After being bounced in the Big East Conference tournament, many suspected this Louisville team to be on the last strand with the selection committee. All season, the Cardinals have beaten or competed with the better teams in the NCAA. But when it came to facing the other teams with larger RPI ratings, they have struggled.
Two losses to Charlotte and Western Carolina early in the season was sure to hurt the Cardinals come selection Sunday—that’s if Louisville did not make any moves during conference play. During conference play, Louisville came out in the top six teams in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball. Not to mention, the Cardinals swept the season series with Syracuse, which busted Louisville’s bubble and solidified their tournament resume. Virtually nothing could keep Louisville out now.
Now, on to conference tournament play. The Cardinals hosted Cincinnati in the second round after acquiring a bye in the first round. After playing a great first half, the Cardinal miscues certainly came back to haunt Louisville, after allowing the Bearcats to run away with this game.
So, along with the losses to Western Carolina and Charlotte, the Cardinals had another negative aspect on their resume. It obviously was not enough to keep the Cardinals out of the tournament.
Just today, the selection committee placed Louisville in the NCAA tournament as a No. 9 seed in the South region.
This places Louisville in a tough position: The Cardinals are in the South Region, facing No. 8 Cal, and if they advance past the first round, they’ll host the Duke Blue Devils
Cal, all year has done enough to capture the eyes of the selection committee—doing so, by leading the weaker Pac-10 conference all year—which helped out their tournament seeding.
With their success, the Golden Bears’ acquired the No. 8 seed and the rights to host No. 9 Louisville in the first round matchup.
Louisville has been a roller-coaster team this season. The Cardinals have beaten the best, and lost to the less-than-quality opponents. Every time Louisville is hoisted in the National spotlight, it only happens to be temporary.
Louisville certainly has something to prove, approaching this first round tournament game.
There is no way the Cardinals get out of this first round without a fight. Jerome Randle will prove that his Golden Bears’ are good—after coming out of the weaker Pac-10 conference.
However, in all of Louisville’s losses this season, they had problems with consistency on the boards and offensively. This is favorable in Louisville’s standpoint, because Cal is very much undersized throughout their whole line-up.
With that in mind, the Cardinals are going to need to initiate their pressure defense early—by taking the quick, undersized Cal players out of the game by making them un-aggressive. They are going to need contributions from their bench as well as their starters.
In the most recent loss, it seemed as if Edgar Sosa was the only one who stepped up down the stretch. Sosa ended the game scoring 42 percent of the points, almost as much as Reginald Delk and Samardo Samuels combined.
However, with a healthy Jerry Smith, the Cardinals' backcourt problems should be forgotten. Jerry Smith has a huge impact on this Cardinal team. Smith is not really known for his offensive presence but he has the ability to get it done. Smith has very quick hands and has that basketball I.Q., which compliments well when he is going for the steal.
The addition of Jerry Smith back into the offense sparks the backcourt of Louisville, which allows Rick Pitino to exercise his regular rotation.
This Louisville team has the ability to come up with a big win in the first round of the tournament. First, Louisville as a team needs to:
Stay consistent on offense
In their last game against Cincinnati, the Cardinals came out the gates firing. The Cardinals shot a rather good percentage from the field and from behind the three-point line.
However, as the game progressed, you witnessed some tired shots, bad attempts, or just plain out missed shots. The Cardinals inability to take care of the ball down the stretch resulted in the loss.
If the Cardinals can stay consistent on offense and stay in attack mode, they will be in good position to win the game.
The impact of Edgar Sosa
Edgar Sosa has become the vocal leader of this Cardinal team. Sosa has shown his ability to run the offense after coming up big during crunch time. If he has to pass it or score, Sosa is always looking to push his team to the limit.
Just last season, the Cardinals won the Big East tournament with Edgar only scoring a total of 15 points. This season, the Cardinals are going to need a consistent effort from their senior leader Sosa to stay competitive against these tournament teams.
Sosa has to get this Louisville team going early. If he influences the game with his leadership ability, there is nothing that can stop the Cardinals from winning.
Louisville’s 2-3 zone vs. Jerome Randle
Louisville’s zone is known for taking the aggressiveness out of players. As a team, Louisville forces 15.3 turnovers, highlighted by their 7.8 steals. That is not always the case. Sometimes the Cardinals play a lazy zone, allowing players to become more aggressive with the zone.
It happened in their most recent loss and has to be fixed before tournament time.
Free-throws play a big part in any game you play. Usually the team that gets to the line most often is expected to win the game.
On the season, Louisville goes to the line an average of 21.5 times a game, while making 15 of those free-throw attempts.
If in fact the Cardinals are able to get to line more than their season average and shoot a better percentage than 70 percent from the line, get set for a Louisville win.
Louisville has a ton to prove in this first game of the NCAA tournament. Many anticipated the Cardinals to, at the least, make it to the Semi-finals of the Big East tournament, but were given the walking papers earlier.
When this Louisville team takes the court, expect the Cardinals to have a chip on their shoulder. Louisville is out to show the world that they can be contenders in the tournament, despite their earlier, bad losses.
They’ll definitely have a tough challenge against this Cal team—just recently the Golden Bears were knocked out of their conference tournament. No predictions here—besides that this is going to be a good first round match-up between No. 8 and No. 9.