Louisville: 2017 March Madness

Conference: ACC (At-Large)

Record: 24-8 (12-6)

NCAA Tournament Seed:

How they got to the Big Dance

Louisville started the season off hot, going 12-1 in nonconference play. The Cardinals picked up wins over Wichita State, Purdue, Kentucky and Indiana, with their only loss coming by three points at the hands of Baylor. Rick Pitino’s team then entered ACC play and got off to a 0-2 start before turning on the jets. The Cardinals won 12 of their final 16 conference games, and earned a double-bye in the ACC tournament. However, Lousiville was thwarted by Duke in the Cardinals’ first conference tournament game, and finished its season losing three of five games overall, causing its NCAA Tournament seeding to take a hit.

Why they’re a legitimate contender

Defense is the key for Louisville, and it’s what makes the Cardinals so tough to beat. Pitino’s team allows only 65.8 points per game while playing against many of the best teams in the country. The Cardinals allow teams to shoot only 39.6 percent from the field, which ranks 15th in the nation, and employ a prolific group of shot-blockers. Forwards Mangok Mathiang and Anas Mahmoud both play more than 18 minutes per game and stand at least 6-foot-10. The two forwards combine for 3.2 blocks per game, and have helped lead Louisville to the 12th-most blocks in the country this season.

Those big men also help to give the Cardinals second chances on offense. Pitino’s team ranks 14th in the nation in offensive rebounds per game, and Mathiang and Mahmoud combine for over 10 rebounds per game. A hot outside-shooting team could neutralize Louisville’s shot-blockers, but if teams can’t keep the Cardinals off of the offensive glass, they will be a tough team to beat.

Why they’re not a legitimate contender

Louisville relies on an inside presence and has some good perimeter players, but does not shoot the ball at a high enough percentage from 3-point range to advance deep into the tournament. The Cardinals shoot 35.8 percent from beyond the arc, good for 137th in the country, and of their four players who have attempted more than 50 3-pointers on the season, none shot better than 39 percent from deep. If an opposing team can get physical on the inside and force Louisville to shoot threes, it has a good chance to take down the Cardinals.

Player to watch: Guard Donovan Mitchell

Louisville has a good group of guards that makes it a dangerous team, but the best of them is sophomore Donovan Mitchell. He is scoring a team-high 15.7 points per game and grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game. The sophomore guard shoots 41.3 percent from the field, and is money from the free-throw line, where he shoots 80 percent. Mitchell is the leader of the Louisville offense, and can take over a game at any time, but he has to be able to stay on the floor. Mitchel has picked up the second most personal fouls on the team this season, and has time and time again seen himself in foul trouble. Mitchell’s ability to lay off the fouls will be key in Louisville’s chances to make a deep tournament run.

Connor Newcomb
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Connor Newcomb

Connor is a journalism major from Fallston, Maryland. Aside from TLB, he has also worked for Maryland Baseball Network, WMUC Sports and Fish Stripes on SB Nation. It is said that he will never be truly happy until the Orioles win a World Series in his lifetime. He reminds you to never bunt.
Connor Newcomb
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About Connor Newcomb 102 Articles
Connor is a journalism major from Fallston, Maryland. Aside from TLB, he has also worked for Maryland Baseball Network, WMUC Sports and Fish Stripes on SB Nation. It is said that he will never be truly happy until the Orioles win a World Series in his lifetime. He reminds you to never bunt.