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.
This post appeared on Rush The Court’s Big East microsite on Wednesday, but it’s still relevant after the Cardinals dismantled North Carolina A&T in the Second Round the following night. UofL will face much stiffer competition at 5:15 on Saturday in a Colorado St. team that rebounds well, scores efficiently and averages fewer turnovers than all but 12 teams in the country.
With seven regular season games remaining on the schedule in mid-February, Rick Pitino called on his team to win them all. The Cardinals had just lost a demoralizing five-overtime road game to Notre Dame, capping a precipitous three-week fall that saw his team lose four of seven games and drop from #1 in the country all the way out of the top-10. While the Cardinals’ bout with the Irish was heralded by some as the game of the year for its suspense and intensity, Louisville fans shook their heads in resignation after their team choked away an eight-point lead in the final 45 seconds. The team hyped as the strongest national title contender in the Pitino era at Louisville couldn’t seem to generate enough offense outside of Russ Smith, couldn’t seem to generate the fast breaks it desperately needed, and couldn’t seem to close out games.
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 entry appears on Rush The Court.
The narrative of today’s defensive match up between #1 Louisville and #6 Syracuse has already been explored extensively. A collision of defensive juggernauts: the nation’s first and third most efficient defenses, respectively. The two lead the Big East and are top-five nationally, again, in creating steals. The Cards check in at #2 in the country in turnovers generated; the Orange: #8. Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams leads the conference with a staggering 3.18 steals per game and combines with Brandon Triche to produce 4.8 SPG; Peyton Siva and Russ Smith are top-five, producing a cumulative 4.6 pilfers.
On paper it’s a push, and a juicy storyline to hype. In reality, Syracuse fields an excellent defense, but Louisville’s has the potential to be historic, and it’s just now hitting its stride. Continue reading
I first dropped this image in the 01.11.13 Edition of the Big East Morning 5 on RTC. It feels appropriate to repost here, with not only a top-10 showdown between #1 Louisville and #6 Syracuse looming tomorrow in The Bucket, but also years of tormenting the Orange in the ACC to look forward to. Rick Pitino’s Cards will follow his mentor down the ACC rabbit hole into Boeheim’s Southern dystopia of plebeian diner food, and there’s substantial comfort in that knowledge for UofL fans, win or lose.
The ever-affable Jim Boeheim is going out of his way to make new friends in the ACC. Speaking nostalgically of his final Big East road trip to Providence after his team beat the Friars on Wednesday night, Boeheim lamented that he’d have to negotiate the new physical environments in his next conference. “I know where all the good restaurants are now, and now I’ve got to go down to Clemson, South Carolina. I’m sure there’s a couple of Denny’s down there.” The millionaire coach either believes Denny’s is actually a “good restaurant” or he’s painting Clemson with the podunk brush. Knowing Jim’s flair for the cynical and alienating, it’s probably the latter. Bret Strelow and Stephen Schramm at the Fayetteville (NC) Observer provided Boeheim with a helpful map. The good news is that the nearest Denny’s is 14 miles from campus –– a veritable hop, skip and a jump by ACC scale. Closer examination on Google Street View reveals that Jim is one step ahead of all of us: