LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Since we chatted several hours ago, another voice was added to the chorus predicting that Kentucky will defeat Louisville Friday at 1 p.m. in Rupp Arena:

Las Vegas oddsmakers.

The Wildcats opened as a 6.5-point favorite to dispatch the Cardinals, although the number moved to six by 6 p.m. As I noted in my earlier story outlining three reasons Louisville will win, Jeff Sagarin’s computer formula favors UK by 3.6 points. Ken Pomeroy’s analytics like the Wildcats by five.

What factors tilt the line toward John Calipari’s team?

Begin with these three:

1. Glass Works

Shot blocking is a calling card for this Louisville basketball team. Only Michigan State swats more per game than the 8.4 the Cardinals average per game.

The Cards’ overall defensive field goal percentage (.376) is more than two percentage points better than Louisville’s performance in that statistic last season.

There is a reason for the furrow in the brow of interim coach David Padgett: Louisville’s performance on the defensive glass.

Padgett delivered a reasonable reminder that there are more than the usual number of rebounds for opposing teams to grab, because the Cardinals are a formidable defensive team whose opponents are making less than 38 percent of their attempts.

“The bad news is we’re just giving up a lot of offensive rebounds,” Padgett said.

Give up too many offensive rebounds to Kentucky, and it’s likely to be decisive news, not simply bad news.

Make a note of these numbers: Kentucky ranks 15th nationally in the percentage of its misses the Wildcats rebound, while Louisville ranks 275th in the percentage of offensive rebounds that it allows.

Consider it a flashing light.

Roll video from the Albany game. The Great Danes collected 21 offensive boards and missed a three-pointer to win at the buzzer. Memphis hung around Louisville for more than a half by grabbing 15 offensive boards.

Credit Seton Hall with 13 when the Pirates came into the KFC Yum! Center and won. Even lowly Nebraska-Omaha made life more difficult than it needed to be for Louisville with 22 offensive rebounds.

That should not happen to a team that starts a frontline that features three upperclassmen with an average height of nearly 6 feet 10 inches. Deng Adel, Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding need to be better than that.

2. Two is More Than Three

This factor should actually be listed as 1B, because the items are related.

Not only is Kentucky solid on the glass, the Wildcats understand their offensive identity. They’re not a team obsessed with the three-point shot. They’re content to beat you the old-fashioned way with solid shot selection.

According to Pomeroy’s numbers, Calipari’s team ranks second nationally in its percentage of points scored on two-point field goal attempts.

The Wildcats get 19.6 percent of their points at the foul line and an equal percentage from distance. But Kentucky has scored nearly 62 percent of its points on traditional two-point field goals, ranking second to only New Orleans.

That appears to be the way Calipari likes it. The Wildcats have taken only 24.3 percent of their field-goal attempts from distance, a rate that Pomeroy has the sixth-lowest in the country. That number is the lowest for Calipari’s nine seasons in Lexington. The Wildcats will need a solid game from point guard Quade Green to stick with the game plan. 

3. Rupp Has Not Been Kind to Louisville

Louisville has not defeated Kentucky in Lexington since Billy Gillispie left town.

The Terrence Williams/Edgar Sosa/David Padgett (the player) Cardinals defeated the Ramel Bradley/Joe Crawford/Patrick Patterson Wildcats, 89-75, on Jan. 5, 2008.

Mark that one down as one of four games the Cardinals have won in 18 trips to play the Wildcats in Rupp. Overall, Kentucky has won 13 straight at home.

Calipari’s record in Rupp is 142-6, losing to Kansas (2017), UCLA (2017), Arkansas (2014), Florida (2014), Texas A&M (2013) and Baylor (2013).

If you’d like to discount a winning percentage of nearly 96 percent, go for it.

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