Skip to content

Picking Winners: Why I think St. Louis will upset Louisville in the Sweet 16

Mar 19, 2013, 2:35 PM EST

Mike McCall Jr.

I’m going to have a post up tomorrow explaining how and why I made all of my picks, but since I’ve been getting a lot of questions about it, I’m going to take a minute to get into why I think St. Louis will knock off the tournament’s top seed in the Sweet 16.

Louisville is the best defensive team in the country, according to Kenpom.com. They’re actually the most efficiency defensive team since Kenpom started keeping track of such things. That defense is built around their pressure: the Cardinals want to defend for 94 feet, tiring their opponents out, forcing turnovers, and turning those turnovers into easy baskets so they can jump right back into their press. They don’t always defend in the full court, but even when Louisville drops back into their 2-3 zone, they are looking to pressure the ball and force turnovers.

In fact, Louisville is No. 2 in the country in defensive turnover percentage.

The team that’s No. 1? VCU.

St. Louis is 2-0 against the Rams this season. The first time they matched up, the Billikens ran Shaka Smart and company out of Chafeitz Arena, winning 76-62 in a game that wasn’t even that close. On Sunday, St. Louis got the Rams again, winning 62-56 in Brooklyn for the Atlantic 10 tournament title. In those two games, the Billikens committed just 26 turnovers in 122 total possessions, a turnover percentage of 21.3%, well below the 28.7% that VCU averages for the season.

On the season, St. Louis is one of the top 50 teams in the country at protecting the ball, and that includes the stretch at the start of the season when starting point guard Kwamain Mitchell was out with a broken foot. In other words, the Billikens have the kind of veteran back court that has proven they don’t get flustered when having to deal with the kind of assaulting pressure that looks to do nothing more than turn turnovers into easy baskets.

And if Louisville isn’t getting easy baskets, are they going to be able to score on St. Louis?

The Billikens are seventh nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They don’t have a ton of size in the paint, but they are disciplined, they don’t give up open looks, they’re pretty good at forcing turnovers and they don’t give up offensive rebounds. If there is one issue that Louisville has repeatedly shown this season, it’s that they struggle to score against a set defense.

St. Louis doesn’t turn the ball over. They won’t let Louisville get out in transition. They are a nightmare to try and score against in the half court. And, frankly, they’re not too bad on the offensive end of the floor. Kenpom ranks them 58th in adjusted efficiency despite the fact they are 287th in offensive rebounding percentage, and they have the kind of balanced attack where you cannot simply game-plan to take away one guy. Build your defense around stopping Mitchell, Cody Ellis gets you. Build your game-plan around stopping both of them, Dwayne Evans goes off for 20 and 10.

Put it all together, and the Cardinals are ripe for the Billiken pickin’.

Now, that doesn’t mean that Louisville won’t win this game. Hell, they’ll probably be favored if this game actually does happen.

But everyone and their brother is picking Louisville to win the national title. If you are looking for an upset that has a real chance of happening, one that could all but lock up a win in your office pool, this is it.

You heard it here first.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Late Night Snacks: North Florida, USC Upstate advance to Atlantic Sun title game

    Mar 5, 2015, 10:23 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    No. 6 Wisconsin is the outright Big Ten champion, and Delaware State’s Kendall Gray went off for 33 points and 30 rebounds.

  2. Draft age limit to be a major issue for NBA, college basketball in near future

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:34 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    With the NBA and NBPA having different views on the limit, college basketball can only wait and see what happens.

  3. Injured Kansas forward’s status will be re-evaluated next week

    Mar 5, 2015, 7:36 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The only sure thing at this point is that Perry Ellis won’t be on the floor when the Jayhawks visit No. 15 Oklahoma Saturday.

  4. NCAA announces upgrade to its replay and timekeeping systems for men’s and women’s tournaments

    Mar 5, 2015, 6:44 PM EST

    NCAA NCAA

    DVSport will handle the video replay technology, with Precision Timing Systems handling the timekeeping.

  5. Concussion to sideline UNLV freshman guard for Saturday’s regular season finale

    Mar 5, 2015, 5:38 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Patrick McCaw has been one of UNLV’s most consistent players this season, but he’ll have to miss Saturday’s game at San Jose State.

  6. Report: Duke not currently investigating Rasheed Sulaimon

    Mar 5, 2015, 4:56 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    This situation seems certain to end up in a mess.

  7. Pregame Shootaround: No. 6 Wisconsin, two other ranked teams hit the road

    Mar 5, 2015, 4:13 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Both Wisconsin and No. 5 Arizona can wrap up outright conference titles with wins Thursday night.

  8. Indiana’s AD backs Tom Crean, calls hot seat speculation ‘ridiculous’

    Mar 5, 2015, 3:45 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    I don’t think any Indiana fans are listening at this point.

  9. West Coast Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:31 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    After winning yet another regular season title, Gonzaga looks to win its third consecutive WCC tournament crown.

  10. Film Session: Who can actually beat Kentucky and why

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:05 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    I’ve been asked the question enough. Here are the answers.

  11. CAA Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Marcus Thornton (Getty Images) Marcus Thornton (Getty Images)

    The CAA will be the nations most wide-open conference tournament.

  12. Southern Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    Karl Cochran (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Can Wofford reach their second straight NCAA tournament?

  13. Vermont honors hospitalized recruit with #JoshStrong shirts (PHOTOS)

    Mar 5, 2015, 10:57 AM EST

    Vermont Athletics Vermont Athletics

    Josh Speidel is still in the hospital as he deals with a serious brain injury stemming from a car accident last month.

  14. Oregon State’s Wayne Tinkle starts five walk-ons on Senior Night

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:51 AM EST

    Wayne Tinkle AP

    The catch: None of them were actually seniors.

  15. Potential NCAA tournament bid thieves bubble teams should be rooting against

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:53 AM EST

    Ryan Boatright (Getty Images) Ryan Boatright (Getty Images)

    These eight teams can steal an automatic bid in conferences that will get at-large bids.

  16. Late Night Snacks: Bubble teams Pittsburgh, LSU and Tulsa suffer home losses

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:22 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Neither the Panthers nor the Tigers did themselves any favors Wednesday night, with Pittsburgh’s home loss being the costlier of the two defeats.

  17. Bubble Banter: Why LSU losing is bad news for Texas A&M

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:59 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    All of Wednesday’s relevant bubble info can be found right here.

  18. Joe O’Shea’s off-balance three-pointer forces overtime in Bryant’s double OT win over Sacred Heart (VIDEO)

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:34 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Thanks to O’Shea the Bulldogs advanced to the NEC semifinals, where they’ll take on Robert Morris.