As we reach day one of the aftermath of the biggest Sunday in college basketball—the web walls are blowing up about the NCAA bracket. Many are implying that the Midwest region—where No. 1 overall Kansas resides—is the hardest region in the tournament. Then you grasp the select group of people that are questioning the rating of the South bracket—suggesting that it's one of the easiest bracket in the NCAA tournament—and perhaps Duke and Kansas should swap brackets, because of the notion that the No. 1 overall seed usually has the favorable matchups.
Well my problem, is that the South region is just as tough as any other region in the tournament. In fact, it hoists some of the better college programs in Villanova, Baylor, Notre Dame, Louisville, and Texas A&M.
However that is not stopping people from liking Dukes chance of making the Elite Eight. Many people are logically debating that Duke has the easiest road to get to the Elite Eight.
Well, Louisville begs to differ.
Louisville is the No. 9 seed in the South region—and if the Cardinals win their first round matchup against Cal, Louisville will embrace an opportunity to face off against No. 1 Duke—predicting that the Duke Blue Devils make it past their first round matchup.
This will be a second-round game, with a Sweet 16 atmosphere.
The Blue Devils have done it all year with their big three—Smith, Scheyer, and Singler. They’ve been so impressive because when one player has a particularly bad performance, the other two pick up the slack—or it’s usually all three clicking on one night, and that is when they are tough team to compete with.
But when two of them are not clicking it’s usually the losing formula. My evidence is; Wisconsin when Smith and Scheyer combined for 7-of-24 and lost by four, at Georgia Tech when Smith and Singler combined for 6-of-23 and lost by four, and another instance against Georgetown when Singler and Smith combined for 10-of-30 and lost 12.
Now also Duke has become reliant on the three-pointers as of late—evidenced in their last game against Georgia Tech. Duke was 4-of-16 from the field, and Scheyer was 1-of-8 before hitting the dagger at the end of the game.
Not a good trend to have—especially if you are playing a physical team such as Louisville. Louisville has assured they can take the three ball out of your offense—Syracuse shot 4-of-16, Cincinnati shot 4-of-18, and Syracuse the first time around shot 5-of-19—see where I am going with this?
Louisville has a very physical zone, which will allow you to settle for the contested jump shot—while their daring you to bring the ball inside.
Just yesterday, I witnessed the Duke Blue Devils struggle to get the ball upcourt as Georgia Tech pressed.
One thing that Louisville retains in their arsenal—the Cardinals athletic frontcourt players allow them to play pressure defense. Louisville has had success out of this, and you can tell by the amount of turnovers the Cardinals force a game—currently sitting at 15.3, highlighted by 7.8 steals.
In addition, in just about every loss, Duke has been in foul trouble. On average, in a losing effort Duke surrenders 23 foul attempts—which is right around Louisville’s season average—21.5 per game.
So, as you put the finishing touches on your bracket, or possibly lose sleep because you cannot figure out which team is going to win, I have a little bit of advice for you. When you reach that No. 9 vs. No. 1 matchup, go for the upset.
Every ESPN bracketologist has noted that the Blue Devils are not Final Four material—and if you add that the heart of Duke can be taken away by a deadly zone, it may just change your mind.
To sum it up in just a sentence: Watch out Duke, Louisville is going to make your tournament hopes tough in every aspect.