After shocking No. 1 seed Michigan State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday, the Louisville Cardinals still find themselves as underdogs in the NCAA tournament.
The Cardinals, who held the Spartans to 28 percent shooting, have done everything possible to gain respect...but they still aren't widely respected.
Despite facing the No. 7 seed Florida Gators on Saturday, Louisville is a 1.5-point underdog to Florida, per Bovada. On top of that, numerous experts have been declaring the Gators will win this game.
But I don't see it.
Louisville shot 38 percent against Michigan State on Thursday, and still won by 13 points, 57-44. Then again, this is nothing new. The Cardinals ranked 155th and 225th nationally in points per game and field goal percentage, respectively, in the regular season.
Rick Pitino is backing up the adage that "defense wins championships." The Cardinals held opponents to 37 percent shooting in the regular season and allowed a mere 60.6 points per game in the competitive Big East. Louisville is actually holding opponents to fewer points in each successive round in the NCAA tournament, despite playing against better teams.
Louisville gave up 62 points to Davidson, 56 points to New Mexico and 44 points to Michigan State. At this rate, the Cardinals will hold high-powered Florida to about 35 points in the Elite Eight.
But, all kidding aside, Louisville does have the defense to make life miserable for Billy Donovan's Gators. The Cardinals steal the ball at an alarming rate and Gorgui Dieng showed against Michigan State that he's a premier shot-blocker in the tournament (12 blocks in three tournament games).
Louisville also has rebounding. Dieng and Chane Behanan combined for 18 rebounds against the Spartans (including nine offensive rebounds).
And just think about what Louisville did despite leader Peyton Siva and Kyle Kuric struggling from the floor. The two combined to go 5-17 from the field and the Cardinals still beat the West's No. 1 seed.
Louisville is also battle-tested. The Cardinals have won seven straight games since the start of the Big East tournament, including victories over Marquette, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, "Cinderella" hopeful Davidson, underrated New Mexico and, of course, Michigan State.
Florida, undoubtedly, has a lot of firepower offensively and has ramped up its defense considerably in the NCAA tournament. But, I still see Louisville advancing to the Final Four using its suffocating defense to do so.
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