Cupcake season is over, and as the schedule gets tougher, so does the math. Well, not really, because I'm basically stealing Ken Pomeroy's handiwork and making some poignant observations in order to the tickle the collective fancies of Chron-goers across the nation. For stat nerds, there's nothing better than KenPom and I urge you to support his site with your American dollars.
Even after some time apart, Memphis is doing Louisville no favors by losing at home and dropping out of the top 25. That’s cool guys, because the Others Receiving Votes club is pretty cool.
The lack of a little number next to their name might make the matchup a little less marquee, but Memphis still checks in with a respectable KenPom ranking of (28). They've lost to two quality opponents on a neutral floor, Michigan (39) and Georgetown (18). Their sole home loss came in their last game against Murray State (56).
Keep your eyes on the game's tempo this Saturday. While you irresponsible people have fun pounding your 55-calorie Bud Selects, I'll be comfortably charting possessions from my seats in the KFC Yum! Center. Memphis keeps the tempo relatively high (33). Though we all know that Louisville can get up and down the court if needed, they've kept their adjusted tempo at a semi-low rank of (202). If the victor is not the team that dictates tempo, I'll be surprised.
Memphis comes to town with an overall offensive efficiency rating of (29). Long Beach State (32) and Vanderbilt (22) were the previous best offenses that Louisville faced. Memphis struggles at grabbing offensive boards (281), but touts a solid effective field goal percentage of 53.9% (29). Memphis also takes care of the ball, only turning the ball over at an above-reasonable rate of 16.9% (22). Color me surprised.
The Cards' heralded defense (3) has not reached the epic proportions of the Fighting Lumberjack Apprentices of Wisconsin (1), but we've seen teams all year waste the first 10 seconds of every shot clock trying to beat the Cards’ press and figure out what type of defense they are playing. This has allowed the Cards to hold opponents to a 39.8% effective field goal percentage (7). Louisville's opponents have had an unpleasant of time trying to find an easy shot. This game will be the ultimate test for a Memphis team that hasn't seen a top-20 defense since Georgetown (18) on November 23 in Maui.
Louisville's offensive efficiency (62) has been a subject of some concern. The Cards have sub-100 ranking in effective field percentage (116), turnover percentage (144), and FTA/FGA (147). For those of you not paying attention, that means the Cards are not hitting shots, turning the ball over too much, and not getting to the free throw line. The one thing Louisville is doing with some success is grabbing offensive rebounds at a rate of 39.0% (25). Memphis is susceptible to giving up offensive rebounds at a rate of 34.7% (234). Your move, Gorgui Dieng.
Speaking of the Gorgster (curse you, Bob Valvano), he is currently rocking the best effective field goal percentage on the team at 63.0%. He is also rocking a 64.3% true shooting percentage, which factors in the significance of getting to the free throw line and making said free throws. Gorgui rocks.
Louisville now enjoys the second best free throw defense in the country (2) at 56.8%. It’s a real thing, you guys. Memphis has no magic, no love, and no help from whoever Tim Tebow prays to with a 75.6% free throw defense rate (334). Ball game.
Super fun and important fact: Louisville’s 66.8% free throw defense was ranked (75) in 2005. Memphis freshmen star Darius Washington, Jr. hit exactly 33.3% of his free throws when there was no time left on the clock on Saturday, March 12, 2005. If you don’t know what happened after that, you haven’t been paying attention.