Skip to content

Final Four Previews: What you need to know about Louisville

Apr 1, 2013, 12:15 PM EST

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. Three-plus months after undergoing brain surgery, Santa Clara senior forward makes season debut

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:43 PM EST

    Santa Clara Athletics Santa Clara Athletics

    Andrew Papenfus made his season debut for the Broncos Saturday night, just over three months after a benign tumor was removed from his brain.

  2. Briante Weber suffers season-ending knee injury in No. 14 VCU’s loss to Richmond

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:42 PM EST

    Briante Weber, Shaka Smart Briante Weber, Shaka Smart

    Kendall Anthony scored 20 points in the second half to lead Richmond to the 64-55 win, but the status of Weber is VCU’s greatest concern.

  3. No. 4 Duke ends No. 2 Virginia’s unbeaten season

    Jan 31, 2015, 9:03 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    No. 4 Duke lands a stunning, come-from-behind win over No. 2 Virginia.

  4. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell channeled his inner Grant Hill Saturday afternoon (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:31 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    In the midst of Louisville’s comeback from an 18-point deficit, Montrezl Harrell showed why he’s considered to be one of the best athletes in college basketball.

  5. Foul line, offensive rebounding aid No. 13 Louisville’s comeback effort

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:02 PM EST

    Montrezl Harrell, Justin Jackson Montrezl Harrell, Justin Jackson

    Louisville outscored North Carolina by 16 from the foul line and by 15 in second-chance points, which helped them erase an 18-point second half deficit.

  6. Saturday’s Snacks: No. 4 Duke rebounds to beat No. 2 Virginia, and No. 8 Notre Dame falls

    Jan 31, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Cameron Wright, James Robinson Cameron Wright, James Robinson

    Also of note Saturday afternoon was No. 18 Northern Iowa rolling past No. 12 Wichita State.

  7. Seth Tuttle, No. 18 Northern Iowa roll past No. 12 Wichita State

    Jan 31, 2015, 6:39 PM EST

    Seth Tuttle Seth Tuttle

    UNI went on a 22-6 run over a ten-plus minute stretch as they moved into a tie for first in the Missouri Valley.

  8. No. 8 Notre Dame upset by Pitt

    Jan 31, 2015, 3:11 PM EST

    Notre Dame v Pittsburgh Getty Images

    Jerian Grant, Notre Dame see comeback fall short at Pitt.

  9. Trevor Lacey’s insane 3-pointer gives N.C. State a buzzer-beating win at Georgia Tech (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 2:34 PM EST

    Justin Jackson, Trevor Lacey, Marcus Paige AP

    Trevor Lacey makes one of the best buzzer-beaters of the season to give N.C. State a road win at Georgia Tech.

  10. POSTERIZED: Florida’s Alex Murphy dunks all over Arkansas defender after breaking a press (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 1:45 PM EST

    Mississippi St Florida Basketball AP

    Florida’s Alex Murphy with a nominee for Saturday’s dunk of the day.

  11. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl greeted with cheers during first return to Tennessee (VIDEO)

    Jan 31, 2015, 1:15 PM EST

    Auburn Tennessee Basketball AP

    Bruce Pearl received a warm ovation from Tennessee fans in his first game back as an opposing head coach.

  12. Injured Illinois guards suspended indefinitely

    Jan 31, 2015, 12:34 PM EST

    Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Young AP

    Illinois will continue to be without two injured guards as both players were suspended indefinitely.

  13. UMBC loses leading scorer for the rest of the season

    Jan 31, 2015, 12:15 PM EST

    Maurice Walker, Aaron Morgan, Cody Joyce, Wayne Sparrow AP

    A tumultuous season gets worse for UMBC.

  14. POSTERIZED: Louisiana Tech’s Raheem Appleby goes over Western Kentucky defender for big dunk (VIDEO

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:15 AM EST

    Raheem Appleby, Markel Brown AP

    Raheem Appleby showed surprising hops as the 6-foot-4 guard threw down a solid dunk over a Western Kentucky defender.

  15. Rick Pitino on Terry Rozier’s impending NBA Draft decision: ‘He’s not coming back’

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:10 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Louisville head coach Rick Pitino believes one of his underclassmen will definitely leave for the NBA.

  16. Bill Self on the loss of Kansas-Missouri rivalry: ‘It hasn’t been great’

    Jan 30, 2015, 7:45 PM EST

    AP AP

    That rivalry ended when Mizzou left the Big 12 in favor of the SEC.

  17. UMass guard Trey Davis ‘OK’ after being leveled by screen, expected to play Saturday

    Jan 30, 2015, 6:30 PM EST

    AP AP

    Trey Davis left the court with only seconds remaining after colliding into a Kendall Pollard screen.