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. Is the College of Charleston close to making a decision on head coach Doug Wojcik?

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    Doug Wojcik AP

    The College of Charleston Board of Trustees meets on Wednesday.

  2. Iowa State forward Jameel McKay denied wavier, eligible to play in December

    Jul 22, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Fred Hoiberg

    The transfer forward will miss the first nine games of the season.

  3. Highlights from the 2014 Nike EYBL Peach Jam (VIDEO)

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Seven minutes of highlights from this past weekend’s Nike Peach Jam.

  4. Northern Kentucky eligible for the 2015 Atlantic Sun tournament

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    Dave Bezold Dave Bezold

    But they aren’t yet eligible for the NCAA tournament. Click to see why.

  5. Isaiah Austin has a job with the NBA once he finishes degree at Baylor

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT

    Isaiah Austin Isaiah Austin

    Isaiah Austin is returning to Baylor. Once he gets his degree, he’ll have a job with the NBA.

  6. Montrezl Harrell says he’d be willing to play for Louisville football

    Jul 22, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    montrezl harrell Getty Images

    Imagine 6-foot-8, 235-pound Harrell in a helmet and shoulder pads.

  7. July Live Period Week Two Superlatives

    Jul 22, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT

    Nike Nike

    The second installment of our weekly awards.

  8. Iowa State’s Georges Niang carries extra motivation – and less weight – into 2014-15

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

    Georges Niang AP

    Niang, who has dropped some 25 pounds since the end of the season, is looking to have an even greater impact as the Cyclones work to account for the losses of Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane.

  9. Mixtape of 2016 five-star guard Malik Monk (VIDEO)

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    (USA Baketball) (USA Baketball)

    Is this the best high school mixtape since Seventh Woods?

  10. DePaul forward DeJuan Marrero to transfer to Chipola College

    Jul 21, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT

    marrero

    DePaul redshirt freshman forward DeJuan Marrero will play his sophomore season at Chipola.

  11. Malik Newman, Ivan Rabb, Jayson Tatum, Malik Monk among 33 members battling for USA U17 roster spots this week

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Malik Newman (Getty Images) Getty Images

    The USA U17 tryouts have a lot of big names and it will also be important for the last week of the July live evaluation period.

  12. Peach Jam mixtape for five-star 2015 guard Isaiah Briscoe (VIDEO)

    Jul 21, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    (Scott Phillips/NBCSports.com) (Scott Phillips/NBCSports.com)

    Isaiah Briscoe helped lead the New Jersey Playaz to a title at Peach Jam.

  13. Four-star Class of 2016 guard Bruce Brown gave up football to focus on basketball

    Jul 21, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT

    (Scott Phillips/NBCSports.com) (Scott Phillips/NBCSports.com)

    Bruce Brown was a promising two-sport athlete, but gave up football to focus on basketball.

  14. Four-star recruit Cameron Walker commits to Stanford

    Jul 21, 2014, 6:10 PM EDT

    adidas adidas

    Walker is the second commitment for the Cardinal this spring.

  15. Seven (more) Takeaways from Nike’s Peach Jam

    Jul 21, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    NikeEYB NikeEYB

    Seven additional thoughts on Nike’s Peach Jam, including Ben Simmons’ one weakness, Malik Monk and how college coaches look at parents

  16. Peach Jam mixtape of top 2016 recruit Jayson Tatum (VIDEO)

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:54 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 2.45.41 PM

    Tatum is the best player in the class.