This evening kicks off the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, with Louisville waiting until tomorrow to take on the twelfth-seeded upstart Oregon Ducks two hours from the UofL campus. Last weekend, in four days characterized by upsets, close calls, and defensive grinders, the Cardinals distinguished themselves by effortlessly carving up North Carolina A&T and Colorado St. on both ends of the floor. So where did Louisville’s two-game performance stack up among the Sweet Sixteen contenders?
Few teams scored as prolifically or won by such wide margins as the Cardinals did in their first two NCAA outings. Louisville trailed only Ohio State in scoring average, and they were the only two squads to eclipse 80 points per game. The Buckeyes dumped 95 on Iona last weekend––the most points in a single game thus far––before scoring 78 as they snuck by Iowa State. The third highest average was claimed, believe it or not, by Florida Gulf Coast, who posted just under 80 PPG against the top-25 defenses of Georgetown and San Diego State. Florida and Arizona rounded out the top 5 teams, of whom only Florida Gulf Coast measured lower than 16th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings.
In terms of margin of victory, Louisville posted the best figure in the Sweet Sixteen field after winning their first two games by 31 and 26 points, respectively. At 28.5 points, not only does their average margin of victory top the list for Sweet Sixteen teams, but it’s about twice the median margin of 14.5 points. Arizona and Michigan were the only other teams to win both games by 15 points or more. This is an encouraging sign for Rick Pitino’s team, who seemed to lack the killer instinct and explosive offense to thoroughly dominate quality teams for most of the regular season. On the other hand, it’s uncertain how well prepared the Cardinals will be for a late-game challenge from an elite opponent, considering they haven’t encountered a close score in the latter stages of a game since the beginning of March.
As you’re most likely aware, tomorrow evening’s Selection Sunday festivities set the stage for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Dedicated fans, casual bandwagoners, and the repressed gambler who manages your office bracket pool all get their first glimpse of the official field.
I’ll be participating in the Selection Sunday live chat with ConnecTV.com tomorrow, talking about the Louisville Cardinals’ tournament outlook. Knowledgeable folks who follow Duke, Syracuse, Kansas, Arizona and Gonzaga will be weighing in as well.
If you’ve got a free tablet/phone/computer screen and the inclination, stop in to check it out and join the discussion. ConnecTV is a “second screen” app designed to complement television programming with relevant tweets, viewer live chats and supplemental information, and you can download the app for iOS and Android or simply use the browser interface. Continue reading
The biggest shocker following Saturday’s big win over Syracuse was this statistic:
Not only was last Saturday Louisville’s first March road win over a ranked team in the past decade, but it was also only the second time the Cardinals had won their first road game of March against anyone––ranked or unranked––in their eight seasons in the Big East. (Bear in mind, Louisville didn’t play a true road game after February in 2007.)
This Louisville team could have played in a national title game tonight, had they not drawn Anthony Davis in the Final Four.
I’ve been hesitant to read much coverage of this game, because I already know what some will say. “The outcome was never much in doubt.” “The game was never as close as the final score indicates.” Many writers explored the rivalry exhaustively during the proceeding week, aware of the millions of clicks any bullshit headline containing “Louisville” and “Kentucky” would effortlessly generate. But I question how many of those media commentators––especially the younger ones––perceive any measure of parity in the rivalry; and whether these clichéd refrains were scripted well in advance of Saturday’s tip-off.
To dismiss Louisville’s effort yesterday is a disservice to a team that acquitted itself well with a scrappy, defiant performance, which fell short in the face of missed dunks and overwhelming talent. The Cards were irreverent underdogs, bent on postponing UK’s media coronation and never losing sight of the pugnacious style that had gotten them to an unlikely Final Four. Continue reading
So, that was fun. Let’s do it again.
Pat Forde published his much-anticipated best case/worst case analysis for each team in the NCAA tournament field today. Here’s his take on the Cardinals after the jump: Continue reading