Louisville Cardinals vs Oregon Ducks: Last-Minute Predictions for Sweet 16 Clash

Tim KeeneyContributor IMarch 29, 2013

Mar 21, 2013; Lexington , KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals guard Kevin Ware (5) and guard Russ Smith (2) trap North Carolina A&T Aggies guard Jeremy Underwood (3) in the first half during the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at Rupp Arena.  Louisville defeated North Carolina A&T 79-48.  Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville vs. Oregon is one of the most underrated games of the tournament.

Friday's Sweet 16 action not only features two potentially instant classics between national powerhouses in Duke vs. Michigan State and Kansas vs. Michigan, but it also pits the most exciting team on the planet in FGCU against its intrastate rival Florida. 

So, why would you want to pay attention to a non-rivalry that everyone assumes will be a blowout?

Well, because the following four things are going to come true. That's why. 


Russ Smith Will Make at Least One Completely Bewildering Play

It's just been way too long. 

In Louisville's two tournament wins, Smith is averaging 26.5 points per contest.

He's capable of scoring at that rate, but what's perplexing is that he is shooting a dangerously efficient 56.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from long range. He has also, for the most part, made smart decisions with the ball.

That's not the Russdiculous we all know and love. 

That Russdiculous is the combination of cheetah-taped-to-your-back speed, electrifying highlights and head-scratching decisions.

Expect to see every extreme of that spectrum when Smith matches up with Oregon's guards, who are capable of matching his elite quickness. 


But Peyton Siva Will Make Up For It With His Best Game of Tournament

March Peyton Siva is way better than any other Peyton Siva.

I have no idea the explanation behind it, but the senior point guard always tends to undergo a Hulk-like transformation into a different player once tournament play rolls around.

He won the Big East tournament MVP in each of the last two seasons and added a West Regional all-tournament team nod in last year's Big Dance. 

While he is averaging just 8.0 points on 38.1 percent shooting in Louisville's last two wins, his aggressiveness points toward better days ahead.

Siva tends to have success when he is attacking the rim and not settling for threes, and in those two games, he has taken 19 shots inside the arc compared to just two outside it.

If he continues to play with that mindset, don't be surprised if he adds a slew of points to the steals and assists he has been racking up. 


Carlos Emory Will Put on a Show

This game is made for Carlos Emory. 

Louisville is going to put on its patented pressure, and while that will likely result in plenty of Oregon turnovers—coughing up the rock is one of the Ducks' favorite 2012-13 activities—it will also give Dana Altman's squad heaps of fast-break opportunities. 

As it tends to go, when the pace quickens, guys who are 6'5", 205 pounds, can handle the ball and can jump out of the gym tend to thrive. That's Emory in a nutshell: 

Not only will he be key in giving the Ducks a secondary ball-handler against the press, but he is going to get plenty of chances to attack the rim. 

Buckle up. 


Louisville Will Win, But Oregon Will Cover the Spread

Louisville has been treating the rest of the country like Yi Jianlian treats chairs for the past month, and as a result, the Cardinals (rightfully so) are the odds-on favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta. 

But don't overlook the Ducks.

They have two dynamite point guards in Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd who match up well with Smith and Siva, they enjoy playing at a fast pace, they are an incredibly efficient defensive squad (16th in America) and they have the most underrated role player in America in Arsalan Kazemi. 

You don't slobberknocker Oklahoma State and Saint Louis without being an incredibly talented team.

I can't muster up the courage to pick against the Cardinals, but the Ducks (+10.5, via Vegas Insider) will keep it within single digits.

Did I stutter?


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