The state of Kentucky sits restless with excitement—not because Christmas is on the horizon, but out of anticipation for a basketball game. Saturday, December 27, is going to be a clash of titans. Unbeaten Kentucky takes on unbeaten Louisville. Here are some pregame notes on one of the biggest games in the history of the Kentucky-Louisville series.
-This is the 48th Kentucky-Louisville game. Kentucky leads the series, 32-15
– 15th time that both teams are ranked heading into the game (13th in the regular season)
– 5th time that both teams are ranked in the top 10 heading into the game
-1st time that both teams are unbeaten heading into game
-In his tenure at Kentucky, John Calipari is 6-1 versus Rick Pitino and Louisville
-If Louisville WINS its next 1062 games, it will still have a LOWER all-time win percentage than UK.
-If Louisville WINS its next 250 games and UK LOSES its next 250 games, Louisville will still have a LOWER all-time win percentage than UK.
– Kentucky and Louisville are among the best defensive teams in the country. Kentucky ranks second nationally in scoring defense (47.7 ppg) while Louisville ranks eighth (54.3 ppg).
-Both teams are good rebounding teams. Louisville and Kentucky rank 9th and 10th, respectively in rebound margin.
-Both teams have had their fair share of blowouts. Kentucky has won all 12 games by double digits, while Louisville has won 10 of 11 by double digits. Kentucky ranks first nationally in scoring margin (29.1 ppg); Louisville ranks seventh (22.7 ppg).
-Neither squad is a good shooting team. Kentucky shoots 31.4% from 3-point land, while Louisville shoots a dismal 27.5%. Despite this poor shooting, Louisville jacks up more than 20 threes per game, while Kentucky shoots about 17 per game.
-Kentucky gets the bulk of its buckets in the paint. Louisville generates much of its scoring from Montrezl Harrell dunks and a full court press that forces turnovers.
What to expect
-Lots of fouls. In their last seven matchups, Kentucky and Louisville have combined to average 42.3 fouls per game. Neither team averages more than 18. Due to the intense nature of a rivalry game and the physical styles of play that both teams use, plenty of fouls can be expected.
-Low field goal percentages. High-foul games tend to have poor shooting performances; it’s hard for either team to find rhythm when the game is interrupted by so many fouls.
-Balanced scoring attack from Kentucky. UK has seven players averaging at least 7.7 points per game (and nine players averaging at least 10 points per 40 minutes).
-Louisville shooting consolidated to four guys. Louisville has four players averaging at least 12 points per game. After that is a drop-off. Their fifth-leading scorer accumulates less than 5 ppg.
Advantages and Disadvantages for each team.
-YUM Center- Louisville has only lost two home games to nonconference opponents since the YUM Center opened (fun fact: those two teams are Kentucky and Drexel). Their home court advantage is BIG.
-UK plays a near impenetrable half-court man defense. Opponents are most likely to score against the Wildcats if they make deep threes and get some fast break opportunities
-Louisville plays a physical, pesky, incredibly effective full court press. Once the ball reaches the free throw line, they switch into some quasi 1-3-1 trap zone. Good, disciplined teams can score somewhat effectively against Louisville if they get the ball up the court.
-If and when foul trouble comes into play, Kentucky has the advantage. They are deeper than Louisville with 11 healthy players who can provide valuable minutes at any time.
-A game with a lot of fouls also provides an advantage for Louisville. Kentucky relies more on half-court offense than Louisville. A game with no rhythm will hurt Kentucky’s shooting more than Louisville’s, who will get more points off of turnovers and transition offense.
-Louisville has less room for error. The Cardinals have just four scoring threats. If one or two of them have a poor shooting performance, get hurt, get in foul trouble, or punch a UK player, the Cards are in trouble. If one or two UK players don’t show up, they have roughly 8 other guys who can score points and maintain the defense that has propelled the Wildcats all season.
As for predictions, I will let the fans and media speculate on that. If you have any comments, leave them here or tweet to @UK_CatFacts.