Editor's Early Preview (9/15):
You never know what you'll get from Louisville, so this neutral court affair against Ole Miss could be surprisingly close.. or the Cards could roll by 20+. You just don't know. Andy Kennedy and the Rebels had hopes of earning an at-large bid this season, but a recent blow out loss to New Mexico really hurt the cause. Louisville's front-line could have a field-day here.
Preview & Prediction: By Raphielle Johnson
The fourth and final game of the Big East/SEC Invitational matches a pair of teams that could use a non-conference win over a name opponent. Ole Miss (7-3) has seen a few key returnees go down to season-ending injuries early in the year and has been hurt at times by the resulting lack of depth. And then there’s #9 Louisville (6-1), who despite their loss to Western Kentucky is fine-tuning an inconsistent backcourt for a run in the loaded Big East. The SEC won the two games in Nashville on Tuesday, so Big East rooters will go into this one hoping that the Cardinals can seal a doubleheader sweep in Cincinnati provided the Bearcats beat Mississippi State in the opener.
Andy Kennedy’s Rebels were able to pick up a win over Alabama State on Monday night, removing some of the bad taste left in their mouths from an embarrassing showing at New Mexico on Saturday. In what was little more than an exaggerated dunk and layup exhibition, the Lobos drilled Ole Miss by the count of 103-70. If that same level of “defense” is on display against a Cardinal team that has some very good athletes who can make things happen in the open court, this one could get ugly. Luckily for Ole Miss, they’ve got a formidable backcourt in seniors Chris Warren and David Huertas to turn to on the offensive end.
Both are in the neighborhood of twenty points per game, and in a matchup against Louisville guards who have yet to play consistently well against solid competition these two may be their best shot at the upset. They lack size inside, which could be an issue when faced with the likes of Samardo Samuels and Earl Clark, so forwards Murphy Holloway and Terrance Henry will have to bring their best effort in this one. Ole Miss currently has a rebound margin of -2.6, while the Cards check in at a +6.4. But for all the hype surrounding the freshman big man from Jamaica, he’s Louisville’s third-best rebounder so far.
The top two on the glass have been veterans Terrence Williams (8.9 rpg) and Earl Clark (8.1 rpg), a pair of versatile forwards who have shown the desire to do the little things for Rick Pitino’s team. At times last season these two would get a little too comfortable on the perimeter, a trait that despite their individual talents would hurt the team. And when you add to this a young big man capable of commanding extra attention when he gets the ball you’ve got a front line that can compete with just about any in America. But those three aren’t the concern for Louisville this season.
The backcourt, manned primarily by returnees Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles, Andre McGee and Edgar Sosa, has some serious talent. But whether or not that talent is consistently on display has been the concern for some time. In the loss to WKU those four (along with Reginald Delk) combined for the following numbers: five points, three rebounds and three assists. Combine that with a 48-34 disadvantage on the glass and you’ve got the recipe for a beating (68-54 final).
Both teams at this point in the season have a pretty good idea of what they can’t afford to do if they want to win games; it’s just a matter of taking care of business on their end. While Louisville has done a decent job on the defensive end, allowing opponents to shoot just over 36% from the field, the Rebels are allowing teams to shoot it at a 42% clip. You can’t do that and expect to win too many games against quality competition.
Winner: Louisville Margin: 10-14 pts.