BOZICH | Five Factors to decide Kentucky-Louisville Basketball G - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Five Factors to decide Kentucky-Louisville Basketball Game

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Rick Bozich dove into the top basketball analytics for this Kentucky-Louisville basketball preview. Rick Bozich dove into the top basketball analytics for this Kentucky-Louisville basketball preview.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- You can listen to what Rick Pitino said about Kentucky. You can listen to what John Calipari said about Louisville.

You can listen to what Cal said about what Rick said -- or about what Rick said about what Cal said. 

Or you can avoid the spin and confusion and go directly to the numbers.

That's my advice, especially after I purchased a subscription to Synergy Sports, a cutting-edge basketball analytics website that college and NBA teams have trusted for nearly a decade.

Synergy described my package as a Deep Dive -- and I'm at least 18 feet deep into the numbers, a thorough crunching of shot charts, play-by-play and traditional statistics.

I printed 18 pages of Synergy data about the Cardinals and Wildcats Tuesday. This is what I think:

*Synergy is the greatest.

*Louisville should not play faster against Kentucky.

*Donovan Mitchell should guard Kentucky's Malik Monk.

*V. J. King and Raymond Spalding need more shots for Louisville.

*Synergy is a game-changer.

*Louisville should encourage De'Aaron Fox (and sometimes Isaiah Briscoe) to shoot, especially from distance.

*Kentucky is very good in transition, but the Wildcats are better running half-court offense.

*Synergy would be a great stocking-stuffer for any Hoops Junkies in your life.

Picking Five Keys to the game from 18 pages of data is risky. But I'm ready to proceed with gusto -- and care.

1. Playing Faster Is NOT the Answer for Louisville

Synergy rates a team's offensive performance in 11 categories, ranging from Spot Up shooting to Isolation offense.

Rick Pitino's team rates Excellent in one category (miscellaneous offense), Very Good in another, Good in two, Average is six and Below Average in just one.

Louisville's worst offensive numbers are in transition offense. The Cardinals have averaged .913 points in 172 transition possessions. That ranks in the bottom 15 percent of all Division I teams.

Guess what ranking Kentucky earned in transition defense -- Excellent. Opponents have average 0.889 points in 144 possession.

I didn't have to consult with Steve Kerr to understand that a Below Average transition team should not try to force the pace against a team that plays Excellent transition defense.

2. Mitchell vs. Monk is Main Event Material

According to Synergy, Louisville has six guys who are rated Excellent defenders -- Mitchell, Deng Adel, Mangok Mathiang, Jaylen Johnson, Anas Mahmoud and Matz Stockman

The best of the best is Mitchell. Opposing players are shooting less than 20 percent against Mitchell, averaging 0.389 points per possession. He ranks among the top 2 percent of all defenders in college basketball.

But Mitchell has not encountered a challenge like Monk, not simply because of the 47 points Monk put on North Carolina. Monk has averaged 1.15 points per possession, making nearly half (38 of the team's 83) of UK's made shots from distance.

Time for those two to get it on.

3. Cards Should Spread The Wealth

Three guys -- Mitchell, Adel and Snider -- have taken more than 48 percent of Louisville shots. That's not alarming until you tie that number to another statistic. None of the trio is making 38 percent of his attempts. As a group they're making 35 percent of their attempts.

That beat Purdue and Wichita State. It's unlikely to beat Kentucky.

Which players should be drafted to help the Cards' offensive productivity?

Synergy rates V.J. King, a freshman wing, and Raymond Spalding, the sophomore forward, as Excellent offensive players.

Both have averaged at least 1.05 points per possession. That's not as dynamic as Monk, but considerably better than Mitchell (0.827), Snider (0.816) or Adel (0.811).

4. Let Fox Fire

Kentucky trails only The Citadel and UCLA in scoring average, ringing up better than 95 points per game. 

Monk, Bam Adabayo, Derek Willis and Mychal Mulder are rated Excellent scorers. Briscoe is rated very good overall.

But two of Kentucky's primary players are rated Below Average Spot Up shooters. Their names are no mystery -- Fox and Briscoe.

They've combined to miss 33 of 41 three-point shots. As spot up shooters, Briscoe has generated only 21 points in 29 possessions while Fox has been even less effective with 14 points in 21 possessions. 

Calipari has coached Fox to run the team and Briscoe to attack the rim. Any possession that ends with either of those guys taking a jump shot should be considered a victory by Louisville.

5. Kentucky Can Score In Any Circumstance

One of Calipari's greatest skills as a coach is allowing his guys to play to their strengths. 

Monk is one of the nation's best shooters -- so he's averaging more than 8 three-point attempts per game.

Fox creates for others -- so he has more assists (79) than made field goals (61).

Briscoe understands how to use his strength and savvy to get to the rim -- so he's making better than 60 percent of his two-point attempts.

This is is how Synergy ranks Kentucky's offense: Very Good in transition but Excellent in half-court. Guys play their roles.

Play ball.

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