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 18, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Kansas will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the DeBruce Center on May 2nd.
Apr 18, 2014, 10:23 AM EDT
With the rise in graduate transfers, the NCAA is looking to change the immediate eligibility process.
Former Nevada forward Cole Huff free to transfer to non-Mountain West schools in southern California
Apr 17, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT
The number of schools that former Nevada forward Cole Huff is prohibited from transferring to has been cut down to 38 following an appeals hearing Thursday.
Apr 17, 2014, 9:07 PM EDT
NCAA tournament participants Cincinnati, Creighton and North Carolina Central part of eight-team field in inaugural Emerald Coast Classic.
Apr 17, 2014, 8:16 PM EDT
The order of protection filed against former Missouri forward Zach Price by Earnest Ross was thrown out Thursday.
Apr 17, 2014, 7:17 PM EDT
After leading Green Bay to a 24-win season, head coach Brian Wardle’s been rewarded with a new five-year contract.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:56 PM EDT
Gonzaga’s added a fourth member to its 2014 recruiting class, with the son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis making his pledge to join the program.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:06 PM EDT
Former Houston players Danuel House and TaShawn Thomas met with an appeals committee Thursday in hopes of getting released from their respective scholarships.
Apr 17, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT
Rodney Hood is following Jabari Parker to the league.
Apr 17, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT
Is Frank Haith getting out of Missouri before they kick him out?
Apr 17, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT
Kentucky is still waiting to hear from four players on their NBA decision.
Apr 17, 2014, 2:33 PM EDT
UCLA will be a contender in the Pac-12 next season with Jordan Adams returning to school.
Apr 17, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
With less than stellar reviews from NBA folks, might the Harrisons be leaning towards a return to Lexington?
Apr 17, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT
Parker will be a top three pick in the draft.
Apr 17, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Jacksons path from Murray State to Southeastern Louisiana is wild.
Apr 17, 2014, 11:43 AM EDT
Hill wrote a nice note to Marquette fans to thank them.
Apr 17, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Five protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church showed up at UMass on Wednesday. 1,500 students rallied in response.
Apr 16, 2014, 10:59 PM EDT
Caris LeVert reiterated his decision to return to Michigan for his junior year at the team’s postseason banquet Wednesday.
Apr 16, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT
According to a report, New Mexico State center Sim Bhullar will forego his final two seasons of eligibility to turn pro.
Apr 16, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT
After leading USC in scoring last season, Byron Wesley announced that he’ll be transferring after graduating this summer.
- NCAA council aims to change immediate eligibility waiver policy 0
- Reports: Missouri’s Frank Haith agrees to take the Tulsa job 11
- Kentucky’s James Young to enter the NBA Draft 0
- Jabari Parker is headed to the NBA 5
- It’s beyond time for college basketball to return to NBA’s early entry calendar 0
- Former Alabama player Devonta Pollard receiving interest from Kentucky 2
- 2014 NBA Draft: What early entry decisions are we still waiting for? 0
- NCAA approves unlimited meals and snacks for Division I student-athletes (11)
- #UMassUnited: Thousands show to support Derrick Gordon during Westboro Baptist Church protest (11)
- Reports: Missouri’s Frank Haith agrees to take the Tulsa job (11)
- Report: Cuonzo Martin to become the new head coach at California (10)
- Cuonzo Martin and Tennessee parting ways is good for everyone involved (9)