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.
Apr 28, 2015, 12:04 PM EDT
Brandon Ingram’s decision to bypass UNC and go to Duke should worry the folks in Chapel Hill.
Apr 28, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT
Yeah, exactly what it says in the headline.
Apr 28, 2015, 9:17 AM EDT
Rector was a three-star recruit coming out of high school.
Apr 27, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT
Rutgers added a potential starter for next season on Monday.
Apr 27, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT
N.C. State landed a surprise commitment from an athletic 2015 forward on Monday night.
Apr 27, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT
The NCAA is considering moving the shot clock to 30 seconds in men’s basketball.
Apr 27, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT
Florida guard Eli Carter will transfer.
Apr 27, 2015, 6:08 PM EDT
Duke picked up its second major commitment in recent weeks with the addition of five-star wing Brandon Ingram.
Apr 27, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT
Here’s seven takeaways from a busy weekend at the three shoe company events.
Apr 27, 2015, 5:22 PM EDT
Brandon Ingram is a top five recruit in the class.
Apr 27, 2015, 3:37 PM EDT
Tatum might be the best player in the Class of 2016.
Apr 27, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT
It will feature a preseason top five team.
Apr 27, 2015, 12:48 PM EDT
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Apr 27, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Which potential draft picks returning to school will be the most influential in 2015-16?
Apr 27, 2015, 10:17 AM EDT
Hatch is one of the most inspirational people you will ever hear about
Apr 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
The return of Buddy Hield pushes previously unranked Oklahoma into our way too early rankings.
Apr 27, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Who’s going pro? Who’s returning to school? Who are we still waiting to hear from?
Apr 26, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT
Collins averaged 7.1 points and 5.2 assists per game last season, and his arrival could lead to Alex Caruso getting more scoring opportunities off the ball.
Apr 26, 2015, 7:35 PM EDT
Robinson has quite the rebuilding job on his hands, but guard LeAntwan Luckett (16.3 ppg) is one of the team’s top four scorers who have eligibility remaining.
Apr 26, 2015, 7:05 PM EDT
Dominic Green was released from his National Letter of Intent to Arizona State a couple weeks ago.
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