Big East (28-5, 16-2)
Seed: #1 Midwest
Big Wins: 1/10 at Villanova (61-60), 1/17 Pittsburgh (69-63), 1/25 at Syracuse (67-57)
Bad Losses: 11/30 vs Western Kentucky (54-68), 12/31 UNLV (55-56), 2/12 at Notre Dame (57-90)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2008, Elite Eight loss to North Carolina
Coach: Rick Pitino (35-12 in 13 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
Louisville’s strength is in the frontcourt, especially if you consider 6-9 wing Earl Clark part of the frontcourt. With a 6-8 center and a 6-6 power forward, the team does not have a ton of size up front, but they do have plenty of versatility and that makes life very difficult for the opposing defense. Freshman Samardo Samuels is not yet the rebounder that he will be in the future, but he does give the team a back to the basket scoring threat. It is Clark and superstar Terrence Williams that do most of the work on the glass.
The long arms of players like Clark and Williams make the Cardinals one of the best defensive teams in the nation. The opposition shoots just 39.5 percent against Louisville and just 31.0 percent from beyond the arc, and that is when the opposition can manage to get off a shot. The Cardinals rank in the top 20 in the nation in both steals and blocked shots.
Why They Can Disappoint:
While Williams is a great scorer and rebounder and the team leader in assists and steals, he also commits quite a few turnovers. That would not be too bad of a thing if he was the only one, but Clark, Samuels and Edgar Sosa also commit around two turnovers per game. It is Sosa and Andre McGee who have to run the show and keep the team under control. The Cardinals are a relatively high scoring team who like to run and wear down their opponents, but they still need to slow down the tempo when it makes sense and not force bad passes.
Who To Watch:
Coach Rick Pitino has a lot of players that will take the outside shot, but a few of them can be very inconsistent. Williams, McGee, Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles all average at least one long ball per game. Williams and Sosa are better suited to get to the basket, but at least they can keep the defense honest with their outside shooting. The key will be for Smith and Knowles, the more consistent long range shooters, to get hot at the right time. The opposition will give Williams, Clark and Sosa the outside shot and stop them from getting to the basket, but if Smith and Knowles are knocking down three-pointers, it will open up a lot of space in the paint for the bigger scoring threats.
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 74.1 (68th in nation, 9th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 61.9 (43, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.0 (106, 8)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.5 (22, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.0 (33, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.2 (87, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 64.4 (287, 13)
Rebound Margin: 3.1 (73, 7)
Assists Per Game: 16.4 (14, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.5 (143, 10)
Edgar Sosa, Junior, Guard, 7.2 ppg, 2.2 apg
Jerry Smith, Junior, Guard, 7.6 ppg, 1.3 apg
Earl Clark, Junior, Guard, 14.0 ppg, 3.3 apg, 8.8 rpg
Terrence Williams, Senior, Forward, 12.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 5.1 apg
Samardo Samuels, Freshman, Forward, 11.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg
Terrence Jennings, Freshman, Forward, 4.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg
Preston Knowles, Sophomore, Guard, 6.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Andre McGee, Senior, Guard, 5.5 ppg, 1.7 apg
Joel’s Bracket Says: Championship loss to Pittsburgh