Hello, nice to see you. It's the Birds vs. the Blue!

Greetings to all.  My name is Truzenzuzex (Troo-zen-zoo-zex, and yes, it is an alias) and I have been asked by JL Blue to contribute some comments and observations to A Sea of Blue.

First of all, I want to thank JL for inviting me here.  I have been around since before JL moved here from his Bogans' Heroes blog, which many may remember.  I look forward to making a few observations and hopefully having some fun doing it. 

And so, today's subject will be:   The Kentucky Wildcats vs. the Louisville Cardinals.

Statistically, the teams look like this:

Kentucky Louisville Diff UK
Possessions/Game 87.89 95.43 -7.54
Turnovers/Game 16.89 14.29 2.6
Assists/Game 15.33 16.86 -1.52
Shots/possession 0.81 0.85 -0.04
Points/Game 70.22 78.86 -8.63
Defensive Rbds/gm 26.89 24.14 2.75
Offensive Rbds/gm 10.22 14.57 -4.35
Blocks/gm 5.89 4.71 1.17
2 pt FG% 47.64% 46.02% 1.61%
3 pt FG% 34.87% 39.87% -5.00%
Free Throw% 68.05% 67.70% 0.35%
FTA/Game 18.78 23 -4.22


You will notice the negative numbers above where Louisville's stats exceed Kentucky's.  The obvious exception is turnovers, where we average over 2.5/game more than Louisville.

Why the statistics matter:

Statistically, we are at a clear but not overwhelming disadvantage.  U of L outscores us, shoots better from 3-point range, just as well as us from 2 and the free throw line, gets to the line more often, gets off more shots/possession, beats us on the offensive glass and turns the ball over less.  UK blocks more shots and gets almost 3 more defensive rebounds per game. 

If UK doesn't defend the 3, as we sometimes fail to do, it will be tough for us to win.

Why the statistics don't matter:

Kentucky has played far more quality basketball teams than Louisville, both in quantity and in ranking.  Louisville has only played one ranked opponent, a 72-65 loss to #15 ranked Arizona, whereas Kentucky has played no less than 3 ranked opponents, two of whom are currently in the top 10 and the other is no. 11 and all of them at neutral sites or on the road.  All were losses, but Kentucky was in a position to win two out of the 3 games.  Plus, Randolph Morris is performing like an All-American. 

If Louisville cannot stop Morris from owning the paint, it will be tough for them to win.



How the teams match up:

Center

This is one Kentucky wins easily.  Randolph Morris has finally begun living up to his McDonalds All-American billing and the expectations he generated when he signed with UK.  Left in the dust by his recent performances are the dabbles with the NBA, the faxes and letters and the underachieving freshman campaign.  These debacles have been replaced with an early season where he has not gotten in foul trouble, embarrassed the putative Player of the Year Tyler Hansborough, become a dependable scorer, rebounder and defender in the low post.

His likely opponent, David Padgett, has been riddled with injuries and still suffers from bad knees.  Pitino has been playing him sparingly lately to spare his knees and hopes he will be ready for major minutes Saturday.  He has yet to face a center of Morris' caliber this year, and his overall performance so far has been uneven.  I expect big minutes from Terrence Farley, who doesn't have the bulk or the game to seriously hamper Morris.

Advantage:  Kentucky in a big way.

Power forward

Juan Palacios for Louisville was a beast inside and out in his freshman season.  His sophomore year, he was hampered by injury and since then an apparent case of mild apathy.  Still, he dominated Kentucky when he was a freshman and has the ability to do so again.  He is averaging 13 pts/8 rebs a game, which are not All-American numbers, but they are solid. 

Against likely starter Bobby Perry, Palacios has a size and strength advantage. Quickness and an outside game, which normally favor Perry against most other 4 men, do not in this particular matchup.  However, Palacios has had a recent tendency to disappear, and the Cardinals can't afford that.  Sheray Thomas for the 'Cats will see some time on Palacios, but the best we can hope for there is that Sheray can keep him off the glass  and defend him with good fundamentals.  Thomas doesn't seem to be quick or athletic enough to guard Palacios.

Advantage:  Cardinals

Wing forward

Much has been asked of Terrance Williams, but he has delivered far less this year than expected.  Last year, T-Will was a force for the Cardinals on the wing.  This year, he has shot poorly (16%) from the 3-point line and hasn't been the consistent scoring threat he was last year.  Still, he is an athletic freak, quick and strong with a good handle, and can pass the ball, having an assist/TO ratio of 2.3:1, best on the team.

He will likely be going against freshman Derrick Jasper on defense.  Jasper has the ability to defend players like Williams, and sacrifices no quickness and little athleticism to T-Will.  Jasper's long arms and quick feet for his size make this a matchup to watch.  Since Jasper is not much of a scoring threat, the real question is how well he holds down Williams on offense.  If he holds Williams to under his average, the Cardinals will be disadvantaged.  However, Jasper is a freshman and Williams a soph, and that does matter.

Advantage:  Marginally to Louisville

Off guard

Joe Crawford is finally showing some of the promise that made UK so excited to sign him.  Crawford is much more athletic than he has shown, and can get you rebounds as well as points inside and out.  His shooting touch has been a bit flaky from outside, but when he gets it going, he can demoralize a team quickly.  His defense could stand some improvement, but he is a classy, powerful swingman who can get you points in a hurry.

His likely opponents would be the combination of Brandon Jenkins and Jerry Smith.  Jenkins is a senior who defends well and can shoot the ball with range as well as take it to the basket.  Jerry Smith is a talented freshman who is not afraid to shoot the ball or take it to the hole, and he can finish.  Both players are substantially shorter and less powerful than Joe Crawford, and neither of them is likely to hold him down.

Advantage:  Kentucky

Point guard

Ramel Bradley, technically the 2-guard in the 3-guard lineup the 'Cats have employed lately, will likely be matched up against the Cardinals' talented freshman point, Edgar Sosa.  Bradley is a skilled offensive player who can get hot and score at will against almost anyone.  Ramel can shoot it off the bounce, off the catch, off the dribble drive and is open when he gets off the bus.  As a junior, Bradley has experience, is utterly fearless and loves to ball.  Both players have assist/turnover ratios of about 1:1, so no advantage there either way.

Sosa is, as I said, talented.  He can shoot, pass, dribble and take you to the rack.  He can be inconsistent, as freshmen are, but he can also be brilliant and well-nigh unstoppable.  His defensive stats aren't that impressive, but neither is Bradley's.  This is maybe the most intriguing matchup of them all, because if either of these guys get going, their team is going to seriously benefit.

Advantage:  Draw

Bench

Louisville has a talented bench with Derrick Caracter being the star.  Caracter is an extremely talented freshman, and he can get you low-post points and offensive rebounds in a hurry.  Kentucky has absolutely nobody who can match up with him defensively except Morris.  Stevenson may give him trouble, but only if he figures out how to use his superior quickness and athleticism in the seven days between the IU and U of L games.  In other words, don't count on it.  Sheray Thomas looks completely outmatched by Caracter, but Caracter has a serious problem keeping out of foul trouble.  Thomas is smart and experienced enough to bait Caracter into some cheap fouls, and Pitino has given Caracter a quick hook.  Let's hope for that.

Louisville's Will Scott, the sophomore transfer from Cornell has also been a serious scoring threat for the Cardinals lately from beyond the arc, shooting a scintillating 58%.  The Cats counter with Jodie Meeks, a talented freshman who can score inside and out, and can match up with several different positions.  Freshman Michael Porter comes off the bench with 3 point shooting and steady play, while the Cards counter with streaky freshman Earl Clark.

I didn't mention Woo.  Enough said about that.

Advantage:  Louisville, narrowly.

Coaching

Too many words have been spilled on this subject for me to waste more pixels.

Advantage:  Draw

Other notes:  Nobody on the UK team has better than a 1.3:1 Assist/TO ratio.  Turnovers will be a big stat in this game, and if Kentucky continues to give the ball away, this game could be, in the words of Hobbes, "nasty, brutish, and short."  Louisville tends to foul a lot, they average over 21 fouls per game to UK's 15.  If UK can shoot their average or better from the stripe, they should have an advantage.

So there we have it.  I have not forgotten the game is in Freedom Hall, which is an advantage to U of L, but no doubt Kentucky fans will be well represented.  This should be a good one, folks, as it usually is.  We will see if the Wildcat's edge in tough game experience and solid juniors and freshmen can prove the tonic to Louisville's overall greater talent.

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