USF-Louisville Preview, GameThread

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A one-sided rivalry is likely to come to a one-sided end.

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Some match-ups just don't require in-depth analysis.

We like to use the Four Factors to preview games. But you don't have to look very far to see that Louisville's advantage over USF is enormous. Here's the chart:

Let's focus on the first factor, Effective Shooting Percentage. This is simply field goal percentage (shots made divided by shots attempted), except that made three-point shots count as 1.5 shots made. According to Dean Oliver's seminal research on basketball, Eff FG% is the most important factor in winning basketball games -- almost as important as the other three factors combined.

It doesn't look like it in the chart, but the gap between Louisville and USF is huge. Louisville's 55% figure is one of the best in the country (21st), while USF's 46.3% is one of the worst (314th out of 351 teams). Division I teams average about 56 field goal attempts per game. Over that number of attempts, Louisville would make an average of 31 baskets to USF's 26. That's a ten-point advantage for Louisville, just from shooting. We could also talk about defense, rebounding, protecting the ball, pace, and so forth, but those things all favor Louisville as well.

By the way, the Ball Handling bar chart is a bit misleading - the lower number is better. Louisville turns the ball over 15% of the time to USF's 19.6%. At 68 possessions per game (both teams are near that number), USF will average 3 more wasted trips per game than the Cardinals.

The one thing USF does do well is get to the free throw line; they've been better than almost every team they've played (74th nationally, 1st in the American). But that's the least important of the four factors, and USF is a below-average free throw shooting team (67.1%), which partially negates that advantage.

And it has always been like this. USF has played Louisville 32 times, and won 4 of them: at home in 1992, the NCAA at-large season season; against two losing Louisville teams in 1998 and 2000; and the win at KFC Yum Center in 2012 that punched USF's NCAA ticket. A USF win tonight would be very surprising, to say the least.

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