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Cats vs. Cards: The breakdown


The anticipation is mounting, but the days are dragging on. We’re so close, yet so far from the final, fateful day in March. The Battle of the Bluegrass takes to its hardwood form once again in a rare same-season rematch. The biggest prize is only a game away for the victor, but the direst of consequences waits for the defeated. Excitement, in its most heightened form is the only way to describe the emotion of most basketball fans in this state.

So let’s break it down; take a step back, see what went right, what went wrong. Rick Pitino has his team playing its best basketball of the season, but Kentucky has managed to win each of its four NCAA tournament games by double-digits. Both teams are on a high, and looking for some serious bragging rights for the off-season, regardless of the outcome in the title game.

It is key that no additional pressure is placed on the team, but the stakes are astronomically high for the fans. It’s business as usual and the pressure is still on the Cats, the same as it’s always been. Louisville will try to dethrone the Kings, as most every team has attempted to do, and failed, this season. The target is clear: Number Eight.

The leading scorers

Back in December it was a career day for both leading scorers, for Kentucky it was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist leading the offensive attack, dropping 24 points, a season-high he matched against the Hoosiers in the Sweet Sixteen. Collecting 19 boards gave him one of the better games he’s had all season. Russ Smith for the Cardinals carried the team with a season-high 30 points coming off the bench.

Jump forward now: with Kidd-Gilchrist having two of the best games in a month against Indiana and Baylor, and Smith finding his hot hand again the last few games in the tournament as well, both players could very well find themselves leading the charge again.

But Terrence Jones is playing some of the best basketball of his young career, and though he wasn’t a significant contributor in the points column against Baylor, it was the most unselfish he has probably ever played. That good mojo has to rub off somewhere. At the same time, Gourgi Dieng is the Cardinals lifeblood inside. He is a poor man’s Anthony Davis (and I don’t necessarily say that in a bad way) because he can dominate the paint, score from range, and block shots like nobody’s business. The Cards could very well take a page out of the Indiana playbook and just try to out-muscle Kentucky’s big men.

The X-Factor

Defense, more importantly the defense Kentucky has to face, is the X-Factor for the Cats. Deciding what Pitino employs hinges largely on Kentucky’s shooting from outside. Kentucky is far from a team which relies on the three-point shot to win ball games, but you can certainly force a team’s hand when you make shots from outside. Not to mention it will neutralize the Louisville X-Factor.

The zone discussion will surely pop up again, but Kentucky has done such a good job handling it recently (see Baylor) it’s possible Rick Pitino will use it only sparingly. If that’s not the case and Pitino sticks with a 2-3, look for the zone-buster Darius Miller to step up with the mid-range floaters, or lofting the back-door lobs to Davis.

For Louisville it’s their full-court press. Not many teams have run the press with huge success against Kentucky, simply because of their incredible speed. But then again, not many run the press as well as a Rick Pitino team. In the regular season match in Rupp Arena, the Cardinals forced 20 turnovers on Kentucky – only one off from their season high against Old Dominion. They’ve averaged only 11 per game.

Louisville will have to force a ton of turnovers and limit the number of possessions Kentucky has. Neither teams will want to play catch up in this one, so if the Cards can create easy take-away buckets scoring in transition, their confidence will be through the roof.

The dark horse MVP

Both Kentucky and Louisville will be looking for big games from their point guards, considering the abysmal games each had in the first meeting. Kentucky’s Marquis Teague has turned it on to a whole new level, becoming a seriously elite-level point guard. That’s something a little different from Calipari’s typical approach, but the chemistry he brings on the court is unrivaled. For a team full of youngsters, Teague’s maturity growth through the season has been visible. This is Marquis Teague’s team. You could have argued that at times Lamb was better running point in the first half of the season. But those arguments are long gone.

Peyton Siva is quite the two-headed monster. He makes some absolutely incredible plays that just leave you shaking your head, wondering how he pulled it off. But Siva makes so many dumb decisions almost every other time. Whether it’s driving the lane to nowhere or committing silly touch fouls near half court, Siva has made a habit of taking himself out of ballgames. That cannot happen if the Cardinals want a shot at winning this game. That’s not to say other point guards like Teague don’t make mistakes either, but Siva lacks a lot of finesse skill that other points guards like Teague have that can make up for deficiencies. Siva needs a career day to lead the Cards to victory.

In the regular season game Teague scored four points on 1-of-8 shooting, and he fouled out – the only time he’s done that this season. Siva scored eight points on 2-of-13 shooting in the regular season game, while committing four fouls.

The skinny on Kentucky

Good: Kentucky got to the line 43 times in the first meeting. With the way things have gone the last two games (37 attempts against Indiana, 44 attempts against Baylor) it seems likely a lot of points will be scored at the charity stripe in this one as well.

Bad: Kentucky was favored by 10-points in December, held a lead as large as 15, and only won by seven. (OK, that’s a stretch, I know)

The skinny on Louisville

Rick Pitino realized Russ Smith’s potential. He was their offense in the first match, outscoring all five starters combined. Kentucky really had no answer for his drives to the rim, even with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist guarding him.

On the same token, Louisville’s entire starting lineup in the last meeting only scored 26 total points. It was literally the Russ Smith show for the Cardinals, and you can’t win a ball game, much less beat Kentucky, with one player. Right, Iowa State?

The Cats have knocked down four foes, and have two to go. If the same team comes out this weekend that we saw against Indiana or Baylor, the game could get ugly in a hurry.

The Cats are hungry, and it’s feeding time on Saturday. 8pril is coming.

Article written by Stuart Hammer

B.S. Broadcast Journalism from the University of Kentucky. @StuartHammerKSR

50 responses to “Cats vs. Cards: The breakdown”

  1. Mudd

    First!!!

  2. Old man sleeping in lower arena

    Saturday is to far away

  3. Skeps

    Louisville doesn’t use a 2-3 zone. Its closer to a 3-2. I expect a foul fest. Kentucky will have to wn it from the free throw line.

  4. GoCats2

    I predict Davis will only have 3 blocks…..

  5. GoCats2

    on Behanon, 3 on Siva, 3 on Dieng, and one on Kuric.

  6. Chokecal

    Back in Sept they didnt think lil brother could go into Lex and pull off a win in football, but we did. They thought lil brother wld get spanked in Dec, but we only lost by 7….now they think lil brother has no chance to upset big brother Sat…..so much pressure for big brother to pull this off..im smelling an upset…I predict lil brother will continue to ride this post season wave ala UConn last year! Can u imagine a KY loss while the world watches??? Priceless!!! No way BBN would get over it!! Lol

  7. Troy

    Pitino’s team is a bunch of hack masters. The refs had better call the fouls otherwise it’s going to be a long night.

  8. Justin Vetter

    6 – Seriously, a win is a win. I will take a repeat of the same performance if it means UK is heading into under 4 timeout with a double digit lead.

  9. Azubuike's Bicep

    6- Well you have one thing right, you ARE little brother. And by the way, can you please spell your words correctly? You are proving the stereotype with every post. “Lil?” “wld?” “Lex?” Sat?” You are literally making fun of yourself by writing the way you do, and making those obnoxious claims. We automatically win every argument with you when you post on these message boards. You prove your ignorance with zero depth in your arguments and your lazy grammar. Your “lol’s” and “!!!’s” are as narrow and idiotic as the line beard that you sport.

  10. Hayley Minogue

    The Skinny on Louisville- Peyton Siva’s Beard.

  11. Blue

    7. The refs are going to call the fouls. This is the NCAA tourney, majority of the time refs are on top of their game.

  12. FlySoup

    louisville can and will come back down to earth eventually… UK on the other hand is playing exactly how they’ve played all season, so theres really no worry about an off night from them. When UofL is playing way above what they should be playing, they still don’t look like a team that could beat us, and it looks even more dire on paper. No worries cats fans, this is just another stepping stone on the way to the NC game.

  13. Skeps

    (6) – You actually were down 13 but hit two garbage 3s in the final seconds. The pressure is on UL. Losing 4 times in a row to big brother, especially when it matters most. This game will not be as close as the line beards are predicting.

  14. kentuckyrules

    #6: You have such a horrible memory about December. Look at the play-by-play- in the last 5 seconds, UL made 2 3-pters…basically when the CATS were ignoring any D and just letting the clock run down. So, essentially, you lost by 13!

  15. jacocat

    U vel will hack ,slap ,kick and bite the entire game. Then afterward will cry and moan about the officals.We got more fouls called on us than they did.BWAAAAAAAAAA.

  16. kentuckyrules

    #13, you beat me to it!!! LOL

  17. UKBlue

    As long as whoever stays in front of Siva & doesn’t let him get into the paint or near the rim, he’s not much of a threat. Get into Siva head & frustrate him, the ball could end out on Bourbon Street. The main key is to shut down their 3 point shooters.

  18. Another Perspective

    Yes. Great comparison. UK Basketball is in exactly the same position as UK Football. Fantastic point.

  19. strange brew

    @ 17

    What 3 point shooters?

    They shoot 31%.

  20. KDSMITH

    # 18, I’m not sure which way your leaning on your statement, anyway the last 2 sentences of this post gave me chills. It’s been way too long since we took home the hardware and my hope is that this team realizes that they are on the cusps of something great and comes out in both games and absolutely demolishes their opponent. My prediction is UK by 15 vs. UL and UK by 10 to win the NC regardless of the team they face. Go Big Blue!!!!!

  21. Cousins Fake Tooth

    Only won by 7 because UL hit two 3′s in the last 5 seconds.

  22. dave

    uofl will get garbage points from off. rbs on long misses & some russ/siva steals. but where’s the other 50-60 points going to come from?
    if kuric, dieng & c.smith can’t combine for 30+ pts this game will be ugly by halftime
    in dec jones, teague, lamb went 3-24 FG & we still won……

  23. Chokecal

    Serious question – If Cal chokes and loses this game, how bad would it be for the BBN? Would you lose confidence in your coach?

  24. kentuckyrules

    #23: IF we lose ?

  25. Bradley

    I didn’t read this post, but I bet it was terrible.

  26. What

    @ 23

    Ask a serious question then.

  27. Pitino's choking his Chicken

    “IF”? 23….,IF we lose? Fret no more Little Bro, we’ll still love ya when we go MID-EVIL on that Cardnal with teeth.

  28. Rixter

    People keep saying ‘if Louisville can do this, if the refs do that’…. have you seen the Cats play this year?
    It doesn’t MATTER what the other team does. It might take the Cats a few minutes to make an adjustment, but we will beat them however they want to play. Fast…. slow…. closely-called…..loose whistles…it doesn’t matter! In the end, they have to score against our defense, and they have to shut us down inside, outside, and on the break.
    Good luck, Cards, you’ll need it.

  29. Al's IndiCats

    You know if we were to go to the “In Da VILE” we’d get bounced outta there as quick as their coach on date night at Porcinis! You hafta love those TROLLS! GO CATS!!!!!!!!

  30. Skeps

    #23- How bad is it that UL’s expectations are exceeded? Go to a FF for the first time in 7 years and you’re happy? You guys have no expectations for a hall of fame coach do you?

  31. dave

    pitino – 16 ncaa wins in 11th year at UofL
    calipari – 11 ncaa wins in 3rd year at UK

  32. Chokecal

    Why all the Pitino hate?? Without him you wouldnt have #6 & #7!!

  33. cristoforouk

    Calipari has one elite eight and 2 final fours in his 3 years at UK. Doesn’t that pretty much equal Pitino’s entire career at UofL? Should UK lose, BBN would be distraught over one game, but we’d get over it and trust our coach to have another great season with a deep tournament run.

  34. average fan

    Stop Louisville’s penetration and you kill them. They live by Siva and Smith getting into the lane and scoring or dishing to the wing.

  35. LuvCatsH8Cards

    When is the national media going to go gaga about half the final four being from Kentucky like they did about the four teams from Ohio being in the Sweet Sixteen? It seems to me this scenario is much tougher.

  36. Another Perspective

    How could you lose confidence in back-to-Final Four appearances??

  37. kentuckyjeff

    Cats by double figures … Now here’s what I find very odd maybe you guys can help out or know something I don’t.. I’m not complaining !!! but…. where are the 2 Kentucky haters throughout this entire NCAA tournament ? Talking about Digger Phelps and Bobby Knight ????..All season we had to look at there smug faces and annoying voices on every ESPN show not it’s like they just disappeared.. Did they take there 3 week vacation during this time because they know we’d win it ?

  38. Skeps

    #37 – they have been gone. No wonder I can actually watch ESPN now. I hadn’t even noticed.

  39. Rob Job

    I apologize, but I have not kept up with Louisville at all since Dec 31, but has Blackshear not contributed at all since his return to the lineup?

  40. LegitmacyCentral

    Compare the two teams at hand: both sustain good coaching, aggressive natured defensive schemes and are playing at their highest level arguably. Where’s the discrepancy? Talent. Pure, unbiased god given talent. Louisville has two McDonald All-Americans. Kentucky has 6 and one of the better 6th mans in the country in Darius Miller. Kentucky is longer, faster and is playing just as hard. That’s why we’re here. That’s why it hasn’t been close for us and has for them. We’re better and that talent discrepancy will be highly relevant at 6:09 p.m. est on Saturday. Kentucky by 15.

  41. LegitmacyCentral

    men not mans*.

  42. truefan

    U of Lol’s game is to have Siva penetrate and then kick it out for the shooters, specifically “Kuric in the corner”. 1. Don’t let Siva penetrate the middle 2. guard the 3 and the corners and they’re screwed. Also, I’ve always heard pressing teams don’t like to be pressed. Maybe a little of their own medicine would be good?

  43. Zyzz

    #28 The problem is you’re focusing on the things in life that don’t really matter. When I was a kid I had hopes and dreams. We all did. But over time, the daily grind gets in the way and you miss the things that really matter, even though they are right in front of you, staring you in the face. I think the next time you should ask yourself “Am I on the right track here?”. I don’t mean to be rude but people like you I really pity. So maybe you could use the few brain cells you have and take advantage of the knowledge I have given you now. Good luck.

  44. catfan65

    Russ Smith has an off. eff. of 92.4. If he were a team that would make him Miss. Valley State at #257. He went 10-20, 3-8 3PA and 7-10 from the line in hte first game against UK, but the numbers suggest he won’t do that again. The Cards don’t match well with UK because they have lost depth from last gaem (6’7″ Buckles) and now really only go 8 deep. UK is both taller (Teague 6’2″, Lamb 6’4″, MKG 6’7″, Miller 6’8″, Jones 6’9″, and Davis 6’10″ vs Siva 6’0″, C. Smith 6’2″, R. Smith 6’0″, Kuric 6’4″, Behanan 6’6″, and Deing 6’11″) and has better outside shooters. Indiana could get inside because the UK defenders had to guard 4 players at the 3 point line which allowed for a better chance to pull Davis away from the basket for drives and opened up space for Zeller in the post. Dieng is not as talented offensively as Zeller and the only players you really have to guard from 3 are Chris Smith (39.8%) and Kuric (32.8%). Russ Smith shoots alot of 3s, but only makes 30.8%. Bottom line is UofL is likely to only have 2 players capable of shooting 3s on the court at the same time, so the middle is going to be more clogged and AD is likely to be closer to the hoop. I think the Cards may hang somewhat close at beginning as UK tries to avoid foul trouble and plays less than their most agressive D, but I still don’t think that even with less than 100% defensive effort that UofL can keep up with UKs scary good off. eff. I think Cats cover the spread and win by low double digits.

  45. comeatmebrah

    I may have to get off these boards or i might end up hating my non “ignorant” uk friends. I guess the reason I dislike Uk would be the blatant superiority complex instilled in every fan (even those who cannot name the starting five). Things like “little” brother and #louisvilledoesn’texist just show how high up each and every fan thinks they are. I honestly believe we are greatly outmatched and nearly every uofl fan i know knows this but this in no way means we cannot win. I don’t see how anyone is 100 percent on winning. No team anywhere. I DO NOT SEE HOW ANYONE CAN BE 100 percent about anything much less about things you have no control over yourself. Someone please tell all of lexington talking shit eventually catches up to the person talking. A small part of me would love to see each and every one of you cry your eyes out if by the slimmest chance possible UofL pulls this one out. I won’t be able to do that but one thing i can do, troll this board like i never have trolled before. You will remember the username comeatmebrah by the time I am done. You will know each time you log on that there is a slight possibility that I will be posting something about your loss. The boards will try to move on (next year, football, baseball, ANYTHING) and post like nothing happened but I won’t let you forget. Remember that you arrogant pricks and stay safe.

    Sincerely,
    Comeatmebrah

  46. Comeatmebrah/gay

    45- you forgot to tell us what you’ll do if (when) the Cards lose, besides crawl under your futon…

  47. Doug

    #44. Brilliant

  48. Doug

    #45 If you lived in Louisville and were a Cat fan you would feel the same way about Louisville.

  49. Louisville

    HOW SWEET IT’S GONNA BE! KARMA IS COMING AND YOU KNOW IT! I CAN’T WAIT….. SAY WHAT YOU WANT WE WILL SEE. ITS DESTINY

  50. Heshimu Evans' 2nd Grade Teacher

    45 – What size brah?