A Look at Louisville By the Numbers

Tomorrow, YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles make their first trip to the KFC YUM! Center (and, yes, I still giggle every time I write that) to take on rival Louisville.  Already, the team at Cracked Sidewalks gave you a game plan for an MU victory, and mapped out the road on the road for Marquette.  As for us: your friendly and anonymous friends at AE were in a statty mood this morning, so we decided to take a Louisville: By the Numbers.

What we found: in many ways, this Cardinal team is a lot like Marquette.  They're generally very good on offense, but the Cards can be spotty on defense -- especially when they're giving up too many second- (and third-) chance opportunities to their opponent.  Sound familiar?

Courtesy of KenPom and StatSheet.com, here's a look at the numbers:

Louisville will come at you in waves...  Eleven Cardinals average more than 13 minutes of run per game, and Louisville, as per usual, makes its living forcing turnovers with its helter skelter defense; UofL's defensive TO% is 16th in the nation (25.3%).  The rotation is going to be a bit shorter for the Cards on Saturday, as Mike Marra (averaging 22 minutes per game) is likely out with an ankle injury.  Still, there are plenty of bodies on the bench, and, as we saw last year, if Slick Rick isn't happy with what he's seeing on the court, he's not shy about subbing in five new guys, line-shift style.

...but they can be scored on. Louisville has played two heavy hitters in the last four games, matching up with in-state rival Kentucky and traveling to Philly to battle Villanova.  Louisville was scorched on defense in both of the games, giving up 1.24 points per possession and allowing an eFG% of 56.1% to UK, and giving up 1.21 points per possession and allowing an eFG% of 60.3% at 'Nova.  And in the Cards' nine-point win over South Florida, UofL allowed the moribund Bulls -- whose eFG%, on the season, is a woeful 47.1% -- to put up 1.20 points per possession with an eFG% of 49.1%.  Part of the problem?  In those three games, Louisville allowed 13, 19, and 14 offensive rebounds, respectively, consistently giving its opponent a second look at the basket.

By the numbers, Louisville's offense is just as good as Marquette's... The Cards are averaging 71 possessions per game this season (which ranks 60th in the nation, in terms of tempo), and, in the last four games (vs. Kentucky, and then the three Big East games, vs. Seton Hall, at South Florida, and at 'Nova), that number drops to 66.5.  With an adjusted offensive efficiency of 116.8 (that'd be 1.17 points per possession, if you're scoring at home), Louisville makes good use of its possessions.  They shoot well (55.4 eFG%) and they attack the glass on the offensive end (36.3% offensive rebound percentage, good for 56th in the nation).

...but in their three losses, the Cards have been mediocre on offense.  UofL has dropped three games this year (vs. Drexel, vs. UK, and at 'Nova), and, in each of those games, the offense was nothing to write home about: 0.73 points per possession (yikes!) vs. Drexel, 1.0 points per possession vs. UK, and 1.01 points per possession vs. 'Nova.  Obviously, Louisville couldn't hit water from a boat vs. Drexel, and that one can probably be plunked into the "just one of those games" category.  But against UK and against 'Nova, UofL relied heavily on jumpers and three-point attempts (20 vs. UK, 25 vs. 'Nova), getting to the line only 11 times (making five) vs. Kentucky and only attempting seven free throws (making six) vs. 'Nova.  For the year, Louisville's free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 34.0% ranks 255th in the nation.

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