Midwest Regional Semifinals Betting Preview: #8 Kentucky Wildcats vs #4 Louisville Cardinals

2014 NCAA Tournament
Midwest Regional Semifinals

#8 Kentucky Wildcats vs #4 Louisville Cardinals
Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Indiana
Friday, March 28, 2014, 9:45 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Opening Line: Louisville -5
Current Line: Louisville -4
Opening Total: 137 1/2 
Current Total: 139
Opening Money Line: Louisville -220 / Kentucky +185
Current Money Line: Louisville -195 / Kentucky +165

Louisville is a 4 point favorite against Bluegrass rival Kentucky in the Midwest regional semifinal Friday night in Indianapolis.
Louisville is a 4 point favorite against Bluegrass rival Kentucky in the Midwest regional semifinal Friday night in Indianapolis.

It isn’t very often that the last two national champions meet in the Sweet 16. It really doesn’t happen very often that you get a chance to take on your arch in-state rival in the regional semifinals at a site less than 150 miles from both campuses. However, all three of those things will occur as the #4 seeded 31-5 Louisville Cardinals take on the #8 seed 26-10 Kentucky Wildcats in the Midwest Regional semifinal Friday night in Indianapolis. The winner will move on to the regional final Sunday against either #2 seed Michigan or #11 seed Tennessee.

Kentucky went 12-6 in the SEC and tied for second with Georgia behind 18-0 Florida. Kentucky lost to Florida 61-60 in the SEC Championship game. Kentucky beat #9 seed Kansas State 56-49  in the second round Friday and then upset #1 seed Wichita State 78-76 in the third round in St. Louis. The Shockers were 35-0 heading into that game.

Louisville tied with Cincinnati for the American Athletic Conference regular season title with a 15-3 record. Louisville beat Connecticut in the AAC Championship game. The Cardinals beat #13 Manhattan 71-64 in the second round, and then beat #5 Saint Louis 66-51 in the third round in Orlando. Louisville is the defending national champion and has won 7 straight games. Kentucky has won 4 of their last 5 games.

Kentucky leads the series 31-15 against Louisville, including 3-2 in the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky beat Louisville 69-61 in the 2012 Final Four en route to the National Championship. The Wildcats beat the Cardinals 73-66 in Lexington December 28 this season.

Kentucky is coached by John Calipari. The Wildcats have losses to Michigan State in Chicago, Baylor in Arlington, TX, at North Carolina, Arkansas twice, at LSU, Florida 3 times, and at South Carolina. Kentucky has key wins over Robert Morris, Cleveland State, Eastern Michigan, Providence in Brooklyn, Boise State, Belmont, Louisville, Mississippi State twice, at Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Georgia twice, at Missouri, Ole Miss twice, at Auburn, LSU twice, and Alabama. Kentucky is 17-15-2 ATS and the total is 13-19-1 this season.

Kentucky is outscoring teams 75-66 this season. The Wildcats are shooting 45.2% from the field and 32.7 from 3 point range. Kentucky makes 68.4% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 40.6% from the field and 31.9% from 3 point range. Kentucky is #56 or better in both categories nationally. The Wildcats average 40.9 rebounds per game and opponents average 27.5 per game. Kentucky is #6 in rebounding and #21 in rebounds allowed nationally. The Wildcats average 11.5 assists, 12.2 turnovers, 4.8 steals and 6.2 blocks per game. Opponents average 10.4 assists, 11 turnovers, 5.8 steals and 3.1 blocks per game.

Forward Julius Randle averages 15.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists. Forward/guard James Young averages 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Guard Aaron Harrison averages 14.1 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. His twin brother Andrew averages 11 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. Andrew injured his elbow in the second half against Kansas State but played against Wichita State. He is probable against Louisville.  Forward Willie Cauley-Stein  averages 7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.9 blocks per game. Alex Poythress and and Dakari Johnson will also get significant minutes.

Louisville is coached by Rick Pitino. The Cardinals have losses to North Carolina in a tournament in Connecticut, at Kentucky, Memphis twice, and Cincinnati. Louisville has key wins over College of Charleston, Hofstra, Cornell, Southern Miss, Louisiana, Western Kentucky, Missouri State, Florida International, Central Florida twice, Temple twice, Rutgers three times, SMU twice, Houston three times, Connecticut three times, and South Florida twice. Louisville is 20-14 ATS and the total is 15-17 this season.

Louisville is outscoring teams 81-61 this season. The Cardinals are #13 in scoring and #14 in points allowed nationally. Louisville is shooting 47% from the field and 37% from 3 point range. The Cardinals are #40 in field goal percentage. Louisville is #287 out of 351 teams in free throw shooting at 66.3% from the line. Cardinal opponents are shooting 39.5% from the field and 28.6% from 3 point range. Louisville is #19 in field goal defense and #3 in three point defense nationally. The Cardinals average 38.3 rebounds per game and opponents average 32.1. Louisville is #34 nationally in rebounding. The Cardinals average 15.7 assists, 10.3 turnovers, 10.1 steals and 4.6 blocks per game. Opponents average 10.5 assists, 17.4 turnovers, 4.3 steals and 2.8 blocks per game.

Louisville guard Russ Smith averages 18.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2 steals per game. Forward Montrezl Harrell averages 14 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. Forward Luke Hancock averages 12.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Guard Chris Jones averages 10.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. Guard Wayne Blackshear averages 8.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1 steal per game. Terry Rozier, Mangok Mathiang, and Stephan Van Treese will also get significant minutes in the rotation. Forward Chane Behanan was kicked off the team earlier in the season for violating team rules. Guard Kevin Ware is out for the season with a shin injury.

Kentucky is 5-0 ATS against teams with winning records, overall and in neutral site games. 4-0 after a cover, and 6-1 in NCAA Tournament games. The underdog has covered the last 5 games in this series. The Wildcats are 8-3 ATS in the last 11 against the Cardinals.

Louisville is 4-0 ATS in Friday games, 6-1 overall, 5-1 against teams with winning records, 10-3 in NCAA Tournament games, 22-7 in neutral site games, 18-8 in conference games, 53-25 after a straight up win, and 37-18 after a cover. The under is 13-3 in the last 16 games in this series.

This should be a classic. Two great coaches, two teams that just plain don’t like each other, and a constellation of stars on the court make for a compelling contest. Kentucky beat Louisville back in December but both teams are much better now. I think the Cardinals pull it out in the end.


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