Skip to content

Final Four Previews: What you need to know about Louisville

Apr 1, 2013, 12:15 PM EDT

Duke v Louisville Getty Images

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.

Good luck.

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

Read through all of our Final Four coverage here

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Minnesota freshman forward denied admission

    Aug 27, 2014, 12:03 AM EDT

    Richard Pitino AP

    Richard Pitino had five recruits scheduled to join the program.

  2. Report: College of Charleston head coaching search down to two finalists

    Aug 26, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The College of Charleston is looking to replace Doug Wojcik, who was fired on Aug. 5.

  3. Winthrop is the third stop for the former Louisville, Missouri center

    Aug 26, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The 6-foot-10 big man was dismissed from Missouri on April 10.

  4. Highlights from Under Armour’s Elite 24 (VIDEO)

    Aug 26, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Some of the best high school players in the country appeared in Elite 24 this weekend in Brooklyn.

  5. Former Oakland guard transfers to Dayton, eligible this season

    Aug 26, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Dayton adds depth to its point guard position for the 2014-2015 season.

  6. Kerem Kanter becomes a late commitment to Green Bay’s incoming class

    Aug 26, 2014, 4:26 PM EDT

    Terrence Payne/NBC Sports Terrence Payne/NBC Sports

    The younger brother of Enes Kanter will join the favorite to win the Horizon League.

  7. Marlon Jones is headed to Junior College instead of Loyola (IL)

    Aug 26, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Porter Moser’s team should still take a step forward in the Missouri Valley.

  8. Memphis adds a shot-blocker in their 2016 recruiting class

    Aug 26, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT

    Josh Pastner AP

    Pastner continues to recruit the state of Tennessee well.

  9. The ‘unlucky’ label doesn’t fit Iowa and Utah

    Aug 26, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Some teams are unlucky in losses. It’s not bad luck when you blow games you should have won, though.

  10. Lindy’s releases their preseason top ten

    Aug 26, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Our top ten is different, but not by that much.

  11. Updates on potential sites for future Final Fours, First Fours

    Aug 26, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    According to a report, there are six sites vying for four Final Fours between 2017 and 2020.

  12. Report: UTEP has two incoming freshmen not qualify

    Aug 25, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT

    UTEP Southern Miss Basketball AP

    UTEP took a blow to its 2014-15 season as two freshmen failed to make the roster.

  13. Xavier goes 4-0 in Brazil and gets experience for six new freshmen

    Aug 25, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT

    Chris Mack AP

    Xavier went 4-0 on a preseason trip to Brazil and got a lot of playing time for its inexperienced team.

  14. UConn awards scholarship to walk-on

    Aug 25, 2014, 9:10 PM EDT

    Kevin Ollie AP

    UConn gave a scholarship to a former walk-on.

  15. Former Ole Miss star Marshall Henderson getting pro tryout in Italy

    Aug 25, 2014, 8:10 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwe1nze4n2y4mdjkoge3njq1zwrkytbjnjy2ntbknja4 AP

    Former Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson will get a shot to play professionally in Europe.

  16. Vanderbilt walk-on earns a scholarship (VIDEO)

    Aug 25, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    carter josephs AP

    Cool video of a Vanderbilt walk-on earning a scholarship.

  17. Patrick Ewing, agent David Falk donate $3.3 million to Georgetown practice facility

    Aug 25, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    "A Year In A New York Minute" Photo Exhibition Getty Images

    Former Georgetown great Patrick Ewing and agent David Falk are donating $3.3 million to Georgetown for a practice facility.

  18. College Basketball Talk’s Recruiting Roundup

    Aug 25, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    AP photo AP

    This week’s CBT Recruiting Roundup features some thoughts on Bruce Pearl’s fast start at Auburn and a couple players cutting school lists.