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.
Aug 27, 2014, 12:03 AM EDT
Richard Pitino had five recruits scheduled to join the program.
Aug 26, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT
The College of Charleston is looking to replace Doug Wojcik, who was fired on Aug. 5.
Aug 26, 2014, 8:07 PM EDT
This is the first commit in the Beavers’ Class of 2015.
Aug 26, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
The 6-foot-10 big man was dismissed from Missouri on April 10.
Aug 26, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Some of the best high school players in the country appeared in Elite 24 this weekend in Brooklyn.
Aug 26, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT
Dayton adds depth to its point guard position for the 2014-2015 season.
Aug 26, 2014, 4:26 PM EDT
The younger brother of Enes Kanter will join the favorite to win the Horizon League.
Aug 26, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT
Porter Moser’s team should still take a step forward in the Missouri Valley.
Aug 26, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT
Pastner continues to recruit the state of Tennessee well.
Aug 26, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT
Some teams are unlucky in losses. It’s not bad luck when you blow games you should have won, though.
Aug 26, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT
Our top ten is different, but not by that much.
Aug 26, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
According to a report, there are six sites vying for four Final Fours between 2017 and 2020.
Aug 26, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Value Add is college basketball’s equivalent to WARP.
Aug 25, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT
UTEP took a blow to its 2014-15 season as two freshmen failed to make the roster.
Aug 25, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT
Xavier went 4-0 on a preseason trip to Brazil and got a lot of playing time for its inexperienced team.
Aug 25, 2014, 9:10 PM EDT
UConn gave a scholarship to a former walk-on.
Aug 25, 2014, 8:10 PM EDT
Former Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson will get a shot to play professionally in Europe.
Aug 25, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Cool video of a Vanderbilt walk-on earning a scholarship.
Aug 25, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Former Georgetown great Patrick Ewing and agent David Falk are donating $3.3 million to Georgetown for a practice facility.
Aug 25, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
This week’s CBT Recruiting Roundup features some thoughts on Bruce Pearl’s fast start at Auburn and a couple players cutting school lists.
- ‘Value Add’ stat projects Utah’s Delon Wright as having a historic season 0
- College Basketball Talk’s Recruiting Roundup 0
- Bruce Pearl gets welcomed by Auburn team, students after NCAA show-cause ends (VIDEO) 0
- College Basketball Talk’s Recruiting Roundup 0
- John Calipari can be a great coach with being an x’s-and-o’s mastermind 4
- Louisville’s Terry Rozier is ready for his bigger role this season 1
- Expectations have changed for Nebraska after surprise run to 2014 NCAA tournament 0
- John Calipari calls Mike Francesa’s radio show to complain about a critique (AUDIO) (6)
- Rupp Arena ranked college hoops’ best home venue, Cameron Indoor 31st? (5)
- Indiana lands a final piece in their 2014 recruiting class (4)
- John Calipari can be a great coach with being an x’s-and-o’s mastermind (4)
- Creighton’s logos draw ire of Major League Baseball franchise (4)