Apr 1, 2013, 12:15 PM EDT
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.
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
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.
Jul 25, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
The Texas native isn’t happy some Texas schools pulled their scholarship offers.
Jul 25, 2014, 10:49 AM EDT
Two of the nation’s best big men were on the same court Thursday, with Zimmerman’s Oakland Soldiers getting the win.
Jul 25, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT
Hipsher worked with Watson from 2009-11, when he was associate head coach at Alabama and Watson a grad assistant.
Jul 25, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
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Jul 24, 2014, 10:04 PM EDT
Eric McKnight’s waiver to play immediately was denied by the SEC.
Jul 24, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Groce is under .500 in Big Ten play in his two seasons at Illinois.
Jul 24, 2014, 8:34 PM EDT
Florida State will play five non-conference games against teams that reached the NCAA tournament last season.
Jul 24, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
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Jul 24, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Mostella has travelled a long road to get to Knoxville.
Jul 24, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
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Jul 24, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
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Jul 24, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT
Thon Maker is a top five recruit in 2016 and would be a top two or three recruit in 2015.
Jul 24, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT
Hoiberg had surgery to replace his pacemaker last week.
Jul 24, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT
The events will be played in November and December
Jul 24, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT
Mykhailiuk is playing in the B Division of the event.
Jul 24, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
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Jul 23, 2014, 9:59 PM EDT
Perry’s been at USC Upstate since 2009, and among the players he’s helped recruit was former great Torrey Craig.
Jul 23, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Brown averaged 5.5 points per game and made 13 starts in 35 appearances for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Jul 23, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Lindsay played his freshman season at Kansas
Jul 23, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Beasley has been one of the nations top performers over the last three months
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