The selection committee tabbed Louisville as the overall No. 1 seed. While the Cardinals certainly hit their stride at the end of the season, there was a point when the team lost three games in a row. What that losing streak demonstrated was that Louisville’s weakness is effectively the same as Duke’s.
Louisville plays pressure defense and primarily relies on strong guard play and outside shooting. As a result, Louisville averages an impressive 73.6 points-per-game. That’s slightly less than Duke’s 78.3 points-per-game, but the Big East offered up more defensive resistance than the ACC.
But the problem is that when the shots aren’t falling, Louisville has a bad habit of continuing to force low-percentage shots. Duke does the same thing, so the game could be high scoring thanks to good shooting, low scoring thanks to bad shooting or a blowout one way or the other. Whatever the case, it’d be very easy for Duke to end up on the wrong end of the score.
The backcourt of Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, much like Duke’s backcourt, is capable of shooting the lights out from three. Unlike Duke’s backcourt, however, both Smith and Siva are better than Duke’s guards at driving to the basket for easy buckets, and neither is the sort of defensive liable that Seth Curry is.
In the post, Gorgui Dieng has developed into a reliable rebounder, defender and scorer. When Duke beat Louisville in the beginning of the season, Dieng was out with an injury. Both teams have improved since then, but adding a post presence to Louisville certainly changes the equation.
The big thing is that Louisville’s defense is among the best in the country. Against menacing defenses, Duke hasn’t shot the ball well and has been prone to turnovers.
The bottom line is that there is a reason that Louisville is the overall No. 1 seed. The road out of the Midwest bracket goes through the Cardinals’ pressure defense and backcourt duo. If the Blue Devils are lucky enough to make it to the Elite Eight, their only reward will be a date with the tournament’s prohibitive favorites.