Notre Dame is looking pretty dominant and Final Four chatter is starting to grow around this veteran Irish squad. Many people are picking Notre Dame to win the Big East Tournament, but I'm here to tell you that you shouldn't count out Louisville just yet. Louisville plays Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament semifinals tonight and a Cardinal victory might be more probable then you think.
I will give you 10 reasons why Louisville can knock off fourth-ranked Notre Dame tonight at Madison Square Garden.
As always let me know your comments and concerns.
The Cardinals already played the Fighting Irish once this season in South Bend and were able to push Notre Dame into overtime before ultimately losing 89-79.
Notre Dame is one of the best home-court teams in the Big East, and the fact that Louisville played the Irish so well despite being on the road speaks volumes about the Cardinals' chances on a neutral floor tonight. Louisville and Notre Dame have played an overtime game in each of the last three years these teams have met, so if history is any indicator, it should be a classic at Madison Square Garden tonight.
Louisville doesn’t have one spectacular player on their roster. That is right; there is no Francisco Garcia, Terrence Williams or Earl Clark type of talent on the Cardinals roster.
Louisville makes up for that fact with their overall depth though. Seven players played 17 or more minutes against Marquette and almost every player on the Cardinals roster is capable of stepping up.
Of course players such as Peyton Siva, Terrence Jennings and Preston Knowles are the stars, but this team is much more than a singular nucleus of talent. The ability to play a lot of players and mix up personnel could be advantageous against a Notre Dame team that relies heavily on their starting lineup.
Notre Dame is at their best when they are running their half-court offense and Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis are spotting up for set three-point opportunities. This is one of the ways that Notre Dame was able to pick apart Cincinnati last night and it’s been a staple of their success in general over the past few years.
Louisville plays at more of a fast pace, and the Cardinals, like the Irish, shoot a lot of three-pointers. Both Louisville and Notre Dame shot 20 three-pointers apiece in the first matchup. Louisville’s up-tempo offense and barrage of three-point shooting may take the Irish out of sync and disrupt the precious pacing in their game plan that Mike Brey and company rely on so much.
Notre Dame plays great defense and their defensive prowess was put on full display last night when they held Cincinnati to just 51 points.
Louisville is a different challenge in that they get great ball movement as part of their offense and really work for the open look. Louisville’s 17.6 assists per game is third-best in the country and the Cardinals do a good job of getting high-percentage shots.
Many times last night Cincinnati relied on dribble-drives and minimal passing, and as a result the Bearcats struggled against the Fighting Irish defense. I expect Louisville to make it more of a point than usual to work the ball and try to move that disciplined Notre Dame defense out of position.
Louisville has won five out of their last six games and is arguably playing the best basketball in the Big East. During this recent six-game stretch, the Cardinals defeated Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Marquette. It should also be noted that Louisville won four out of those five aforementioned games by more than 10 points.
Notre Dame is playing excellent basketball as well, and I’m not trying to take anything away from the Fighting Irish, but Louisville is playing with a lot of confidence right now. The Cardinals will need all of that confidence if they hope to knock off the Fighting Irish tonight at Madison Square Garden.
Louisville has notched Big East victories over Syracuse, St.John’s, Pittsburgh and Connecticut so far this season.
To put that into perspective all four of those teams are ranked in the top 20 of this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Notre Dame is without a doubt the top team in the Big East right now, but Louisville has made it a habit of knocking off highly ranked teams. I’m not sure whether it’s the three-point shooting, the coaching or the style of play, but for some reason the Cardinals always bring their best stuff against the best competition.
I expect tonight to be no different and I look for Louisville to take the fight to the Irish in this game.
Rick Pitino is not in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame because of his finely pressed suits.
Pitino is one of the top coaches in the game and his strategical prowess will be put to the test tonight as he game-plans for this high-powered Irish attack. Rick has the experience and skills to put together a game plan that can slow down the Irish on offense and force Notre Dame out of their comfort zone.
Games are won on the floor by the players (or as we learned earlier, sometimes by the officials), but there is no denying the impact that Pitino’s experience and knowledge can have on this contest. It will be up to Rick, Ralph Willard and the rest of the Cardinals coaching staff to come up with a game plan that will help put the brakes on this high-octane Irish offense.
This is a tried and true fact, but if Louisville is hitting their three-pointers then they immediately become a much tougher opponent than if they are throwing bricks up at the rim.
Now of course you will say that every team becomes a much tougher opponent when they are connecting from the perimeter, and that is true. In this case, though, you have to consider the high volume of threes that the Cardinals take every game to understand how vital three-point shooting is to the Cardinals game plan.
Louisville has shot 77 three-pointers over the course of the past three games and regardless of whether they are falling or not, the Cardinals will keep shooting them.
If Louisville is ice-cold from the perimeter, then it will be a great sign for Notre Dame, but if they hit 13 three-pointers like they did last night against Marquette, then the Cardinals will be in the game until the very end.
Ben Hansbrough is deceptively quick and last night he got past Cincinnati point guard Cashmere Wright (who is very fast in his own right) on more than one occasion.
The minute Hansbrough is allowed to run the floor unguarded is the minute you start experiencing serious problems as an opponent. Hansbrough is such a good decision maker that he will make the right play and finish on the fast break most of the time.
Louisville point guard Peyton Siva is blazingly quick and will most likely be tasked with guarding Hansbrough. The responsibility will fall on Siva to not let Hansbrough break out in the open court. Siva is an all-around solid defender and his ability to shadow Hansbrough will be of the utmost importance for Louisville tonight.
Notre Dame has never advanced to the finals of the Big East Tournament. The Irish presently look like the best team in the field, but there is just something about betting against history that is always dangerous.
I would be reaching if I tried to claim that Notre Dame might play nervous tonight in their semifinal matchup. Instead this historical fact will probably motivate the Irish even more. With that being said, I have to bring up the fact that history won’t be on the side of Notre Dame as they take the floor tonight versus Louisville.