Louisville's Blueprint to Beat Wichita State in 2013 Final Four
Wichita State will face Louisville Saturday in the Final Four in a matchup that many will frame as David vs. Goliath.
However, Cardinals coach Rick Pitino will not be among those making that characterization. He has been singing Wichita State’s praises and is making it known this week that Wichita State has Louisville’s complete attention.
"They're not just winning - they're pounding teams,” Pitino said Thursday, according to a tweet from CBSSports.com’s Gregg Doyel.
Wichita State is a tough team that has beaten some very good teams this year, including Gonzaga and Ohio State in the NCAA tournament.
Still, Louisville is the top overall seed in this tournament for a reason. The Cardinals have won their four tournament games by an average of 21.8 points per game, and three of the victories have come by at least 22 points.
Here is Louisville’s blueprint to beat Wichita State on Saturday in the Final Four.
Pressure the Perimeter and Create Turnovers
Louisville’s game plan is dependent on pressuring the ball and creating turnovers. In their four NCAA tournament games, the Cardinals have 48 steals, including 10 in their Elite Eight win over Duke.
On the season, Louisville is second in the country in turnover percentage, according to KenPom.com, forcing turnovers on 27.5 percent of opponents’ possessions.
Wichita State has a group of tough and experienced guards. Still, the Shockers have shown they are not immune to coughing up the ball. Wichita State ranks No. 144 in turnover percentage.
The pressure on the perimeter not only could force turnovers, but it could also take the Shockers out of their comfort zone, keeping them from taking room-and-rhythm threes. Wichita State is streaky from beyond the arc, but it showed it can get hot against Gonzaga, hitting 14-of-28 from deep.
Hold Their Own on the Boards
Wichita State’s calling card is its toughness, and that shows up in a big way on the glass. The Shockers rank in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive rebound percentage, according to KenPom.com. In the Sweet 16, Wichita State out-rebounded La Salle 44-23.
It is a team effort for the Shockers on the boards, and everyone on Louisville, including the guards, will have to help out on the rebounding front, something that has been somewhat of an issue this season. The Cardinals rank No. 236 nationally in defensive rebound percentage, according to KenPom.com.
Part of that issue has to do with Louisville’s zone defense, which is susceptible to offensive rebounds. When playing their zone, the Cardinals will have to be extra cognizant of attacking the glass, even if it comes at the expense of some transition opportunities.
Attack the Basket
When Louisville is on offense, it will be a battle of strengths as the Cardinals attack the lane and stay away from three-point attempts for the most part. In the last three games, Louisville is averaging just 11.7 three-point attempts per contest.
However, Wichita State excels in forcing opponents to take perimeter shots. This season, 36.2 percent of the field goals taken against Wichita State have been threes. That ranks No. 290 nationally, according to KenPom.com.
As a team, Louisville makes just 32.8 percent from beyond the arc. Luke Hancock is the only available player who shoots better than 33.1 percent from deep (Kevin Ware was making 40.5 percent before his injury).
Whether Louisville is able to penetrate Wichita State’s defense will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game. If the Cardinals are settling for a lot of perimeter shots, that will be good news for the Shockers.
Ride the Russdiculous Momentum
Russ Smith has been, arguably, the best player in the NCAA tournament. He is averaging 26 points per game and shooting 54.1 percent from the field in Louisville’s four games.
Smith has done an excellent job of attacking without being out of control. He has done well getting to the free-throw line, attempting 40 shots from the charity stripe in the first two weekends of the tournament. It also helps that he has made 80 percent from the line.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall will likely put guard Tekele Cotton on Smith. Cotton is in the starting lineup primarily because of his defensive abilities. In the round of 64 against Pitt, Cotton was largely responsible for holding Panther leading scorer Tray Woodall to two points on 1-of-12 shooting.