The Louisville Cardinals are the hottest team in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
The word “unstoppable” should not casually be thrown around to describe sports teams. But with the way Rick Pitino’s posse is beating up on its opponents recently, it may be getting close to earning that label.
The Cardinals have won 15 of their last 16 games.
This stretch goes back to a home win against Pitt on Jan. 28, and their only loss came in a five-OT thriller against Notre Dame.
Louisville won the Big East tournament for the second year in a row, and it has won its first two March Madness games in decisive fashion.
Margin of Victory
The Cardinals are not just beating teams; they are devouring them.
When ESPN’s Andy Katz described their third-round win over Colorado State, he said, “The Rams were swallowed whole by the Cardinals’ pressure.”
Over the last 12 games, Louisville has been winning by an average of nearly 18 points per game.
And these games have not been against mediocre teams. They include Marquette and two pairs of victories against Notre Dame and Syracuse.
Louisville’s trademark is creating relentless trouble for its opponents on defense.
In the Cardinals' last dozen games, no team has scored more than 61 points. Two teams haven’t reached the half-century mark.
According to ESPN,"Louisville forced the eighth-seeded Rams into a season-high 20 turnovers and out-rebounded Colorado State 29-24 -- no small thing considering the Rams came in with a nation-best plus-12 margin."
One of the great aspects of being able to play suffocating defense is that you can do that in every game. Unlike teams that depend on offensive firepower or shooting accuracy, defense doesn't have an off night.
Louisville is bringing it on the offensive end too. The Cardinals' biggest flaw throughout the 2012-13 season has been consistency on offense.
Over the Big East tournament and their first two March Madness games, the Cards are scoring six more points per game than they did in the regular season.
They are shooting a sizzling 57 percent from the floor and getting to the line 20 times per game.
Louisville shot 47.6 percent (10-21) outside the paint Saturday, its highest shooting percentage from that distance in the last four Men's Basketball Championships.
Louisville scored 42 points in the paint Saturday and has scored 86 paint points in its first two games of the 2013 Men's Basketball Championship. The Cardinals are the third team in the last four tournaments to score at least 40 points in the paint in back-to-back games (North Carolina, 2011 and Kansas, 2012).
If Louisville can maintain its offensive productivity in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games next week, it could cruise to the Final Four.
Louisville still has work to do in the Midwest Region.
It will be facing No. 12 seed Oregon next. From there, the Cards could face No. 2 seed Duke, No. 3 seed Michigan State or No. 7 seed Creighton.
With the way they are playing, a 10th Final Four and third national championship in school history are not out of reach.