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 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.
Apr 16, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT
Arizona State’s Jahii Carson made official the news that’s been known since October: he’ll be entering the 2014 NBA Draft.
Apr 16, 2014, 6:32 PM EDT
Former Northwestern guard/forward Kale Abrahamson will finish out his career in his home state.
Apr 16, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT
UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine made official their decisions to enter the 2014 NBA Draft.
Apr 16, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT
After considering leaving school to enter the NBA Draft, Purdue’s A.J. Hammons will return for his junior season.
Apr 16, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Three years after shortening the time players have to make a decision regarding the NBA, it’s time for the NCAA to re-adopt the NBA’s pre-draft calendar.
Apr 16, 2014, 3:07 PM EDT
The Arizona State transfer is headed to Rice.
Apr 16, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
The Dukes have landed the for Massachusetts Player of the Year.
Apr 16, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
There may not be a recruit with a more interesting back story that Devonta Pollard.
Apr 16, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Do you like them?
Apr 16, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT
Getting Kansas State to the NCAA tournament earned Bruce Weber an extension.
Apr 16, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT
Jim Christian wins his first recruiting battle as the head coach at BC.
Apr 16, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT
What Early Entry decisions will have the biggest impact on the 2014-2015 college basketball season?
Apr 16, 2014, 10:20 AM EDT
The next big thing to come from Canada isn’t going to be all that big.
Apr 15, 2014, 10:13 PM EDT
The Mustangs and Bulldogs are looking to meet in a home-and-home series.
Apr 15, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT
Watch the 7-foot-6 center play baseball.
Apr 15, 2014, 8:44 PM EDT
Austin will leave Waco after two seasons.
Apr 15, 2014, 7:34 PM EDT
He will have two years of eligibility remaining.
- 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 1
- 2014 NBA Draft: What early entry decisions are we still waiting for? 0
- Cuonzo Martin and Tennessee parting ways is good for everyone involved 9
- Report: Cuonzo Martin to become the new head coach at California 10
- Sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein returning to Kentucky 5
- Montrezl Harrell will be returning to Louisville for his junior season 0
- Report: Cuonzo Martin to become the new head coach at California (10)
- NCAA approves unlimited meals and snacks for Division I student-athletes (10)
- Cuonzo Martin and Tennessee parting ways is good for everyone involved (9)
- Syracuse freshman Chinoso Obokoh could lose year of eligibility due to NCAA issue (6)
- John Calipari reveals what ‘the tweak’ actually was (5)