Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Intensity is always ratcheted up several notches whenever Kentucky plays Louisville. Friday Night brings one of the most important games EVER played in that rivalry when the teams battle for survival in the Sweet 16 round of the Midwest region’s “group of death.
Kentucky knocked out top seed Wichita State last weekend. Louisville is now the favorite to win the region even though they’re just a #4 seed. All computer models have them the favorite to reach the Final Four…and many will have them as the favorite to win the national championship if they get there. Kentucky…usually the giant themselves…would love to play giant-killer again Friday Night in Indianapolis.
You know you’re going to watch. You want to WIN while you watch. Let’s run this dream matchup through JIM HURLEY’S gauntlet of indicators.
Kentucky: #13 in Pomeroy, #15 in Sagarin
Louisville: #3 in Pomeroy, #1 in Sagarin
College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin both have Louisville as the superior team…and were up front before the Dance started about how ridiculous it was that the Cards were only a #4 seed. They had the numbers of a #1 seed. And, Kentucky had the numbers of a #4 to #5 seed even though the committee only gave them an eight. This is basically a #4 vs. #1 game according to the computers. Brutal schedule for Kentucky!
Let’s note though that Louisville really hasn’t played to the level of a #1 seed thus far in the Dance. A tough draw with Manhattan had them flabbergasted. Game two vs. Saint Louis was almost embarrassing until a late run.
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Both of these teams excel offensively…though both have struggled vs. good defenses. Louisville tends to pad its stats with cheap points off the many turnovers they force. Opponents who don’t turn the ball over deny the Cardinals those cheap points. Kentucky faltered late in the season because they tried to play too much one-on-one ball rather than passing it around. They fixed that the past two weeks…but need to maintain that teamwork ethos if they’re going to spring another upset.
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Louisville has a fantastic defense because of that press. But, good ballhandling can make them seem more mortal. As was the case with VCU, pressing teams don’t play as well as their rankings when they face teams who can break a press. Can Kentucky break a press? Can Kentucky stay focused on both sides of the floor with their season on the line? They’ll need to.
This isn’t quite an extreme in styles. Louisville is fast, while Kentucky is with an arm’s reach of average. But, there’s no way Kentucky wants to run with Louisville…so you’re likely to see head coach John Calipari try to play more like Virginia or Wisconsin in this particular matchup. Louisville will try to force mistakes and score points in bunches. Kentucky will aim for a grinder.
Against the Spread
Kentucky’s recent run has pushed them back over the .500 mark. They’re playing at a higher level right now than a 17-15-2 record would suggest. Louisville’s ability to run up huge margins with their press makes many pointspreads irrelevant. Just remember that they were 19-13 before the tournament started…and last weekend’s victim Saint Louis was in a bad slump to end the season. Kentucky isn’t slumping! But, that being said, this is also one of the lowest lines Louisville has had to clear. They’ve been favored in every game this season…and typically by much higher margins.
Vegas Line: Louisville by 4.5, total of 138.5
JIM HURLEY has been studying this game from all angles ever since the matchup was locked in. He knows how badly his clients want to win it. As we go to press, it’s not certain yet whether or not this will be an official part of the Friday card. Clients only get the BEST BETS! Early indicators are that it will be. You can purchase the final word any time during the day Friday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call our handicapping office during normal business hours Thursday at 1-888-777-4155. (And don’t forget to ask about Major League Baseball when you call!)
Back with you tomorrow to run BOTH of Saturday’s Elite Eight matchups through our indicator gauntlet. The Dance is still a thrill-a-minute…and this could be a historic weekend. See how much MONEY you can make per minute with BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!