Skip to content

Final Four Previews: What you need to know about Louisville

Apr 1, 2013, 12:15 PM EDT

Duke v Louisville Getty Images

Way back in October, Louisville was in the same position as they are a week before the national title game: a favorite to win the national title.

With the exception of one three-game stretch in the middle of the season, Louisville has more-or-less steamrolled through the year. They’re sitting pretty at 33-5, they have the most efficient defense in Kenpom’s database (which dates back to 2003), and Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, Louisville’s nightmare-inducing back court, are playing the best basketball of their careers.

The last thing the rest of the country needed was for Rick Pitino’s team to have extra motivation heading into Atlanta. Now they have it.

Good luck.

How they got here: Louisville won the Midwest Region as the No. 1 seed. After blowing out North Carolina A&T, the Cardinals knocked off No. 8 seed Colorado State by 26, then beat No. 12 seed Oregon 77-69 in the Sweet 16 before last night’s 22 point win over No. 2 seed Duke.

Odds to win the title: 2:3

Read through all of our Final Four coverage here

Why they can win: Everyone knows about how good Louisville’s defense is, but the difference between this Louisville team and the one that lost three straight games to Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown is that their back court has been taking over games on the offensive end of the floor. Russ Smith is averaging 26.0 points in the NCAA tournament, as he’s been impossible to keep out of the paint and a terror in transition. Peyton Siva has controlled everything about the game for the Cardinals on the offensive end of the floor. He’s looked like a 10-year NBA veteran running the pick-and-roll, and he’s cut down on the number of jumpers he takes, focusing on getting into the lane and either scoring at the rim or finding his big men for easy baskets.

Why they won’t win: There are two things to be concerned about with Louisville. The first is that they struggle to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. That hasn’t hurt them yet, because no one has been able to keep Siva and Smith out of the lane, but if Wichita State — and, more importantly, if Syracuse — can keep the Cardinals from getting penetration with the dribble, Louisville could be in trouble. They also struggle on the defensive glass, as their zone makes it easy to get second shots and the Cardinals big men have a tendency to miss box outs and try to jump for rebounds.

It’s worth noting here that Wichita State is a good defensive team that is a top 20 offensive rebounding team.

Key stat: Louisville’s 27.5% defensive turnover percentage isn’t the number that opposing teams need to be concerned about. It’s their steal percentage, which, at 16.1%, was the second-best in the country this season and means that the Cardinals get a steal on roughly one out of every six possessions on the defensive end of the floor. That matters because they are so good in transition. When Louisville forces a live-ball turnover, often it ends up being a “pick-six”, leading to a layup at the other end.

Game-changer: Gorgui Dieng. He’s the shotblocker at the rim that allows Louisville’s guards to be aggressive and gamble on the perimeter, and his development offensively — he can hit 15 footers and he’s become a very good passer out of the high post — is key in their pick-and-roll offense and how Louisville can beat a 2-3 zone. (Ahem, Syracuse.)

Prediction?: I think Louisville will win it all.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Mixtape of Class of 2016 five-star guard Markelle Fultz (VIDEO)

    Jul 5, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT

    markelle fultz

    Markelle Fultz is one the best guard prospects in the country.

  2. Louisville’s Mangok Mathiang posts double-double in World University Games opener

    Jul 4, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    Mangok Mathiang Mangok Mathiang

    Mathiang’s playing on an Australian team that includes the likes of Peter Hooley and Hugh Greenwood.

  3. Former South Carolina power forward Demetrius Henry transferring to La Salle

    Jul 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    The 6-foot-9 Henry averaged 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season.

  4. United States advances to FIBA U19 World Championships gold medal game

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:59 PM EDT

    Jalen Brunson AP

    Jalen Brunson led the way with 30 points for the United States, which plays Croatia Sunday.

  5. Mixtape of five-star wing Miles Bridges (VIDEO)

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    bridges

    Miles Bridges is one of the better scorers in the 2016 class.

  6. POSTERIZED: Jayson Tatum throws one down on Greek defender

    Jul 4, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT

    Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Getty Images

    The US is taking on the hosts in the semifinals, with the winner getting Croatia on Sunday.

  7. Players from Kentucky, Oregon, Gonzaga and Dayton trying out for Canadian national team

    Jul 4, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Kyle Wiltjer (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Four players from 2015 NCAA tournament programs are trying out for the Canadian national team.

  8. Kansas opens World University Games with a win over Turkey

    Jul 4, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Kansas won its debut overseas this summer as Wayne Selden had a big outing.

  9. Four-star Class of 2016 guard commits to UConn

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:05 AM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    UConn landed a quality guard in the Class of 2016.

  10. Report: Oregon point guard Ahmaad Rorie will transfer to Montana

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Ahmaad Rorie, Brandon Chauca AP

    Given Oregon’s many perimeter options, minutes were likely to be at a premium for Rorie in 2015-16.

  11. Louisiana Tech reduces transfer restrictions for Xavian Stapleton

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The rising sophomore was originally being blocked from transferring to 55 schools.

  12. Ohio State lands center Kaleb Wesson, first commit in 2017

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:08 PM EDT

    Thad Matta AP

    Ohio State begins its 2017 class with a local product.

  13. Re-ranking the recruiting classes: Who are the 25 best players in the Class of 2008?

    Jul 3, 2015, 2:10 PM EDT

    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 05:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers celebrates in the game against the Miami Heat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 5, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Tonight is his first game this season .  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

    A lot of unranked players made their way into the top five in a surprisingly deep class.

  14. United States U19 team advances to semifinals of FIBA U19 World Championships

    Jul 3, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT

    Jalen Brunson AP

    Jalen Brunson led four Americans in double figures with 17 points.

  15. Former St. John’s center visiting Minnesota this weekend

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Chris Obekpa AP

    Minnesota is one of four schools the 6-foot-10 center is reportedly considering.

  16. Four-star point guard Alterique Gilbert to announce college decision Saturday

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Getty Images

    The lone school to host the Georgia native on an official visit is considered to be the favorite in this recruiting race.

  17. Oregon releases non-conference schedule that includes four NCAA tournament teams

    Jul 2, 2015, 7:40 PM EDT

    Dana Altman AP

    Oregon still has a date to fill (December 29), which the school expects to be filled by an in-state opponent.