Louisville, Kentucky In All-Bluegrass Battle

By: Willie Bee | Thursday, March 29, 2012

It might appall some and leave others shaking their heads that a silly college basketball game could lead to fisticuffs.  But then, this is no ordinary college hoops contest, and you've got to love a rivalry that sends two senior citizens into a brawl.  Adding to the fun was the scuffle came while both men were getting treatment at a dialysis clinic.

Welcome to the 2012 NCAA Final Four and the all-Bluegrass State matchup between the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals.  If a couple of guys in their late-60s, early-70s were this worked up three days before the game, imagine the atmosphere inside Mercedes-Benz Superdome by the time the game tips on CBS at 6:09 p.m. (ET).

A quick check of the Don Best odds screen shows the game opened at Kentucky -8 with 138½ for the total.  That spread has since been bumped up to 8½-9 in Las Vegas while the total ranges from 136½ to 138 at a majority of college basketball betting outlets.

Both Final Four contests are rematches from earlier in the schedule.  Saturday's second contest between Ohio State and Kansas (8:49 p.m. ET) went the way of the Jayhawks last Dec. 10, and the annual Louisville-Kentucky meeting took place on New Year's Eve.

That Dec. 31 contest at Rupp Arena in Lexington was controlled by Kentucky despite the Wildcats failing to cover the 10-point spread in the 69-62 decision.  Louisville's only lead came on a bucket about 10 seconds into the contest, though the Cardinals did manage to rally from a 15-point deficit to tie things at 40-40 five minutes into the second half.  But UK still dominated the proceedings behind double-doubles from their two big men, Anthony Davis (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (24 and 19).

Two phases of the game that Kentucky particularly dominated Louisville were rebounding and foul shooting.  With neither team shooting well that Saturday afternoon (UK 29.8% from the field, UL 32.3%), the Wildcats' 49-28 advantage on the glass was huge. Kentucky also outscored the Cards 32-18 from the charity stripe.

The free throw edge has followed the Wildcats during the NCAA Tournament with a 98-57 scoring margin in wins over Western Kentucky, Iowa State, Indiana and Baylor.  The only team Kentucky didn't outscore in the free throw column was Iowa State who posted a slight 18-15 advantage over the 'Cats.

Kentucky also shot just 3-of-16 from long-range in the win over Louisville, but has managed to improve that facet of its game during March Madness.  The Wildcats, seeded No. 1 in the South Regional, shot nearly 45 percent from beyond the arc (22-of-49) in the four wins to claim a Final Four berth compared to 26.1 percent (17-of-65) in the four games prior.

Louisville's run to the West Regional crown as a No. 4 seed didn't include the same eye-popping stats as Kentucky's 3-point or free throw shooting.  The Cardinals did shoot a respectable 38.9 percent from 3-point land (23-of-59) in victories over Davidson, New Mexico, Michigan State and Florida, but only held a 52-44 scoring edge in those games from the charity stripe.

Defense and a solid effort protecting the basketball have been on display, however, during Louisville's impressive 8-game run that started with four victories in the Big East Tournament and has continued through the NCAA's.  The Cardinals have limited their dance partners to just over 38 percent shooting from the field while committing only 36 turnovers and forcing 51.

Accompanying the 8-game win streak in the two tournaments is a perfect 8-0 record against the spread for Cardinals backers.  The Wildcats missed the cover in their opening win over Western Kentucky, but have since posted three consecutive cash-outs in the triumphs against Iowa State, Indiana and Baylor.

While the two teams have been covering spreads the past couple of weeks, they are at odds when it comes to wagering on totals.  Six of Louisville's last eight contests have remained 'under' the total, leaving the Cards 20-15 to the low side for the season.  All four of Kentucky's tournament games have jumped the number after the Wildcats started March Madness with a 22-10 'under' mark.

The recent series between the two schools has heavily favored the 'under.'  The last three meetings have finished short of the scoreboard hurdle by a combined 30½ points, with nine of the last 11 falling short of the total.

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