It’s been a turning, twisting road for the 2013 Louisville Basketball team. A group full of youth and old, loud and quiet, confident and humble…they’ve had their ups and downs. They’ve went through strides of three straight losses — where people started to doubt if they would be what others expected in the pre-season — but then they’ve had the highs- a Big East Championship, a Number 1 overall seed.
All of this, has led to one destination…Indianapolis, the place where the Cardinals will fight for the right to get to the Final Four; and subsequently, have a chance to cap off one of the best season’s in Cardinal History. First things first, Louisville has a date with the (underseeded) Pac-12 Champion Oregon Ducks. Let’s take a look at the 2 biggest Keys for the Cardinals to win Friday night and advance to the Elite Eight.
Make Oregon Be Oregon
Out of all the teams left in the NCAA Tournament, the Oregon Ducks commit the most turnovers, at just over 14 per game. Out of all the teams left in the NCAA Tournament, the Louisville Cardinals force the most turnovers, averaging 11.2 steals per game (ranks 2nd Nationally). Seems to spell doom for the Ducks, right? Add in the fact that Oregon starts a Freshman PG, who has never been been on this stage before, and things get downright scary for the Ducks.
Louisville needs to force Oregon into doing with they’re accustomed to doing — committing turnovers. The bonus for Louisville? The Cardinals are coming off two of their best defensive performances to date.
In the 1st round opener, the Cardinals had an NCAA Tournament Record 20 steals against North Carolina A&T. Impressively enough, the Cardinals followed that up in the second round with 18 steals against Colorado State. Even more impressive? The Rams only averaged 11 turnovers per game, ranking them near the top in America at taking care of the ball. Needless to say, the Cardinals have taken it up another level, so to speak.
I think we’ll see this high production defensive trend here. The challenge for Louisville will be sitting up their press against a team, which gets the ball out of the net and up court quickly. The Cardinals will have to execute steals in the half-court and I think they will.
What They Say:
"The speed of the way they take the ball out, the speed of their guards, it’s going to be a very difficult challenge to get into [our] press. They’re like a North Carolina the way they get it out of the net and advance it up the floor. A few years back we had trouble getting into our press against North Carolina." –Head Coach Rick Pitino
Guard the 3:
The great equalizer — as Head Coach Rick Pitino will tell you — is the three point shot. How does a team with less talent beat a team with more talent? Knock down the 3 point shot.
We’ve already seen it in this tournament thus far. When number 8 seed Wichita State knocked off Gonzaga, they knocked down an irregular 14 three pointers. 14. When 15 seed Norfolk State knocked out 2 seed Missouri in 2010, they knocked down 10 three pointers. Oregon will need to do this Friday night; Louisville will need to stop them.
Main Deep Threat
Forward E.J Singler, shoots 36.2% (highest percentage on team) from beyond the arc, averages 1.5 made 3 pointers per game.
The key match-up here will be Wanye Blackshear against Singler. Physically they are nearly equal, but Singler can be deceptively quick. Blackshear will need to be sure to stay in front of Singler, especially on the perimeter.
Louisville will need to focus extra attention on Singler along with Damyean Dotson (33%) and Carlos Emory (32%). While Guards Dotson and Emory have been successful at knocking down the 3, it’s less of a concern for Louisville. The backcourt of Siva & Smith has been one of the fastest in the Country all year, and gives them less chance at open looks. The main concern for Louisville Friday, will be E.J Singler’s ability to find open looks, Louisville must avoid that.
TIME & NETWORK: Approx. 7:15 PM (EST)
LOCATION: Indianapolis, IN
VEGAS LINE: Louisville -10 over Oregon
PREDICTION: Louisville 84, Oregon 67. Oregon will try to run with the Cards and for a half…they’ll succeed. Eventually though, Louisville’s constant pressure will wear the Ducks down in the 2nd half. Louisville goes away easily late, but the final score is not indicative of how close the game actually was.