We are just a few weeks removed from the Cats and Cards doing battle on the gridiron to end the regular season of college football. On Saturday they will take the battle to the basketball court.
This week we have flown our flags a little higher and wore our gear with that little extra boost of pride. This is the Cards and the Cats and it just doesn’t get any bigger in college basketball.
This will be the most anticipated Battle of the Bluegrass in years as it’s the first time ever these teams have played while both being undefeated. It has been the Cats who have won the last 9 out of eleven in this battle head-to-head, but when looking at their entire body of work these teams have had similar success in the last 30 years. A series that started in 1913 these old rivals will meet for the 48th time on Saturday afternoon. Kentucky holds the all-time lead in this series 32-15.
This game was named the #1 OOC game by Sports Illustrated. Here’s what they said:
“Two elite teams meet once again, eternal bragging rights (at least for another year), HoF coaches who can’t stand each other. It’s not always a pretty watch, but it’s compelling TV and the best soap opera in the sport at the moment.”
The Cardinals will be facing one of the best Kentucky teams they’ve ever played. They are only one of two teams in the history of college basketball to feature 9 McDonald’s All-Americans and could end up being one of the best defensive teams rivaling the 2011-2012 Cats. This UK squad has been stopping and blocking every team that’s been put before them this season. They are currently 1st in the country averaging 9 blocks per game and 2nd in the nation in points allowed at a 47.7 average per game.
Kentucky is led in scoring by Aaron Harrison (10.6PPG), Willie Cauley-Stein (10.5PPG, 6.7RPG), Devin Booker (10.0PPG), Dakari Johnson (8.8PPG, 5.8RPG), Karl-Anthony Towns (8.1PPG, 6.6RPG), Trey Lyles (7.9PPG, 5.5RPG), and Andrew Harrison (7.7PPG, 4.2APG). Tyler Ulis is shooting 53% from the three. As a team Kentucky is shooting 47% from the field, 31% from three, and 65% from the free throw line. They are averaging 17 assist, 11 turnovers and 9 steals per game. One chink in the armor is their defensive rebounding. Despite being the tallest team in college basketball they are only averaging 26.6 defensive boards a game that ranks 55th in the country. And only have a +8 rebounding margin.
Kentucky’s 2014-15 OVERALL RANKINGS
-POINTS PER GAME
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
-ASSISTS PER GAME
-FIELD GOAL PCT
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
-BLOCKS PER GAME
-STEALS PER GAME
2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-82.7 ranks 1st
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-114.7 ranks 5th
-Per Kenpom game prediction he has Kentucky winning the game 64-62 based on his indexes.
If there’s one team left on the schedule that could solve the riddle to beating this UK team it’s the Cardinals. Our Cards are also on the verge of having one of the best defenses in their history. They currently rank in the top ten nationally in four key defensive categories POINTS ALLOWED 54.4 per game 8th overall, D REBOUNDS 28.9 per game 9th overall, BLOCKS 7.2 per game 6th overall, and STEALS 10.7 per game good for 4th overall. They are second in defensive efficiency behind Kentucky in Kenpom’s rankings. I think the Louisville defense will have to force this Kentucky team to beat them from deep and force them into taking quick jump shots. I know that this was the way that UNC tried to beat them and they failed miserably because Kentucky hit those shots, but it was the first time UNC had ever played zone. Our Cardinals will be much more effective using the zone to man switches along with better rotation. If the Cardinals can force Kentucky into some bad shots and rebound well defensively it will be half the battle won.
Our Cardinals big four Wayne, Montrezl, Terry, and Chris are going to need their best efforts of the season. And I think we’ll need a surprise game from Mango, Nanu or one of the other freshman off the bench. I have seen a player come out of nowhere to star in these games before and I hope that player is wearing a Cardinal uniform Saturday. Our Cardinals have been really good on the OFFENSIVE BOARDS 44.8 per game good for 3rd overall, and above average in POINTS scoring 77.3 per game good for 34th overall. Of course those things will be crucial Saturday but they will have to improve their efforts in ASSIST currently ranked 149th overall, and FIELD GOAL % currently 151st overall.
Most people think that the key to winning the game on Saturday is for the Cardinals to hit the three point shot and while they will have to hit a few to keep the UK defense honest it is not the be all end all. UK wants teams to jack up the three point shot so they can grab those long rebounds and get out on those fast breaks with their speed and length. For the Louisville offense to be most effective they must attack the UK defense forcing help side and kicking it out to the open man. Attack… Pass… We should be able to get our fair share of offensive rebounds and should get second or third opportunities.
This will be the biggest test of the year for both of these teams. Each has to play to their strengths and attack the others weakness, but as I mentioned above with the player always coming out of nowhere there will be a scenario play out that nobody expected. These rivalry games are packed with emotion and that along with the home crowd will also factor in. I’m looking forward to a great game and a opportunity to knock off a great team. To keep their hopes of a perfect season from happening would go a long way to make up for those heart breaking losses to them recently. And the Cardinals have the chance to keep the home court record in the recent series to 2-1 and on the plus side of things. You must win these games on your home court. I think our guys will be ready. Should be another great one in the series… Go Cards!
The Beak Prediction