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 23, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Rick vs. Richard could get awkward for the rest of the family
Jul 23, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT
Will this be enough for Charleston to finally get rid of their embattled head coach?
Jul 23, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Blakeney is now on the radar of programs like Kentucky and Louisville.
Jul 23, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Iowa State repainted their court.
Jul 22, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
The College of Charleston Board of Trustees meets on Wednesday.
Jul 22, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
The transfer forward will miss the first nine games of the season.
Jul 22, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Seven minutes of highlights from this past weekend’s Nike Peach Jam.
Jul 22, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
But they aren’t yet eligible for the NCAA tournament. Click to see why.
Jul 22, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT
Isaiah Austin is returning to Baylor. Once he gets his degree, he’ll have a job with the NBA.
Jul 22, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Imagine 6-foot-8, 235-pound Harrell in a helmet and shoulder pads.
Jul 22, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT
The second installment of our weekly awards.
Jul 22, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT
He’ll be out for two months.
Jul 22, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT
Josh Jackson, Jaylen Brown, Diamond Stone, and more.
Jul 22, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT
Niang, who has dropped some 25 pounds since the end of the season, is looking to have an even greater impact as the Cyclones work to account for the losses of Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane.
Jul 22, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT
Can you say seven figures?
Jul 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Is this the best high school mixtape since Seventh Woods?
Jul 21, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT
DePaul redshirt freshman forward DeJuan Marrero will play his sophomore season at Chipola.
Malik Newman, Ivan Rabb, Jayson Tatum, Malik Monk among 33 members battling for USA U17 roster spots this week
Jul 21, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
The USA U17 tryouts have a lot of big names and it will also be important for the last week of the July live evaluation period.
Jul 21, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Isaiah Briscoe helped lead the New Jersey Playaz to a title at Peach Jam.
Jul 21, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT
Bruce Brown was a promising two-sport athlete, but gave up football to focus on basketball.
- Top 15 recruit Antonio Blakeney has made the ‘jump’ — literally — to elite status 0
- July Live Period Week Two Superlatives 0
- Seven Takeaways from the Under Armour Finals 0
- Iowa State’s Georges Niang carries extra motivation – and less weight – into 2014-15 0
- Emmanuel Mudiay to China makes him even more of a case-study 0
- Four-star Class of 2016 guard Bruce Brown gave up football to focus on basketball 0
- Seven (more) Takeaways from Nike’s Peach Jam 0
- Chris Walker looks like he’s spent some time in the gym (PHOTO) (4)
- Indiana’s summer workouts look intense (VIDEO) (4)
- Mother of elite recruit Josh Jackson: ‘Josh hasn’t been recruited by anyone’ (4)
- NCAA gets rid of name-likeness release form for student-athletes (3)
- Mixtape for Ben Simmons, who proves he’s 2015′s No. 1 player (VIDEO) (3)