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On Saturday in New Orleans, the two programs that hold the most NCAA championships faced off in the CBS Sports Classic. Steve Alford's Bruins got the better of John Calipari's Cats on the strength of strong board work that produced a 20-10 advantage on second chance points, and the game was anything but a “sports classic” as promised by CBS. From the Cats' vantage point, Coach Calipari's 2017-18 team continued its march toward a season of mediocrity, marked by huge swings, game to game, between good effort and pitiful effort.
How will the Cats respond to the embarrassment that UCLA handed them last Saturday? Do these kids even realize that they should be embarrassed? Do they understand the stakes involved in the annual Cats-Cards grudge match? We will find out on Friday afternoon when the Louisville Cardinals enter Rupp Arena for the 2017 version of the Cats and the Cards.
Yes, Cats – Cards; 2017.
This year, this on-going grudge fight will happen at Rupp Arena. There is a long, long history that defines this annual war, and you can review that entire history at the following link:
Suffice it to restate the obvious; these programs do not like one another, and that itself is an understatement of huge proportion. However, this year's version of this intra-state bloodletting marks the end of an Era. Coach Pitino will not be walking in or out of any Rupp Arena tunnels this year, with or without one or more fingers saluting the Rupp Assembly. The book on Coach Pitino's record leading the hated Cards against the Cats has closed. From 2001 through the 2007 season, Pitino earned a 4-2 edge over Tubby Smith. Pitino's fortunes against the Wildcats changed after Tubby left Kentucky, 0-2 against the ill-fated Billy Gillispie, and 2-8 against Coach Calipari. Final record: 4-12. Pitino rode off into the sunset of his career, and historians will now write his story, including this particular chapter.
In the view of this old Cat fan, good riddance!!!!
The end of the Pitino Era is not the only unique aspect of this year's encounter. For the first time since the 2006-7 season, neither team has played well enough to rank in the top 10, efficiency based, at the time of their meeting. However, unlike 2006-7 when both teams were still ranked in the top 20, if not the top 10, this year's encounter will feature two teams ranked outside the top 40. While this matchup, this annual war, this annual grudge match has usually been called the “Dream Game” this year's version must be considered a candidate for the “Nightmare on Main Street” by both fan bases.
The Cards enter this game ranked #40 (ANE) with an ANE of 0.170 ppp and a 10-2 record and the Cats will suit up ranked #45 (ANE) with an ANE of 0.159 ppp and a 9-2 record. The Cards' twelve games have seen two opponents ranked in the top 100, and both of them in the top 50 (Purdue #2 and Seton Hall #29) and the Cards have lost to each. The Cards' next strongest opponent thus far was #117 Indiana (ANE 0.050 ppp), and the remainder of the Cards' schedule to date has been extremely weak with a SOS value of -0.09 ppp. Yes, the Cards have run this table, but in the sense of billiards, the pockets were the size of basketball hoops and the billiard balls were the size of marbles. The Cats' schedule has been stronger, with five opponents out of eleven in the top 100 and two opponents in the top 50 (ETSU #99, Vermont #78, UCLA #70, Virginia Tech #23, and Kansas #5). The Cats lost to Kansas and UCLA and beat Virginia Tech, Vermont, and ETSU for a 1-1 record against top 50 opponents and 3-2 against their top 100 opponents. For opponents outside the top 50, the remainder of the Cats' schedule to date has had a SOS value of -0.03 ppp, which is still weak albeit not as weak as the Cards' overall schedule.
Last season, Louisville entered this game with an ANE of 0.291 points per possession against a strength of schedule of 0.027 ppp, and the Cats entered this game with an ANE of 0.315 ppp against a strength of schedule of -0.016 ppp. Last year, the home court advantage provided the Cards a 3 point pre-game advantage, and the Cards won the game by 3, 73-70. This season, Louisville entered this game with an ANE of 0.170 points per possession against a strength of schedule of -0.029 ppp, and the Cats entered this game with an ANE of 0.159 ppp against a strength of schedule of 0.023 ppp. This season, the home court advantage provides the Cats a 3 point pre-game advantage, 75-72, in a game played at a pace of 75 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.000 ppp and 0.960 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in the Cats' favor by 5 points, 75-70 at a pace of 72 possessions.
Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:
You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link:
Coach Calipari will start Quade Green, Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, and Hamidou Diallo in the starting lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Wenyen Gabriel, and Tai Wynyard will provide the primary bench help. Jarred Vanderbilt remains unavailable and Sacha Killeya-Jones is out today with an ankle injury, and his status is day-to-day.
The Cats control the opening tip and Hamidou Diallo gets a slam dunk to open the scoring. After Quade Green makes a 3 pointer to give the Cats an early 5-0 lead, Louisville scores the next 11 points to go on top 11-5 before Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ends the Louisville run with another 3 pointer. At the under 16 media timeout, Louisville leads 11-8 with 14:16 remaining, and the Cats to get a pair of free throws after the break. Kevin Knox missed the first and made the second, and a second chance basket ties the score at 11-11. Kevin Knox then converts a pair of free throws to lift the Cats back into the lead, 13-11 with 12:16 remaining, and remains the score at the under 12 media timeout with 11:56 remaining.
In the third segment, the Cards scored the first 5 points to move back on top 16-13, but the Cats caught up at 21-21 on Quade Green's second 3 pointer of the game just before the under 8 media timeout. After the timeout, the Cats get four straight points, a pair of free throws and a layup by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to force a Louisville timeout with 5:28 remaining. Neither team scored over the balance of the segment, and the Cats hold a 4 point lead, 25-21, at the under 4 media timeout. Hamidou Diallo will be shooting free throws after the timeout, and he just drew a pair of blanks on his last trip to the line near the end of the 4 th segment.
In the final segment, the Cats continue their run, moving on top 33-21 before Louisville stops the run with a pair of free throws. The Cats finish the first half strong and lead by 14, 41-27, at the half.
The Cats scored 41 points on 37 possessions, 1.108 points per possession, and Louisville managed their 27 points on 36 possessions, 0.750 ppp. The Cats made 40.6% of their first half shots, including 3-6 from outside the arc. LOUISVILLE managed to make 29.7% of their first half shots, including 1-11 from outside the arc.
The Cats committed 5 turnovers in the first half while LOUISVILLE committed 4 turnovers.
The Cats made 12-18 free throws (66.7%) and LOUISVILLE was 4-5 (80.0%) from the line in the first half.
On the Boards, the Cats controlled the boards with a 27-23 advantage, and the Cats and Cards each grabbed 7 offensive rebounds. The Cats used their 7 offensive rebounds to score 6 second chance points while the Cards used its 7 offensive rebounds for 8 second chance points. The Cats secured 30.4% of their misses and allowed LOUISVILLE to grab 25.9% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
Kentucky opens the second half with a basket by Quade Green. PJ Washington gets a basket, Quade Green gets a 3 pointer and a pair of free throws. When Shai Gilgeous-Alexander makes a layup on a drive to put the Cats on top 52-33, Louisville takes a timeout with 16:34 remaining in the game. At the under 16 media timeout, the Cats maintain the same lead as Louisville's Mahmoud commits his 4 th foul and must go to the bench with 4 points and 4 rebounds in 15 minutes of play. After the timeout, the Cats score to move on top by 21 points, 54-33. The Cats move out to a 23 point lead briefly, 58-35. The lead is 22, 60-38 at the under 12 media timeout with 11:52 remaining in the game, and the Cats having possession of the ball.
After the timeout, it is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander time. He made a pair of free throws, and then on back to back steals, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored fast break baskets, completing the second one for a 3 point play to lift the Cats to a 29 point lead, 67-38. When Louisville makes 1 of 2 free throws, they stop a run by the Cats of 28-11 to start the second half.
At the under 8 media timeout, the Cats lead by 32, 76-44, and at the under 4 media timeout, the lead is 31 points, 86-55.
Cats win by 35, 90-61.
The Cats continue to have wide swings in effort, game-to-game, and today's effort against Louisville is clearly the best team effort of the season.
UK scored its 90 points on 73 possessions (1.233 ppp) for the game, and LOUISVILLE scored its 61 points on 72 possessions (0.847 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 44-37, but the Cards won the battle of the offensive glass, 13-12. Kentucky used its 12 second chance possessions to score 12 second chance points, and LOUISVILLE used its 13 second chance possessions to score 15 second chance points. LOUISVILLE had an offensive efficiency of 0.639 ppp on its 72 first chance possessions and 1.154 ppp for its 13 second chance possessions. UK had 1.069 ppp on its 73 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 12 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 33.3% 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 well from the free throw line in this game, making 24-30 [80.0%]. LOUISVILLE made 10-13 [76.9%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 30-62 overall [48.4%] and 6-13 from long range [46.2%]. For LOUISVILLE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 21-44 [47.7%] and from long range, LOUISVILLE hit 3-25 [12.8%].
The Cats committed 11 turnovers, one for every 6.6 possessions. The Cats forced 11 LOUISVILLE turnovers, one for every 6.5 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Sunday evening at Rupp Arena against Georgia for the thirteenth regular season game and first SEC game of the 2017-18 season.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks