In the wake of Louisville’s surprising Big East Tournament championship run, the dominating narrative going into the NCAA tournament is the transcendent play of Peyton Siva last week. But it’s impossible to appraise the Cardinals’ revival without acknowledging the play of Gorgui Dieng, who received All-Big East Tournament honors and averaged 8.8 ppg, 9 rpg and 3.25 blocks over the four games in the Garden.
Another impressive stat that falls through the cracks is 23.5. That is, Gorgui received his second foul after 23.5 minutes of game time on average. In my first post on the timing of Dieng’s fouls, I mentioned that the big man picked up his second foul after 20.3 minutes on average through the USF game. My argument was that Gorgui entering halftime with 2 or more fouls was, statistically, a kiss of death for this Louisville team.
That argument still holds water:
- Louisville is 7-6 when Gorgui has 2+ first half fouls
- The Cards are 19-3 when Gorgui has fewer than 2 first half fouls
- Gorgui averages 2.5 more points and rebounds––and 1.2 more blocks per game––in games where he avoids 2 first half personals
In the Big East Tournament, Gorgui made it to halftime without two fouls in three of four games (the only slip-up due to the bizarre consecutive fouls against Marquette). This allowed him to play 34.25 minutes per game, and play without the burden of foul trouble in the first half.
Earlier, I also made the argument that Gorgui’s Roland Rating was higher in games where he had two halftime fouls because of some brutal +/- numbers while he was on the bench. His Roland remained high in the Big East tournament at 11.75, which either indicates:
- that he was more productive
- or that Louisville got slaughtered while he was on the bench.
Fortunately, the reality was a lot of the former case and much, much less of the latter. The much-improved play of Jared Swopshire gave Pitino a steady three-man rotation in the paint, and took the pressure off of Gorgui to stay on the floor for 40 minutes.
These are all very encouraging signs heading into today’s Rip City contest with Davidson. Siva’s ability to sustain his improved play, combined with Dieng’s ability to stay on the floor and make his minutes count––are probably the biggest keys to a successful tournament run for this Louisville team.