Louisville vs. Oregon: 5 Keys for Cardinals to Win Sweet 16 Showdown
When the field of 68 for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament was revealed on Selection Sunday, some people were shocked to see that the Louisville Cardinals earned the No. 1 overall seed.
After two dominant performances on the home floor of their rival Kentucky, the Cardinals have erased any doubts of their No. 1 seed with a berth in the Sweet 16.
Once again the Cardinals will not have to travel far as they make the short trip up to Indianapolis for the Midwest Regional Semifinal against No. 12 Oregon on Friday.
Oregon is certainly not the team the Cardinals expected to face in the Sweet 16, but it is the hand they have been dealt and must adjust accordingly.
Here are five keys to Louisville's success on Friday against the surprise No. 12 seed from the Pac-12.
Press, Press and Press Some More
Many people thought that No. 8 Colorado State would cause the Cardinals problems in the round of 32, but those thoughts were quickly erased in the first half of the game as Louisville was able to utilize its full-court press in an effective manner.
After the final whistle blew on Saturday, the Cardinals had forced their round of 32 opponent into 19 turnovers.
That total was six less than the amount Rick Pitino's team forced in the round of 64 two days earlier against No. 16 North Carolina A&T.
The effective full-court press has been one of the main reasons why the Cardinals are in the middle of a 12-game winning streak.
If the Cardinals can force Oregon into 15 turnovers or more, they should cruise into the Elite Eight.
Contain Arsalan Kazemi
Arsalan Kazemi was one of the best big men on the West Coast during the regular season and has continued his strong play in the postseason.
The senior from Iran was dominant against No. 5 Oklahoma State in the round of 64 by scoring 11 points and pulling down 17 rebounds.
Against No. 4 Saint Louis in the round of 32, Kazemi continued his dominant ways with eight points and 16 rebounds.
Luckily for Louisville, they have a player in Gorgui Dieng who can neutralize the paint abilities of Kazemi.
Dieng is also a strong rebounder, and his battle in the paint with Kazemi will be one to watch.
If Dieng somehow finds his way into foul trouble, it will be up to Montrezl Harrell, Chane Behanan and Stephan Van Treese to step up and deny Kazemi of having a breakout performance in Indianapolis.
Keep Russdiculous in a Rhythm
Cardinals guard Russ Smith, who is otherwise known by his nickname Russdiculous, had a stellar first two games in Lexington for Louisville and will be looking to keep up the same level of play as he reaches Indianapolis.
Smith scored 23 points in a rather casual 25-minute outing against No. 16 North Carolina A&T in the round of 64.
In the round of 32, Smith raised his level of play higher with 27 points, nine of which came from the free-throw line.
Smith is Louisville's best player and so far he has lived up to expectations in the postseason.
For Louisville to continue as a legitimate title contender in the next two weeks, Smith must continue his mastery of the guard position.
The Bench Must Contribute on Both Ends of the Court
Louisville has a very strong starting five, but they also have four players that come off the bench and contribute to the winning efforts of the Cardinals each game.
While none of the four bench players who see significant playing time make astronomical contributions to the team, they do fill the role they have been placed in quite well.
Luke Hancock and Kevin Ware both possess the ability to sink a couple three-pointers in a row to shift the momentum of the game, while big men Montrezl Harrell and Stephan Van Treese are valuable assets in the paint.
The one player out of the four that has stuck out in recent weeks has been Harrell. The 6'8" freshman forward scored 20 points in the Big East Tournament Final against Syracuse and has gained plenty of confidence during the postseason.
If these four players can give the Cardinals valuable minutes off the bench, Oregon will be no match for them.
Get the Crowd Behind Them Early
Last weekend in Lexington, the overwhelming amount of Louisville fans that packed into Rupp Arena made the games against No. 16 North Carolina A&T and No.8 Colorado State feel like home games for the Cardinals.
This weekend should be no different as the Cardinal faithful make the short trek up I-65 to Lucas Oil Stadium.
If the Cardinals can get off to quick start, the crowd will be behind them and more pressure will be added to the shoulders of the two freshman guards on the court for Oregon.
Having two freshmen enter a large venue like Lucas Oil Stadium could prove to be catastrophic for the Ducks, especially if Louisville continues their trend of starting the game well.
What do you think Louisville needs to do to beat Oregon?
Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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