Hollywood Sports' 25* FINAL FOUR *SPECIAL FEATURE*: Frank Sawyer's Hollywood Sports enjoys a RED HOT 11-2 (85%) winning clip with his highest-rated 25* releases. Frank OWNS March Madness with his SENSATIONAL 37-19 (66%) mark with his 25* Big Dance mark. Frank thinks BOTH side plays are worthy of his 25* seal of approval so JOIN him for this 25* Final Four SPECIAL FEATURE!
Game: Louisville at Kentucky Mar 31 2012 6:05PM
Grade: Loser (-110)
Reason: At 6:05 PM EST on Saturday, we will be playing the Kentucky Wildcats minus the points versus the Louisville Cardinals in the Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. Rick Pitino is a future Hall of Fame coach and he oversaw one of his best coaching performances of his career to will his Louisville team to a 72-68 comeback victory over Florida. Not only was his decision to give up on their 2-3 zone switch to a tight man-to-man after the Gators were the first team to really beat their zone defense this season, but Pitino's use of strategic timeouts at any given time helped ensure that his team was still in the game late to then have their defense take over. The look on Pitino's face afterwards was that of a man that knows he got the absolute most out of his team. And that is the thing now when facing this loaded Kentucky team: Pitino may be out of tricks to keep his team competitive in this contest. Trust me, laying 7-9 points to a Pitino coached team that he really likes with six days to prepare is something that I do not do haphazardly. Pitino has compared this Cardinals team to his 1987 Providence team that featured Billy Donovan as a sharpshooting guard -- and this is comparison is apt because there will just be a point where the talent differential will be too much for his team to hang in there. It is telling that that were no Louisville players on any of the top three All-Big East teams. These two teams did play on December 31st in Lexington in a game that Kentucky won by a 69-62 score despite shooting only 29.8% from the field. While the Cardinals are a much better team now than they were then, so too are the Wildcats. Kentucky also committed 20 turnovers in this game -- yet they still won by 7 points by absolutely controlling the boards with their decisive 57-31 rebounding margin. They will still maintain this advantage on the boards for this one.
Kentucky (36-2) is not likely to shoot as poorly or turn the ball over nearly as much as they did in this first meeting. John Calipari made two changes to his offense to address his team's turnover problem. First, sophomore Doron Lamb began helping point guard Marcus Teague in successfully moving the ball up the court. Second, Calipari began taking advantage of Anthony Davis' size to deploy him in strategic positions on the court to defeat full court presses. The result was that the Wildcats led the SEC by turning the ball over in just 15.1% of their possessions. Calipari is no slouch of a coach himself and does a very good job of continuing to push for improvement from his typically young teams. And while this club plays the usual strong defense expected from Calipari teams, it is the incredible efficiency on offense that makes this team special. In their last three games against the quality teams of Iowa State, Indiana and Baylor, Kentucky has averaged an outstanding 1.29 Points-Per-Possession scoring rate. The Wildcats have nailed 53% of their 2-point shots and 49% of their 3-point shots over this three-game span while only turning the ball over in just 14% of their possessions. Additionally, Kentucky has shot 103 free throws while shooting 165 shots from the field for an incredible 62.4 free throw attempt-to-field goal attempt ratio. It just looks like it will be too difficult for Louisville to score enough baskets to keep up with the tremendous efficiency of this Kentucky offense. After Baylor played as good a four minutes as any team has played against the Wildcats all season, Kentucky put into the next gear and went on a spectacular 46-18 run take control of this game en route to their easy 82-70 win as a 7.5-point favorite. We look for the Wildcats to continue to feed off their momentum now as they have covered the point spread in 8 of their last 10 games following a point spread victory. Kentucky has also covered the point spread in 5 of their last 6 NCAA Tournament games as a favorite in Calipari's tenure. Pitino will throw the kitchen sink at this Kentucky team with a variety of defensive looks -- but the Wildcats have already seen about every version of zone defenses this season. Lastly, because Louisville has covered the point spread in 8 straight games, they fall into a historical letdown angle that has been 73% effective since 1997. Underdogs that have covered the point spread for at least six straight games but are now playing with five or six days of rest in-between games have then failed to cover the point spread in 32 of the last 44 situations where these conditions applied. 25* CBB Final Four Special Feature with the Kentucky Wildcats minus the points versus the Louisville Cardinals. Best of luck for us -- Frank.