Kentucky-Louisville Game Preview

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.

Derek Anderson dunks on Louisville (


Historical significance

-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.


Current standing

– 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.

Louisville Cardinals Men’s Basketball team, 1914. (wikipedia)

-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.

Kentucky Basketball has had One-and-Dones Since Before Your Grandma was Born

“They had it before you, they had it during you, they’ll have it when you’re gone.”  This quote about Kentucky’s basketball tradition was said by former Marquette coach Al McGuirre.  Kentucky no doubt has tradition.  They have the most wins and highest winning percentage of any program ever.  They’ve won a championship with 5 different coaches in 5 different decades.  They’ve produced more NBA players than any other program.  Now, however, there are those who believe that Kentucky is losing its basketball tradition due to the route its program has taken to find success in recent years.

Several top programs outside of Kentucky have also taken this controversial route, considered in a way as a “youth movement”, beginning in 2006.  That year, the NBA decided it would be THAT much better if its worst teams drafted 19 year-olds instead of 18 year-olds.  Because of this, schools like Kentucky get to have young, elite talents for one year, when in the past they wouldn’t have had that luxury.

Kentucky’s Fab Frosh of 2012 (photo credit: ESPN)

While those affected by it usually end up in the NBA, this rule has changed the landscape of college basketball since its implementation.  Only two freshman have won the Naismith POY Award, but both happened since the rule took effect (Durant-2007, Anthony Davis-2012).  Additionally, about 20% of the 1st Team All-Americans since 2006 have been freshman.  In 2012, Kentucky’s roster was dominated by freshmen and they won the national championship.  3 of those freshmen were drafted a couple months later.  All of these players (Durant, Davis, the All-Americans and Kentucky’s super frosh) have one thing in common: they went pro after one year in college, and would have been drafted out of high school had no rule prevented it.

Kentucky is currently the ultimate school for one-and-done players, as John Calipari is there.  Calipari has produced 10 one-and-done players in the four years he’s been at UK.  Whether you love or hate his tactics of recruiting the best players, he has produced the nation’s most exciting team in 2010 (including a 32-3 record), a Final Four team in 2011 and a national title team in 2012 that won a record 38 games.  One-and-done players have certainly served the Kentucky program well.  Before Calipari was at UK and even before the one-year rule was put in place, Kentucky had one-and-dones.  Kentucky was, in fact, the first to do it.  The following are Kentucky’s first one-and-done players.

1935- Leroy Edwards  The world was way different back then: People read books for enjoyment.  Germany was trying to take over the world.  British tennis players could actually win Wimbledon.  In the college basketball world, players stayed with their teams throughout their entire eligibility periods and went pro in things other than sports.  This changed when a left-handed post player, nicknamed “Cowboy”, left Kentucky after one varsity season to play in the National Basketball League (precedent to the NBA).

LeRoy Edwards (photo credit: wikipedia)

Also known by his birth name, Leroy Edwards, the 6’5” center dominated opponents during his singular season with the Wildcats.  He scored 343 points in 21 games, which was at the time an unheard-of amount.  This includes a 34 point game against Creighton, which broke the NCAA record at the time.  In his one season, Edwards was voted a consensus 1st Team All-American, in addition to being named the Helms National Player of the Year.  After realizing that he had a bright future in basketball, Edwards decided it was worth his while to make money playing basketball instead of getting a college degree.

Edwards went on to become the first great professional basketball player.  In an 11-year career, Cowboy won 3 league scoring titles in addition to earning 3 MVP awards.  Edwards finished his career 2nd all-time on the NBDL scoring list.  Other career highlights include being the reason for the implementation of the 3 second rule, and being a better basketball player than legends John Wooden and George Mikan.  His decision to leave Kentucky after one year of varsity basketball was a great choice.

1943- Paul Noel  In the midst of World War II, freshmen were eligible to play varsity basketball at the Division I level.  Paul Noel played 20 games in the 1942-43 season as a key rebounder who defended multiple positions.  After his freshman season, Noel left UK to go help take care of his ill father and the family farm.  Soon after, however, Noel was drafted by the New York Knicks.  He played three seasons in New York and two in Rochester.  He was a member of Rochester’s 1951 NBA championship team.

Paul Noel (photo credit:

After Noel’s basketball career ended, he continued his life as an overall stud.  He was a successful entrepreneur, as he owned a drugstore in his home town.  He later became the town’s mayor and his policies helped make Versailles, Kentucky a beautiful, affluent town.  As a star athlete, successful businessman and endeared public figure, Paul Noel was the man.

1961- Roger Newman  Like Edwards and Noel, Newman played just one year of collegiate basketball.  His case was a bit different, however, as Newman’s lone year was as a senior in college.  Part of this late start was attributed to his lack of interest in basketball (source: Greg Doyel’s Kentucky Wildcats, Where Have You Gone?).  A 6’4” guard/forward, Newman was an all-around player in college, averaging 14 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.  In his final game as a wildcat, Newman scored 31 points against top-ranked Ohio State.  The man guarding him: John Havlicek.  The same John Havlicek who was the top perimeter defender during the Celtics’ dynasty era.  I wonder if ole John ever told his kids about the time he got lit up on defense by some first-year player with an apathy for the game.

Roger Newman (photo credit:

After his season at UK, Newman was drafted to the NBA for the second time, by Syracuse.  The previous year, he was drafted by the Celtics, making Newman one of the first players to be selected in the NBA draft without playing in a collegiate game.  While Newman was one of the most talented and athletic players that Adolph Rupp coached in the 60’s, and had the opportunity to become an NBA star, he ended his basketball career at the collegiate level.  Roger Newman may have played his first season at a later age than most, but he still a one-and-done.

1971- Tom Payne  Better known for becoming the first black player in Kentucky basketball history, Tom Payne was a physically imposing post player with endless potential.  At UK, Payne made a big splash as the team’s starting Center.  He finished the season with averages of 17 points and 10 rebounds per game.  He was named First Team All-SEC and entered the NBA via the Hardship rule.  Payne was drafted 2nd overall in the 1971 Hardship Draft by Atlanta.

Tom Payne in prison (Photo Credit:

Despite all the opportunity and big dreams, Payne’s career ended abruptly.  Soon after his first professional season, Payne was arrested and convicted of rape.  While he was eventually released from prison and made another attempt at basketball, Payne was not very successful.  To stay in the world of athletics, he became a boxer.  He failed to remain a free man, however, as he wound up in prison again due to another rape crime.  Tom Payne was thought to be a future superstar basketball player, but his career and life hasn’t turned out in the most ideal way.

2009- John Wall  Just watch one minute of this.

—The one-and-done wasn’t common until the late 90’s.  Before then, first-year players rarely left college and went pro.  In several of these rare instances, those players came from UK.  It turns out that Anthony Davis wasn’t the first one-year UK player to be named National Player of the Year, as LeRoy Edwards did it nearly 80 years prior.  And Nerlens wasn’t the first Noel at UK to be a one-and-done, as Paul did it during World War II.

Some will argue that the one-and-done “hurts college basketball” and “kills tradition”.  Not so much at Kentucky.  While academic success and player development have been mainstays for UK for decades, players leaving early is also part of its history.  I guess that happens when you consistently have good players- or when a 20 win season is a “down year”.  Seems like the tradition UK basketball finds most important is the winning tradition.

Other note:

With James Young and Julius Randle in the NBA Draft, UK has upped its total to 17 one-and-done players.

Talking points heading into UK-WSU

UK has the most intriguing matchup of this year’s round of 32.  The team that certain delusional media “experts” picked to go 40-0 is about to play a mid-major that is five games away from 40-0.  UK has never played Wichita State, nor have they ever faced Gregg Marshall as a head coach.  There is, however, a lot of history and talking points going into this game:

Tournament History

-Since seeding began just about 35 years ago, UK is 4-9 against #1 seeds.  UK last played a #1 seed in 2011, when a Brandon Knight jumper gave UK the final lead, and eventually the win over Tournament favorite Ohio State.

-UK is 23-6 (.793) all-time in the Round of 32.  This is higher than every other program’s all-time win %.  UK is still, however, looking for its first R32 win as a #8 seed.

-Only once has UK played a Missouri Valley Conference team in the NCAA Tournament. This one game was a 100-91 loss to Loyola (IL).  To give you an idea of how long ago that was, it was a “consolation game”. In 1964.

-Entering this game, UK’s entire roster has played a combined 213 minutes in the NCAA Tournament.  Since a box score shows a team playing 200 total minutes in one game, we’re looking at Jon Hood bringing in 13 minutes from previous tournaments.  This UK team is young.

-UK is 5-9 in the NCAA Tournament when playing teams from the previous year’s final four.

General Notes

-James Young had a subpar game vs. Kansas State, a 3-13 shooting night that was one of his worst performances this season.  The last game he shot that bad was against Auburn, where he had just four points.  The next game he turned it around, scoring 19.  Look for a James Young bounceback against Wichita State.

-Wichita State is the 2nd ranked team in the country.  UK is 9-12 all-time against 2nd ranked teams.

-UK is 7-3 all-time vs. MVC teams

-Wichita State isn’t necessarily the most experienced team around (age-wise).  Last year, they made the final four with an all-freshman backcourt.  Next year, they’re expected to return nearly all of their key players, minus senior Cleanthony Early.  Despite the team’s age, they are clearly experienced in basketball games.

-UK’s freshmen have scored 81% of the team’s total points this season

Fun Facts

-This game falls one day after the 39th anniversary of UK taking down a similar opponent in the Tournament. On 3/22/1975, UK defeated 34-0 Indiana to advance to the final four.

-One advantage UK certainly has is height. The average height of UK’s starting lineup is 6’8”, while Wichita State’s is 6’4”.

Sources for this piece

KHSAA Sweet Sixteen: Where Kentucky Born Wildcats are Found

UK assistant coach, Orlando Antigua, has been spotted at Rupp Arena, likely to watch some of the premier juniors in Kentucky’s class of 2015.  With the state’s overall high school talent at such a high level (compared to years past), it wouldn’t be too surprising if a currently unheralded senior caught the UK coach’s eye.  In the past, it has been fairly common for a high school senior to catch fire in Kentucky’s famed basketball tournament and pick up a scholarship or walk-on offer from UK.  Below is a list of eventual UK players who used their senior season postseason play to steal the hearts of Kentuckians and secure the interest of UK coaches.

Dominique Hawkins, Madison Central ’13- Hawkins, a point guard, scored over 100 points in 4 games- part of what some consider the greatest  Sweet Sixteen tournament in recent memory.  In the championship game, Hawkins helped lead a comeback over #1 Ballard, where Ken-Jah Bosley would hit a last-second three pointer and clinch the championship.  Hawkins is now a Freshman at UK, and many see him to be the team’s best defender.

Jarrod Polson, West Jessamine ’10- Before he even put on a UK jersey, Jarrod Polson was gaining quite a reputation in the Kentucky high school hoops world, as he had previously led his underdog West Jessamine squad to the state final four as a junior.  His senior year, the left-handed Polson used his crafty scoring ability and stunning good looks to take West Jessamine back to the Sweet Sixteen, where they would fall to eventual champion, Shelby Valley.  Now a senior/graduate student at UK, Polson has experienced two final fours, a national championship, a dozen NBA players and much more in his college career.

Darius Miller, Mason County ’08- Miller had been recruited by UK since his junior year of high school.  The 2008 Kentucky Mr. Basketball winner was the leader of a loaded Mason County team that included 2 future pros and more than a handful of future collegiate basketball players.  Miller led Mason County to several close wins in the tournament, topping it off with a championship victory over Holmes.  Miller graduated at UK with over 1,000 points, an SEC Tournament MVP Trophy, and National Championship.  He is now a shooting guard for the New Orleans Pelicans.

Matt Heissenbuttel, Lexington Catholic ’00- Heissenbuttel had better fortune in the state tournament than fellow senior and UK commit, Corey Sears.  Matt’s Lexington Catholic team defeated its first three opponents by an average of 15 points per game, but ended their season with a loss to Elizabethtown in the state championship.  In college, Heissenbuttel played all four years at UK and graduated in 2004.

Corey Sears, Corbin ’00- Sears, a 6’6 Forward, was a very good all-around player in high school, averaging 20 ppg, 8 rpg, 5 apg, and 3 spg as a Senior at Corbin.  His team lost a close game to Russellville in the first round, but Sears’s overall skill was enough for Tubby Smith to reel Sears in to UK.  Sears didn’t last long at UK.  He left the team shortly after getting into a fight with Gerald Fitch.

Todd Tackett, Paintsville ’98- Tackett, a guard, and 6’10” teammate JR VanHoose, made a strong showing 2 years prior in the 1996 Sweet Sixteen. (VanHoose was MVP that year).  In 1998, they pulverized their way through the field, until they were annihilated by Scott County in the State Championship.  Tackett went on to play a couple of injury-plagued years at UK.  VanHoose would go on to score nearly 2,000 points at Marshall University.

Jason Lathrem, Greenwood ’95- Lathrem was a 6’5” forward who was part of a trio of great high school players at Greenwood, who led the school to the Sweet Sixteen.  Unfortunately for Greenwood, it was another western Kentucky team, Breckenridge County, who would take the cake that year.  As a freshman at UK, Lathrem was a member of one of the greatest college basketball teams ever assembled, the 1996 Wildcats.  He played at UK for just one year, eventually transferring to Belmont.

Anthony Epps, Marion County ’93- Epps was the hero of the 1993 Sweet Sixteen, leading Marion County to the state championship.  Epps’s final game was against Dunbar High School, who had a sharpshooting junior named Cameron Mills (a future college teammate of Epps).  In college, Epps became UK’s starting point guard.  As the lead guard for the 1996 team, Epps was the conductor of a squad that included 9 future NBA players.

Richie Farmer, Clay County ’88- Coming off a State Championship from the 1987, the Man with the Magical Mustache, Richie Farmer, was primed to lead Clay County to the promised land again.  The one difference from 1987: The Sweet Sixteen was being played at Freedom Hall instead of Rupp Arena.  Farmer led Clay County to the 1988 Championship, where they lost to Allan Houston’s Ballard Bruins team.  That game, Farmer had an absurd 51 points, while there was much more balanced scoring for the other side.  Farmer would go on to have an “unforgettable” college career, eventually getting his jersey retired at UK.  22 years later, he’s about to have his freedom retired, as he will soon be given a prison sentence following his actions as Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture.

Todd May, Virgie ’82- 6’8” Todd May is a legend in Eastern Kentucky.  He was named Mr. Basketball in 1982 following a season where he led little Virgie High School to the state semifinals, where they would suffer a heartbreaking 61-60 loss to eventual state champion, Laurel County.  May’s UK career was very short, as he played just a handful of games and transferred to Wake Forest.  May ended his college career at Pikeville, and was drafted by San Antonio in the 4th round of the 1987 NBA Draft.

Troy McKinley, Simon Kenton ’81- McKinley was the star player on a team that had three 6’6” players.  In a state tournament where Simon Kenton played nearly every game down to the wire, McKinley averaged 29 points per game and picked up a scholarship offer from a slew of major Divison 1 schools, UK being one of them.  McKinley chose UK, where he would play all four years, including his senior year that featured McKinley as a key reserve to provide scoring from the outside.

With players such as Scott County’s Trent Gilbert, PRP’s Antonio McDaniels and LaMontray Harris, or Fleming County’s Troy Steward, there is still some unsigned talent participating in the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen.  Many people may not know if some of these players are capable of wearing the blue and white, but if one of them catches fire this weekend, who knows- we could see our next Kentucky-born wildcat.

Other Sources:

Kentucky, Kansas State, and the NCAA Tournament

It’s tournament time again, which means everyone should be filling out their brackets.  Pro Tip for this year: don’t tell other people about your bracket.  They don’t care.  If someone does ask how your bracket is doing, take that as a hint that you are very important to this person.  In reality, the only bracket that really matters is the one that has the University of Kentucky going all the way, with no other spots filled in. This post, however, is going to focus primarily on the situation at hand- UK in the NCAA Tournament.  Let me first introduce you to some basic tournament info for UK:

If you’re talking UK and NCAA basketball statistics, there’s a good chance that UK is in the top 3 in any given stat.  Not counting this season, UK has 53 NCAA Tournament appearances.  This includes 39 Sweet Sixteen, 30 Elite Eight, 15 Final Four, and 11 Championship appearances, with 8 championship victories.  UK has an all-time record of 111-46 in the NCAA Tournament in 53 total appearances.  Using Cat Math, that is an average of 2.09 (we’ll round to 2) wins per tournament appearance.  If the 2014 team has an “average” tournament year, by UK standards, they would beat Kansas State and presumably the now-undefeated Wichita State to reach the Sweet Sixteen.  UK plays its first game vs. Kansas State.  Here are some pre-game notes, primarily from a historic perspective:

Opening game information

-UK is 43-10 (.811) when playing its first game of the Tournament.

-In 8 v 9 games, UK is 2-1

-The last time UK was an 8 seed (2007), they defeated 9 seeded Villanova by a score of 67-58.

UK will be playing its first tournament game St. Louis, MO

-UK is 5-1 when playing a Tournament game in St. Louis

-The last time UK played a Tournament game in St. Louis, Tayshaun Prince scored 41 points vs. Tulsa

UK’s opening game opponent is Kansas State.

-UK is 8-0 all-time vs. K-State

-UK’s record is 24-10 (.706) and K-State’s is 20-12 (.625)

-K-State is 33-31 (.515) all-time in the NCAA Tournament

-Bruce Weber, current K-State head coach, has never coached against UK

Kentucky has faced K-State in the NCAA Tournament just one other time, a 67-57 UK victory in the 1951 Championship game

Other information

-UK enters the Tournament ranked 22nd.  This will be the first time UK has played in the NCAA Tournament as the #22 team; however, UK is 11-2 for regular season games when holding that ranking

-UK has an overall NCAA Tournament record of 11-6 versus the other teams in the Midwest Region

-UK lost the SEC Championship game this season.  Oddly, this could be a good sign for UK.  UK has played in 6 NCAA Tournaments following an SEC Championship loss.  In 3 of those 6 years, UK went on to win the National Championship (1951, 1996, 2012).  Historically, UK is 20-3 in NCAA Tournament games during years of an SEC Championship loss.

As it would in any matchup, history is on UK’s side for its opening game vs. Kansas State.  For the current season, it may not be quite as obvious.  Both teams are battle-tested, combining for 19 games decided by 5 or fewer points.  Recent results can help tell the tale, though.  Kansas State has lost three consecutive games, while UK was a turnover away from potentially winning the SEC Championship.  Basketball is a game of momentum.  If recent results are any indicator, Kentucky certainly has the momentum advantage heading into the Tournament.

Follow @UK_CatFacts on Twitter for Cat Fact updates!

Statistics and information were found through the following sources: