Duke Basketball: Keys to Beating Louisville Cardinals in Elite Eight Matchup

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2013

Nov 24, 2012; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Duke Blue Devils guard Quinn Cook (2) dribbles past Louisville Cardinals guard Kevin Ware (5) during the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis Championship in the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Duke won 76-71.  Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Duke Blue Devils are headed to the Elite Eight for the 19th time in school history on the heels of a 71-61 win over Michigan State, but now the real work begins. 

Mike Krzyzewski's squad has been favored every step of the way as the No. 2 seed in the region. They've won their first three tournament games by double-digits and have yet to be in danger in the closing moments of any game. 

It's not likely they pull off another easy win here. The Cardinals are the overall No.1 seed in the tournament and have lived up to those expectations. 

That doesn't mean that this game is a lost cause, though. The Blue Devils were the first team to beat Louisville in the regular season (76-71 in November) and there's no doubt they can win this one with good execution. Here will be the biggest keys.


Big Game From Mason Plumlee

Seth Curry was undoubtedly Duke's brightest star in the Sweet 16 matchup with Michigan State, but Plumlee has to step up to the plate against Louisville. 

The Cardinals have great defenders all along the perimeter and Gorgui Dieng's shot-blocking presence on the inside allows them to play aggressively. If the Devils can rely on Plumlee to score on the inside it will force Dieng to stick more closely with his man and relieve some pressure on the guards. 

Plumlee went for 16 points and seven rebounds in their November meeting. The Cardinals gave up 11 points and 12 rebounds to Oregon big man Arsalan Kazemi in the Sweet 16 round, Plumlee has to crash the boards and force Louisville to pack things in on defense. 


Seth Curry Must Stay Hot

Curry has lived up to his family name in the tournament thus far. He's shooting with total confidence and putting up crazy good numbers. 

He went off for 29 points on 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range against the Spartans. It was the second time in three games he's scored more than 25 points. 

It's unlikely he scores that many against Louisville's pressure defense, but he needs to continue to knock down shots when he shakes loose. Duke will need to utilize as much ball movement as possible and when they get the kick out Curry must convert. 

As long as Plumlee presents a threat on the inside Curry will have his opportunities. His continued success will be vital for Duke.


Match Louisville's Pressure

This will be the most important key for Duke. 

We all know Louisville can bring the heat, but it's still unknown if they can take it. The Cardinals actually lost the turnover battle to Oregon (13-12) in the Sweet 16 and it allowed the Ducks to remain competitive throughout. 

The Cardinals also want to get shots in the paint as much as possible. When the Ducks forced them to take shots from the outside, they didn't respond well (4-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc). Keeping Russ Smith out of the lane is easier said than done, but it's an absolute must to force the Cardinals to settle for jumpers.

If Duke can harass Peyton Siva and Russ Smith while not allowing them to get into the lane, they'll be putting themselves in a position to upset the top-seeded Cardinals.