 2016 could produce another year in which the Cats and Cards not only play their traditional home-and-home rivalry game in late December, but could also collide again in late March, or early April.

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 edition of this annual rivalry will play out in the Big Blue confines of Rupp Arena. There is clearly no love lost by either of these programs for the other, and no one should expect this edition to display any reversal from these antagonistic ways.

The Cats finished the first 11 games of their non-conference scheudle with a 9-2 record, sustaining losses at UCLA and against Louisvillein Brooklyn last Saturday. The Cards will enter Rupp Arena on the day after Christmas with an 11-1 record, sustaining their only loss to #5 Michigan State in East Lansing. This season, both programs are again highly ranked, the Cats currently holding the #12 spot and the Cards in the #6 position as they prepare for their grudge match renewal.

On Saturday, December 26, 2015, these programs meet for the 9th time in the 7 seasons since Coach Calipari arrived to lead the Cats. In their first 8 encounters, Calipari has prevailed eight times. The only loss the Cats have sustained during this period was to Pitino's eventual national championship team in 2013.

The Cats and Cards do not have a common opponent leading into this game.

The Cards have cruised through their schedule to an 11-1 record, winning by an average margin of about 30 points. Other than their 4 point loss at Michigan State, the closest an opponent has come to the Cards thus far has been 20 points over St. Louis on a neutral court. The Cards' schedule has been one of the weaker schedules for a national title contender, 0.3303, #331, and of the current top 20 teams, none have played a weaker November and December schedule than the Cards.

The Cats have traversed their schedule to an 9-2 record, winning by an average margin of about 13 points. The Cats' schedule has been representative for a national title contender, 0.5350, #147, and of the current top 20 teams, ten have played a stronger schedule while 9 have played a weaker November and December schedule than the Cats.

On December 26, these teams will meet at Rupp for the 2015 edition of the “Dream Game.”

LOUISVILLE has played its first 12 games at an average tempo of about 69 possessions per game, scoring 86.1 ppg (1.248 ppp) and allowing an average 55.9 ppg (0.811 ppp). LOUISVILLE has turned the ball over on 15.6% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 22.8% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, LOUISVILLE has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 44.3% about 12% above the 32% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 74.8%.

In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 71 possessions per game, producing 78.4 ppg (1.104 ppp) and allowing 65.6 ppg (0.92 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 18.1% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 19.8% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 40.8% and 70.0% on the offensive and defensive ends.

Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Louisville by 5 points, 74-69 in a game played at a pace of 70 possessions for the Cats and 70 possessions for LOUISVILLE. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 1 point, 71-70 at a pace of 69 possessions. Vegas opens with the Cats a 2 ½ point favorite, and that line rose to 3 points at tip off.

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

You can enter your prediction at any time prior to tip off by visiting the 247 Sports prediction thread for this game at:

Game Summary:

Coach Calipari sticks with his starting lineup of Tyler Ulis, Charles Matthews, Jamal Murray, Marcus Lee , and Alex Poythress. In pre-game warmups, Isaiah Briscoe turned an ankle, returned to the locker room for a shoe change, and will not start. Coach Calipari also has decided to bring Skal Labissiere off the bench in this game.

Marcus Lee controlled the opening tip, but the Cats turned the ball over allowing Louisville to score on a fast break. However, the Cats scored the next 6 points that included a 3 pointer by Tyler Ulis, and after the Cards went 1-2 from the line, Tyler Ulis drained his second 3 pointer to lift the Cats to an early 9-3 lead at the under 16 media timeout. The 9 points on 6 possessions, coupled with Louisville's 3 points on 5 possessions represents one of the strongest starts by the Cats this season. In the second segment, the Cats continued their blitz to move on top 13-4, but the Cards began to score, and closed the gap to 3 points, 15-12, at the under 12 media timeout.

In the opening 8 minutes, each team has had 14 possessions. The Cats have 5 turnovers to 3 for UL. Eash team has claimed 6 offensive rebounds, but the Cats have an 8-2 advantage on second chance points. In the third segment, the Cards use 3-5 shooting from outside the arc to move into their first lead, 23-19, prompting a Kentucky timeout with 8:24 remaining in the game.

In the 4 th segment, UL extends their lead to 5, 24-19 before Dominique Hawkins ends the run with a 3 pointer, and then it becomes Alex Poythress time as the Cats go to him inside the lane on three consecutive possessions, producing a basket and 2-4 from the line to pull the Cats back to within 2 points, 28-26 at the under 4 media timeout. After the media timeout, the Cats will have a pair of free throw with an opportunity to pull even with the Cards again. .

With the score tied 30-30, and UL in possession, Jamal Murray commits a foul and Coach Calipari draws a technical foul. Louisville converts all 4 free throws to move back on top by 4, 34-30. Dominique Hawkins answers with his second 3 pointer. Then Dominique Hawkins forces a turnover. Tyler Ulis then drives to the basket from the left wing to lift the Cats back on top, 35-34. Coach Pitino takes a time out following the Ulis basket.

On the ensuing play, Alex Poythress blocks a shot at the rim, and following an offensive rebound at the end by Skal Labissiere, Skal Labissiere was fouled and Coach Pitino received a technical. Ulis made 1 of 2 of the technical tosses, and Skal Labissiere made both. The Cats force two more Louisville turnovers, and move on top 44-36 at the half.

After falling behind 34-30 with the technical foul on Coach Calipari, the Cats turned it on to finish the first half on a 14-2 run, and the Cats will open play in the second half due to a tie up near the end of that run that allowed Louisville to retain its possession but relinquish the possession arrow.

Kentucky scored 44 points on 37 possessions (1.19ppp) while LOUISVILLE scored 36 points on 35 possessions (1.03 ppp). The Cats shot poorly, making 13-30 shots (43.3%), but 5-10 (50.0%) from long range. LOUISVILLE shot the ball poorly, 12-32 overall (37.5%) which included 3-7 (42.9%) from long range. From the line, the Cats were 13-19 (68.4%) while LOUISVILLE was 9-12 (75.0%). The Cats committed 7 turnovers, one for each 5.3 possessions, and the Cats forced LOUISVILLE into 9 turnovers, one for each 3.9 possessions.

On the boards, the Cards won the battle 21-20 and the Cards won the battle on the offensive glass 12-9. The Cats converted their 9 second chance opportunities into 11 second chance points while LOUISVILLE used their 12 second chances to score 11 second chance points.

LOUISVILLE had an efficiency of 0.71 ppp on its 35 first chance possessions and 0.917 ppp on its 12 second chance possessions. Kentucky had an efficiency of 0.89 ppp on its 37 first chance possessions and 1.22 ppp on its 9 second chance possession. The Cats grabbed a 52.9% of its misses and LOUISVILLE grabbed 52.2% of its missed shots in the first half.

Second Half:

The Cats open the second half by going deep to Marcus Lee, and following a UL turnover, the Cats return to the paint, this time to Alex Poythress to extend their lead quickly to 12 points, 48-36, forcing Coach Pitino to take a quick timeout. After the timeout, the Cats converted a Louisville turnover and a UL missed shot into two more close in baskets by Alex Poythress to go on top by 16. The Cards stop the Kentucky run on a second chance basket to close to within 14, 52-38 at the under 16 media timeout.

In the second segment, UL began to whittle away at the lead, trimming the lead to 8, 55-47 at the under 12 media timeout. In the third segment, the Cards trimmed the lead to 6 points, 59-53, but Jamal Murray hit his second 3 pointer of the second half to lift the Cats back on top by 9, 62-53 at the under 8 media timeout. Out of the timeout, the Cards bring it back to within 6 points, 65-59, and when the Cats could not get the ball in bounds after a UL basket, takes a timeout. Following a miss, the Cards trim the lead to 4, and following a UK turnover, the Cards cut the lead to 1 point on a 3 pointer. 65-64. Coach Calipari takes a timeout.

Out of the time out, Tyler Ulis drains a 3 pointer, Jamal Murray lobs to Marcus Lee, and Dominique Hawkins hits a 3 pointer to extend the Cats to a 5 point lead, 73-68 at the under 4 media timeout with 2:18 remaining in the game. With the Cats on top by 2 and the Cats in possession inside 1 minute, the Cats fail to get off a shot, turning the ball over to UL with 12.6 seconds remaining. The Cats lead 75-73, and the Cards will have one possession to either tie the game or get into the lead.

The Cards get a 3 point attempt off at the buzzer, but it did not drop. Cats win 75-73.


UK scored its 75 points on 69 possessions for the game, and LOUISVILLE scored its 73 points on 68 possessions.

The Cards won the battle of the boards 39-29, and the Cards controlled the offensive rebounds 21-10. Kentucky used its 10 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points, and LOUISVILLE used its 12 second chance possessions to score 23 second chance points. LOUISVILLE had an offensive efficiency of 0.735 ppp on its 68 first chance possessions and 1.095 ppp for its 21 second chance possessions. UK had 0.928 ppp on its 69 first chance possessions and 1.100 ppp on its 10 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a weak 35.7%of its misses as offensive rebounds while LOUISVILLE was able to convert 52.5% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 16-25 [64.0%]. LOUISVILLE made 15-22 [68.2%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 24-52 overall [46.2%] and 11-23 from long range [47.8%]. For LOUISVILLE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a 23-49 [46.9%] and from long range, LOUISVILLE hit 4-14 [28.6%].

The Cats committed 15 turnovers, one for every 4.6 possessions. The Cats forced 15 LOUISVILLE turnovers, one for every 4.5 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Next Saturday evening against Mississippi at Rupp in the thirteenth regular season and first SEC game of the 2015-16 season .

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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