BOZICH | Better D: Louisville or Kentucky? Crean's record vs. ES - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Better D: Louisville or Kentucky? Crean's record vs. ESPN's Top 50 Coaches

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Ten, plus one, college basketball thoughts as we await the final results from the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

1. Who's the better defensive team – Kentucky or Louisville?

As if we didn't need another thing to fuss about before Dec. 27. Kentucky limits Montana State to 28 points. Louisville digs in and squeezes Savannah State into a 26-point performance one day later -- and then backs it up by holding Cleveland State to 33.

You can make an argument for John Calipari's squad – or for Rick Pitino's.

Kentucky ranks first nationally in points per possession allowed on defense at 0.66. Who's second? You guessed it. The Cards at 0.67.

Flip the script on Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency stats: U of L first, UK second.

Kentucky is first in defensive field goal percentage against two-point shots (28.8 percent). Louisville is sixth nationally against the three-pointer (21.5).

Louisville has limited four opponents to their season-low point totals. Kentucky has done it to six of seven opponents.

I could go on. But that should be enough to light up the phone lines.

2. ESPN posted its list of the Top 50 college basketball coaches last summer Larry Brown of Southern Methodist made the cut. So did James Dixon of Pittsburgh.

Tom Crean of Indiana did not.

So Crean is 2-0 against the ESPN list – with eight more Top 50 guys ahead of him.

3. I realize it's Dec. 3. Pitino, Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim can tell you about the days when they walked five miles through the snow to work and the season did not begin until Dec. 1.

So it's risky to start separating teams this early in the season – but my middle name is Wallenda.

Since Ken Pomeroy started sharing his possession-based college basketball statistics, the record shows that the national champion is likely to be a team that ranks in the Top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

There are currently eight dual-qualifiers:

Kentucky (third on offense, second defense); Wisconsin (second, seventh); Villanova (13th, sixth); Arizona (eighth, 12th); Duke (first, 16th); North Carolina (20th, 18th); Kansas (9th, 19th) and Wichita State (10th, 13th).

4. Indiana freshman James Blackmon scored only 13 points in the Hoosiers' 81-69 victory over Pittsburgh Tuesday, but he remains the top freshman scorer in the nation at 19.7 points per game. He also leads all freshmen in three-point field goals with 22.

For Indiana to win by a dozen on a night when Blackmon and Yogi Ferrell scored less than their averages was progress for the Hoosiers, who play Louisville Tuesday in Madison Square Garden.

5. Freak Stat: Kentucky is averaging 9.3 blocks per game. Auburn has six blocked shots this season.

The only other Southeastern Conference team averaging more than five blocks per game is Georgia (6.4).

6. Surprise teams: 1. Miami, which is 8-0 with four Top 100 KenPom victories; 2. Maryland, 7-0 with neutral floor victories over Arizona State and Iowa State; 3. Butler, 5-1 with nice wins over North Carolina and Georgetown in The Bahamas.

7. Whatever happened to … 1. Clemson – hard to believe anybody expected 4-3 with losses to Winthrop, Gardner Webb and Rutgers; 2. Florida State – I heard whispers at ACC Media Day that the Seminoles were a potential sleeper, but they've already lost four times, twice at home; 3. Stanford – the Cardinals don't have a quality win and lost by 15 to DePaul.

8. Kentucky vs. Kentucky – I've checked several numbers on this Kentucky team and two of John Calipari's best – the 2012 NCAA champions and the 2010 team that featured John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe.

After seven games, this group is the leader of the pack. All three started 7-0.

But this team is winning by an average of 34.4 points per game. The number two years ago was 28.0. In 2010 it was 18.

This team has beaten two Top 50 KenPom opponents in the first seven games. The 2012 team had beaten one and the Wall/Cousins group did not beat any in its first seven.

9. Louisville vs. Louisville – The Cardinals missed the cut as a dual qualifier because Rick Pitino's offense ranks 24th in Pomeroy's offensive efficiency.

How concerned should Louisville fans be?

Not very. The Cards ranked 15th in that category last season and fourth during the 2013 national championship run. The offense should come.

Louisville did struggle on offense in 2012. But the Cards delivered a Final Four run with an offense that ranked 116th in offensive efficiency. This group has considerably more potential than that one.

10. Ken Pomeroy's early Player of the Year Top Five: 1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin; 2. Ryan Boatright, Connecticut; 3. Jahlil Okafor, Duke; 4. Wesley Saunders, Harvard; 5. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville.

Props to former Central High star D'Angelo Russell, a freshman at Ohio State. He is KenPom's top-ranked freshman, 10th on the Player of the Year list.

11. Kaminsky and Wisconsin vs. Okafor and Duke tonight at 9:30 on ESPN.

For the record, Okafor was ranked the top player in the Class of 2014 by Scout.com. Kaminsky was rated the 17th best player in the state of Illinois in 2011.

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