NCAA March Madness Preview – Louisville Cardinals

Louisville Cardinals

ACC (24-8, 12-6)

 by Joel Welser

Louisville has had some ups and downs this season, but that has mostly been due to injuries and suspensions. Assuming this group can stay healthy during March, the Cardinals are built to make a nice run in the 2017 NCAA Tournament after a self-imposed ban kept Louisville out of the postseason in 2016.

Big Wins: 11/30 Purdue (71-64), 12/21 Kentucky (73-70), 1/14 Duke (68-69)

Bad Losses: 12/28 Virginia (53-61), 1/4 at Notre Dame (70-77), 3/1 at Wake Forest (81-88)

Coach: Rick Pitino

Why They Can Surprise:

When they are healthy, Louisville wants to get up and down the floor and use their depth to play pressure defense. And even when Coach Rick Pitino has lost a few players here and there and needed to slow things down, Louisville still played very good defense. The shot blocking abilities of Mangok Mathiang, Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding make it very difficult for the opposition to get to the basket.

Louisville always has at least one very good shot blocker on the floor at all times so it never gets easier for the opposition. The opposition shoots just 39.5 percent from the floor against the Cardinals, ranking 14th in the country and 30.7 percent from beyond the arc, which is the 14th best three-point field goal percentage defense in the nation. With plenty of help from Jaylen Johnson and Deng Adel, the Louisville frontcourt can hit the glass effectively as well.

Why They Can Disappoint:

With that defense, Louisville can beat anybody. Donovan Mitchell, Quentin Snider and Adel are the top scorers on the team. Mitchell leads the way with 15.7 points per game and is also the team’s top outside shooter. Snider missed some time with a hip injury, but is a very good point guard who can knock down outside shots, attack the basket and find his teammates. Freshman V.J. King is a player to watch. He has not had the most consistent freshman campaign, but he can score. At the least, King needs to provide a spark off the bench and Louisville always needs another shooter to come in and make things happen. Mitchell and Snider are decent shooters, but spend most of their time attacking the basket. If King is making the opposition think about defending him instead of worrying about Mitchell and Snider, Louisville is tough to beat.

Probable Starters:

Quentin Snider, Junior, Guard, 12.7 ppg, 4.1 apg

Donovan Mitchell, Sophomore, Guard, 15.7 ppg, 2.6 apg, 4.6 rpg

Deng Adel, Sophomore, Forward, 11.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg

Jaylen Johnson, Junior, Forward, 8.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg

Anas Mahmoud, Junior, Forward, 5.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg

Key Role Players:

Ray Spalding, Sophomore, Forward, 5.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg

Mangok Mathiang, Senior, Center, 7.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg

V.J. King, Freshman, Forward, 5.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg

Tony Hicks, Senior, Guard, 3.8 ppg

David Levitch, Senior, Guard, 2.0 ppg

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 77.5 (81st in nation, 8th in conference)

Scoring Defense: 65.4 (38, 3)

Field-Goal Percentage: 45.4 (114, 11)

Field-Goal Defense: 39.5 (14, 2)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.2 (190, 10)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.4 (115, 10)

Free-Throw Percentage: 68.9 (217, 13)

Rebound Margin: 5.8 (27, 2)

Assists Per Game: 13.5 (165, 12)

Turnovers Per Game: 11.3 (32, 4)

Recent Postseason Appearances:

2015    NCAA Round of 64 win over UC Irvine

2015    NCAA Round of 32 win over Northern Iowa

2015    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over North Carolina State

2015    NCAA Regional Final loss to Michigan State

2014    NCAA Round of 64 win over Manhattan

2014    NCAA Round of 32 win over Saint Louis

2014    NCAA Regional Semifinal loss to Kentucky

2013    NCAA Round of 64 win over North Carolina A&T

2013    NCAA Round of 32 win over Colorado State

2013    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Oregon

2013    NCAA Regional Final win over Duke

2013    NCAA National Semifinal win over Wichita State

2013    NCAA National Final win over Michigan

2012    NCAA Round of 64 win over Davidson

2012    NCAA Round of 32 win over New Mexico

2012    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Michigan State

2012    NCAA Regional Final win over Florida

2012    NCAA National Semifinal loss to Kentucky

2011    NCAA Round of 64 loss to Morehead State

2010    NCAA Round of 64 loss to California

2009    NCAA Round of 64 win over Morehead State

2009    NCAA Round of 32 win over Siena

2009    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Arizona

2009    NCAA Regional Final loss to Michigan State

2008    NCAA Round of 64 win over Boise State

2008    NCAA Round of 32 win over Oklahoma

2008    NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Tennessee

2008    NCAA Regional Final loss to Kansas

2007    NCAA Round of 64 win over Stanford

2007    NCAA Round of 32 loss to Texas A&M

*all team stats through 3/5

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