Louisville NCAA Tournament Edition: Five To See, Five To Avoid
Here at the Pinkie, we enjoy predicting outcomes of matchups that are out of our own control. With that, here are five teams Louisville fans should look forward to seeing in their region on Selection Sunday, and five teams they would like to avoid.
Top of the Line
If the Cards happen to receive a No. 1 seed in the upcoming tournament, the likely No. 2 UofL fans would be salivating for would be Oklahoma.
Not only would this give the Cards an opportunity to repeat the beatdown from last season’s second round game in Nashville, but it would likely give Terrence Williams an added incentive against the consensus player of the year, the Sooners’ Blake Griffin.
Regardless of how the Big East Tournament plays out, Louisville just does not match up well against the Huskies.
UConn brings a toughness and swagger like we saw Thursday night in their six-overtime loss against Syracuse that reminds Cardinal fans of the mid-to-late '90s Cincinnati squads that were always bigger and stronger than UofL.
Although the tables may be slightly turned with Jerome Dyson out of the lineup, the Cards simply have no answer for Hasheem Thabeet.
Cardinal fans should not be sold on this Gonzaga team. Sure, they looked impressive in their blowout win over St. Mary’s in the WCC Tournament on Monday evening, but the Zags could play into the Cardinals up-tempo style without much depth.
Josh Heytvelt is their deadliest scorer, but the Bulldogs only really go seven deep. If matched up against Gonzaga, look for Louisville to keep the defensive intensity on throughout the contest.
Though the Bulldogs did lose the four points and two rebounds a game by Academic All-American and cousin of P Tomarken, Drew Streicher, after last season, the Bulldogs win games on defense, something that has been a real problem for the Cardinals this year.
Butler averages just 67.6 points per game, and every team has a tournament game where their offensive production just isn’t there. It’s the great teams that respond by digging deep and pulling out a win in those situations. Drawing Butler in the tournament would present a litmus test of greatness for the Cards.
Plain and simple, Cal is not the same caliber basketball team as the Cards, but is projected to have an eight or nine seed in the Big Dance due to a respectable fourth place finish in the Pac-10.
At 22-9, their record is slightly inflated over a weak non-conference schedule, but they did take care of business at UNLV (which the Cards could not do in Freedom Hall).
The Golden Bears average 75 points per game, which likely would not be heightened with a game against Louisville.
Another projected No. 8 or 9 seed, the Longhorns could do some serious damage in the tournament.
Veteran A.J. Abrams leads the squad in scoring, even though Rick Barnes may be the coach (and I could not even begin to imagine Pitino being outcoached by a guy like Barnes). The athleticism Texas possesses is comparable to UofL, and may be enough to spark a nice run to the Sweet 16.
See: Western Kentucky
The Toppers stormed out to a seemingly insurmountable early lead over South Alabama on Tuesday night in the finals of the Sun Belt Tournament, but found themselves in a second half dogfight, earning a 64-56 victory over Louisville native Dominic Tilford and the South Alabama Jaguars.
I would expect the Cards to be fully prepared for this game, as opposed to their first matchup in late November at a half-empty neutral court. The Cards would be able to expose the Hilltoppers’ lack of size by feeding Samardo Samuels down low and giving Earl Clark the ball to create his scoring opportunities.
Tubby Ball is the antithesis of Rick Pitino’s style, and dating back to Smith’s days at Kentucky, has been very successful against Louisville.
This Minnesota team, if they reach the tournament, would present real problems for the Cardinals that have not been corrected since the mid-December neutral court loss out in Glendale.
Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber provide a dynamic outside-inside game for a team that can match the Cardinals’ intensity on defense, possibly forcing many Louisville turnovers.
First Round Opponents
Not only would this provide a little extra motivation for Cornell transfer Will Scott, but the Cards could lay claim to more Oxford scholars in this matchup (thanks Will). Add to the fact that the Big Red have not played a meaningful game since wrapping up the Ivy League’s automatic bid on Feb. 27.
On a side note, how awesome would it be if the Ivy League had a postseason tournament. Sure, it probably goes against everything the Ivy League is supposedly for, but man, how jacked up would those student sections be for a playoff?
I can imagine the eloquently-worded signs right now.
Avoid: Morehead State
With the Cards a lock to be playing in Dayton for the first and second rounds, this matchup would be intensified further if Morehead State was in the Opening Round play-in game on Tuesday night at UD Arena.
Add to the fact they are an in-state opponent, and the dominating performance by big man Kenneth Faried in the Ohio Valley Tournament, and an upset of all-time historic proportions could be brewing.
That, or Louisville comes out and wins by 48 points, while scrub Lee Steiden plays 15 minutes in a real life tournament game. There is no middle ground here.
Enjoy Selection Sunday weekend everybody! Be sure to keep up with the Pinkie for all the Cardinals’ tournament coverage.
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