The Louisville Cardinals will take on the Oregon Ducks tonight, and fans should bet on certain players shining bright with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line. Louisville is sure to bring the same speedy offense and lockdown defense that carried it all season, while Oregon will likely rely on the pure heart and hustle game that has resulted in two tournament wins already.
Just who steps up, however, could mean the difference in the game. Louisville has received great results from star scorer Russ Smith, but will his streakiness catch up with him?
And just how much more gas does Oregon's game have left in the tank?
It's definitely going to be a fun game to watch and for those who are able to tune in, this small handful of players should be the ones you watch nonstop.
Though not the biggest of guards at 6'1", 165 pounds, Smith was the unquestioned leader in Louisville's scoring department, even though he was manning the 2 while pure leader Peyton Siva ran the point. On the season, Smith posted 18.4 points and 2.2 steals per contest, but only on 42 percent shooting from the field.
He has simply been better in the tourney. In fact, he has been borderline remarkable.
Smith has posted 25 points and five steals per game, not to mention shot 55 percent from the field and 45 percent from long range. Oregon's great defense will be the first time that Smith and his team have really been challenged this tourney, as North Carolina A&T and Colorado State were relatively small potatoes.
The key to Smith helping Louisville win is simple. He just needs to keep mixing up and diversifying his attack like he has all tournament thus far. By not being just a slasher also incorporating mid and long-range jumpers, he becomes a tougher man to defend and instantly improves the Cardinals' chances of winning.
This freshman has really turned on the afterburners in the tournament, posting 20 points and 1.5 steals per contest while shooting 54 percent from the floor and 53 percent from three-point range. Considering how he has only averaged 11.3 points per game for the season, one can see how impressive his performance is.
Against Louisville, Dotson just needs to be the same offensive catalyst he was against Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. By driving the lane as much as he shoots threes, Dotson becomes a tough man to stop and thus makes Oregon harder to defeat.
If he can keep up his strong performance, then the Ducks definitely have a shot at playing spoiler and knocking out No. 1 Louisville.
For the season, Kazemi has averaged 9.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. For someone just 6'7", 226 pounds, that's pretty impressive.
His tournament performance has been simply remarkable. The Iranian senior has posted 16.5 boards per game over Oregon's two contests, going after every loose ball and rebound with a Kenneth Faried-like mentality.
This young man is a pure hustle player whose only goal is to help his team win. Having a good game is just an added bonus. If he can cash in on the latter against Louisville, then his college career is sure to continue for at least one more game.