Skip to content

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

Mar 19, 2013, 2:35 PM EDT

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. Nevada gets commitment from transfer forward from Southern Illinois

    May 5, 2015, 11:15 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Nevada landed a Southern Illinois transfer at forward.

  2. Report: Oklahoma State lands big man transfer from Washington

    May 5, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Oklahoma State has added a big man who could help in the rotation if he’s eligible.

  3. Old Dominion gets a transfer forward from Illinois

    May 5, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Old Dominion is gaining a transfer from Illinois

  4. Report: Four-star Class of 2015 Florida commitment will ask for release

    May 5, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp Getty Images

    Florida looks like they’ll be losing a key member of their 2015 recruiting haul.

  5. Nebraska lands former Louisville guard as a transfer

    May 5, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Nebraska picked up a guard who should help after one season.

  6. Tennessee forward will transfer

    May 5, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Tennessee is losing its second front court player of the off season to transfer.

  7. Florida State lands four-star Class of 2016 guard

    May 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    (Jon Lopez/Nike) (Jon Lopez/Nike)

    Florida State grabbed an impact shooting guard in 2016.

  8. Florida AD Jeremy Foley: Goal is to make a hire ‘sometime in June’

    May 5, 2015, 3:49 PM EDT

    AP AP

    This isn’t a decision that is going to get made quickly.

  9. Looking Forward: The eight most intriguing coaching hires of 2015

    May 5, 2015, 3:26 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Of all the changes on the coaching carousel, what are we most interested in seeing?

  10. Texas got Shaka Smart, but they won’t be getting ‘HAVOC’

    May 5, 2015, 1:43 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    As it stands, it appears that Texas will not be bringing ‘HAVOC’ to Austin.

  11. South Carolina announces the departure of three players

    May 5, 2015, 12:02 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Demetrius Henry is the only player of note leaving the program.

  12. The NCAA tabs a new head of men’s basketball officiating

    May 5, 2015, 11:42 AM EDT

    NCAA NCAA

    J.D. Collins will be the one to replace John Adams.

  13. Boise State lands graduate transfer guard from Boston College

    May 4, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Boise State might have found some production in its backcourt to help replace Derrick Marks.

  14. Quinn Cook’s senior speech at the Duke banquet is tremendous (VIDEO)

    May 4, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Quinn Cook had plenty of ups and downs at Duke and this senior speech caps it all off.

  15. Four-star Class of 2016 forward commits to San Diego State

    May 4, 2015, 7:55 PM EDT

    AP AP

    San Diego State landed a top-100 player in the 2016 class on Monday night.

  16. Report: Former Clemson guard Rod Hall has interest from multiple NFL teams; college football also an option

    May 4, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Former Clemson point guard Rod Hall has some decisions to make regarding his future in football.

  17. Four-star Class of 2016 guard Frank Jackson will take a mission trip before playing college basketball

    May 4, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    (Kelly Kline/adidas) (Kelly Kline/adidas)

    Class of 2016 guard Frank Jackson is a unique recruit because of a two-year mission he plans on taking after high school.