Heading into Saturday's game with Kentucky, I urge each and every one of you to ignore the hyperbole that is sure emanate from every conversation you have about the game over the nest 48 hours. I implore you to take any lengthy analysis of what the winner needs to do with a very large grain of salt. Why do I say these things? Because I promise you that there is nothing complicated about predicting the outcome of this year's Dream Game.
Sometimes you just have to accept that an analysis doesn't need to be complicated. It doesn't need to break down every position match-up by match-up. Sometimes all you need to do is look at the two teams, ask yourself a few simple questions about each one, and the analysis reveals itself. To prove it, I'll give it to you in less than 1,000 words.
This game will come down to two very simple things for Louisville. Do not, I repeat do not worry about the UK size advantage or players getting into or staying out of foul trouble. Those two factors will not determine the outcome on Saturday. Last year UK had an even bigger size advantage when they started 6'11 Cauley-Stein and 6'11 Nerlens Noel at the 4&5. Didn't matter last year and it won't matter this year. I know we had Gorgui last year, but if you'll recall, he was very limited in his first game back from the wrist injury and played limited/ spotty minutes due to foul trouble.
If the game is called even remotely tight, assuming it's called both ways, it will not hurt the Cards nearly as much as it will hurt the Cats. At nearly ever position the drop off for Louisville is minimal for the guys coming off the bench. Not the same for UK. They are about 7 deep and that's it for the guys they trust to be on the floor for any significant amount of time. Louisville has nine guys averaging over 17min/ gm, and only one (Russ) averaging over 26 min/gm. By contrast UK has 5 players averaging over 26min/gm, and three guys averaging over 30min/gm. If it's a tight whistle, and the calls are going both ways, it will hurt UK more than it will hurt UofL. I'm not going to say that I'm not worried that there will be a large foul disparity in favor of the Cats, but I'm also not going to assume that as a given.
Now that you know what you do not need to worry about, here it is. The two things that will equate to a Louisville win on Saturday. It sounds so simple that you might look at it and say, "duh." All Louisville needs to do is: (1) rebound UK misses, and (2) make a decent % of shots (INCLUDING FREE THROWS). Why do I point out two things that seem so obvious to winning any game, for any team? Simple. So simple you will only be left with a slowly nodding head by the time you are done with this post.
Kentucky ranks 255th in the nation in assists per FG made, averaging less than 1/2 an assist for every FG they make. That's not good offense. Kentucky is the #1 team in the nation in Offensive rebounding percentage grabbing 46% of their misses/ gm. That's a lot of second chance points, points that a team running crappy offense desperately needs to win. You keep that number down and UK probably can't score enough to win the game.
Kentucky ranks 190th in the country in turnovers per possession. The Cats turn the ball over on 18% of their offensive possessions, and it isn't a number that has gotten better as the season has pressed on. In the last 3 games they are turning it over on 20% of their possessions. This brings me to the other point. If Louisville makes a decent percentage of their shots on Saturday there will be more opportunities to set up the press. More opportunities to set up the press will almost certainly equate to a turnover Festivus for the rest of us.
That's it. Nothing more to it than Louisville going into Rupp and forcing UK to play our game, at our pace, and keeping them from rebounding half of their misses. UK is a very talented collection of players, but they are not a good TEAM. Not yet. I've seen them play three full games and been in and out of a handful of others.
If your team hangs its hat on throwing the ball to one player and letting him go to work, while everyone else stands around and watches, then your team is not one conducive to beating a Rick Pitino coached defense. If there's one thing Rick Pitino understands better than almost any other coach in the college game, it's how to take away what you're trying to do one on one with your best player. A team that hangs their heads instead of sprinting back on defense when a turnover happens, or a big shot is missed, is not one conducive to beating a team that feasts on fast break points and live ball turnovers.
I cannot promise that these things will come to fruition on Saturday, but if they do, then I can virtually guarantee that Louisville will be victorious. I am not worried about one very good UK shot blocker. This Louisville team is fully capable of making shots from the three point line, from mid range, and doing enough at the rim with drive and dish type plays. I believe that they will do just that on Saturday. I know that the Cards have let some "inferior" teams out-rebound them this year. I know that and you know that. I just don't see our big men allowing that to happen on Saturday. Not on this stage, not against this team. See you on the other side....
Go Cards, Beat UK