Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Louisville Cardinals

Posted by Will Tucker on March 21st, 2013

Louisville notched wins against Memphis, Missouri and Kentucky in their nonconference schedule, and their only blemish before New Year’s Day came against Duke in the Bahamas with an injured Gorgui Dieng on the bench. After dropping three straight losses in Big East play, the Cardinals won their last 10 games through the Big East Tournament, going 6-1 against the league’s top six teams since their January loss to Georgetown.

(credit Brad Penner/USA TODAY)

Rick Pitino enters the Tournament with a deep rotation (credit Brad Penner/USA TODAY)

Region: Midwest 
Seed: No. 1
Record: 29-5 (14-4 Big East)
Matchup: v. North Carolina A&T in Lexington 

Key Player: Gorgui Dieng erases mistakes on the defensive end and facilitates the offense in the half court when opponents key on Louisville’s guards. He’s one of very few Cardinals who didn’t play out of his mind in the Big East Tournament, and he’s the player Rick Pitino can least afford to have struggle in the Big Dance. His unique skillset makes him as much, if not more, indispensible than Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Dieng’s defense is almost always a known quantity, but it’s when he is forcing tightly packed defenses to respect his jump shot that Dieng makes Louisville’s set offense dynamic enough to sustain itself.

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Louisville Poised to Exploit a Manageable Field With Talent and Maturity

Posted by Will Tucker on March 20th, 2013

With seven regular season games remaining on the schedule in mid-February, Rick Pitino called on his team to win them all. The Cardinals had just lost a demoralizing five-overtime road game to Notre Dame, capping a precipitous three-week fall that saw his team lose four of seven games and drop from #1 in the country all the way out of the top-10. While the Cardinals’ bout with the Irish was heralded by some as the game of the year for its suspense and intensity, Louisville fans shook their heads in resignation after their team choked away an eight-point lead in the final 45 seconds. The team hyped as the strongest national title contender in the Pitino era at Louisville couldn’t seem to generate enough offense outside of Russ Smith, couldn’t seem to generate the fast breaks it desperately needed, and couldn’t seem to close out games.

Chane Behanan was Montrezl Harrell's biggest fan last Saturday, watching from the bench (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Chane Behanan was Montrezl Harrell’s biggest fan last Saturday, watching from the bench (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

So Pitino made an improbable request, and his team obliged. They built momentum by overwhelming St. John’s, Seton Hall, and DePaul; they subdued arch-rival Cincinnati and achieved redemption against Syracuse and Notre Dame. All the while, their glaring weaknesses slowly gave way to the singular strengths befitting a preseason consensus Final Four pick. The Cardinals’ backcourt, the sum of whose parts had yet to coalesce, came into form once Kevin Ware began playing extended stints at point guard, as he forced turnovers on defense and relieved Russ Smith of the fatigue of ball-handling duties while Peyton Siva was on the bench. Luke Hancock, the embattled James Madison transfer whose rusty early play drew groans even from press row in non-conference home games, quietly developed into a consistent 37% three-point marksman as his ailing shoulder strengthened. Gorgui Dieng fashioned himself into the Big East’s leading rebounder in conference play and proved he could still hit an elbow jumper despite the brace on his left wrist. All the while, the Cards forced opposing defenses to stretch ever further, opening driving opportunities for Siva after months of being thwarted by aggressive hedging and dense zones. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big East Tournament Day Three: Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 14th, 2013

The quarterfinals are here, which means the Big East tournament is in full swing, and the top four seeds will get their chance at the league as-we-know-it’s final crown.  Georgetown and Cincinnati open today’s festivities at Noon, followed by a 21st century ACC donnybrook between Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

#9 Cincinnati


The Bearcats knocked off Providence 61-44 yesterday afternoon.

No. 9 seed Cincinnati had a strong showing against Providence yesterday afternoon, defeating the Friars 61-44 behind 17 points from Sean Kilpatrick and 15 points and 10 rebounds from JaQuon Parker.

Next game: Cincinnati will look to upset top seeded Georgetown at Noon.

  • Best Case: Cincinnati nearly took down Georgetown at Fifth Third Arena in February, losing a tight one, 62-55.  Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright were a combined 3-of-15 from three point range in that one; if Cincinnati’s guards can knock down some shots from the outside they should not have much of an issue keeping up with Georgetown’s scoring.  Consistent guard play is the key for the Bearcats; if Kilpatrick keeps up his solid play and Wright finally returns to the level that he was playing at before he missed time due to injury, Cincinnati can make a run in this tournament.
  • Worst Case: The Bearcats get frustrated against Georgetown’s probing Princeton offense and Otto Porter flashes his normal brilliance, and the Hoyas run away with a double-digit victory.  Cincinnati’s next conference tournament game is played in front of 4,000 fans at the Izod Center against Tulane.

#5 Syracuse

C.J. Fair continues to act as a steadying presence for Syracuse.

Syracuse struggled down the stretch of the regular season, but a strong second half propelled them to a 75-63 win over Seton Hall. The Orange dropped their game at The Pete earlier this year, but were without forward James Southerland. Will an Orange-friendly crowd and Southerland’s three-point prowess make the difference for Jim Boeheim’s squad?

Next game: Syracuse faces No. 4 seed Pittsburgh in the 2:00 PM slot.

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