Apr 1, 2013, 12:15 PM EST
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.
Dec 18, 2013, 9:26 AM EST
NEW YORK — I’m staying with a couple of college buddies here in New York while I cover the Jimmy V Classic and the Duke-UCLA game. This morning, I was chatting with one of them — I’ll call him Rizzo — about the game last night. He’s a big sports fan and watches his fair share…
Dec 18, 2013, 2:09 AM EST
Southern Illinois head coach Barry Hinson delivered the press conference of the year after Tuesday night’s 73-65 loss to Murray State. Hinson, the second-year coach who is 16-25 with the Salukis, has his team off to a 2-8 start this season and is less than pleased about the state of his team. Fast forward to the…
Dec 18, 2013, 12:53 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 16 Florida 77, No. 15 Memphis 75 The Gators looked like they would cruise in the final minutes of second half, but the Tigers charged back. Joe Jackson had a chance to tie, but could not convert Florida, finally healthy and still getting players back, are showing how impressive it…
Dec 18, 2013, 12:20 AM EST
New Mexico State held a 13-point halftime lead and nearly gave it away in the waning moments of the game, but Daniel Mullings block on Cullen Neal kept New Mexico from tying the game at 61 with 30 seconds to play. K.C. Ross-Miller would go to the line three times in the final seconds and…
Dec 17, 2013, 11:58 PM EST
No. 11 Wichita State went on the road in Tuscaloosa to take on a quality Alabama program, led by senior point guard Travis Releford. In the first half Ron Baker, Cleanthony Early and Fred VanVleet all sat for much of the first half with foul trouble. In the second half, Alabama took the lead on…
Dec 17, 2013, 11:57 PM EST
NEW YORK — Billy Donovan said that this season, for his Gators, has been exhausting. Between the injuries and the suspensions and the academic issues, the status of Florida’s roster has been a bigger story to date than their performance against teams like Wisconsin or UConn or Kansas. “I almost keep looking around to see…
South Florida holds on as Florida Gulf Coast’s buzzer-beater in double overtime doesn’t count (VIDEO)
Dec 17, 2013, 10:35 PM EST
With 0.3 seconds remaining in double overtime, Jamail Jones threw a beautiful full-court pass — which he put by the 7-foot-3 Jordan Omogbehin — ending up in the hands of Chase Fieler, who put up a shot that bounced off the rim and in. The Eagles thought the bucket tied the score at 68-68, but instead…
Dec 17, 2013, 9:59 PM EST
NEW YORK — Dear Pitt: This is why you put together a real non-conference schedule. This is why you make sure that, more than a month and 11 games into the season, the best team on your schedule is someone better than Cincinnati. Don’t get me wrong, the Bearcats aren’t a bad basketball team. They’re…
Dec 17, 2013, 8:06 PM EST
Florida Gulf Coast guard Jamail Jones’ shot was off the mark, but he ran down his miss near the baseline. He beat a pair of South Florida defenders before throwing down on another one. That ended the half as Bulls led 23-21. It’s an absolutely vicious slam, unfortunately South Florida guard Martino Brock is blocking…
Dec 17, 2013, 6:35 PM EST
You’ve probably already heard the name Jahlil Okafor. The 6-foot-10 Whitney Young Magnet High (Ill.) center is the nation’s consensus top player, and is Duke bound, staying true to his word that he would attend the same college as Apple Valley High (Minn.) point guard Tyus Jones. Okafor will only continue to grab national attention…
Dec 17, 2013, 5:40 PM EST
Injuries have piled up for Seton Hall in recent weeks, as the roster got even thinner once Tom Maayan had to return to Israel to fulfill his military commitment for the Israeli Defense Forces. However, Kevin Willard got some good news on Monday night, learning that Sterling Gibbs knee injury will only sideline him for 1-2…
Dec 17, 2013, 4:25 PM EST
On Tuesday, NCAA.com released a video listing the five loudest, most intimidating college basketball arenas to play in. Coming in at the top spot was Allen Fieldhouse on the University of Kansas campus. The reasoning behind it: “It’s twice the size as Cameron [Indoor Stadium] with three times the students sitting courtside. There’s a reason…
Dec 17, 2013, 3:21 PM EST
It’s the end of the first semester and No. 14 North Carolina is still waiting for a decision from the NCAA on the eligibility status of guards P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. The Tar Heels have been without the duo for the first nine games of the season, and they will both likely be in street…
Dec 17, 2013, 1:27 PM EST
Someone managed to get a “Free PJ” sign into Cameron Indoor Stadium last night, and it appears as if a Duke fan was none-too-pleased about it. They were Carolina fans, and my guess is that they were the people responsible for the “Free PJ” being yelled at Quinn Cook while he shot free…
Dec 17, 2013, 1:01 PM EST
I wrote two columns off of Kentucky’s loss to North Carolina, so I don’t think there is really anything else for me to say on the subject. Others had plenty to say, however, and one of the most common responses I got from the good folks of twitter on the subject had to do with…
Dec 17, 2013, 11:59 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 16 Florida vs. No. 15 Memphis, 9:30 p.m. The nightcap of the Jimmy V Classic is one of the more intriguing games left before we get into league play. Both Florida and Memphis has enough talent on their roster to be considered a top ten team and a challenger to…
Dec 17, 2013, 9:49 AM EST
The big news of the weekend for hoops fans in Gainesville was that Florida native and McDonalds All-American Chris Walker was accepted into school. Yay! But it may be a while before Walker actually sees the court. First things first: he needs to make his was through the NCAA’s Eligibility Center, which is what every…
Dec 17, 2013, 9:28 AM EST
The 2013-2014 season is sure to be a thrilling Player of the Year race, so to keep track of it, we will be posting weekly Player of the Year Power Rankings for your reading goodness. Who’d we miss? Who’s ranked too high? We love to overlook your team’s best player and overrate your rival’s superstar.…
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