The narrative of today’s defensive match up between #1 Louisville and #6 Syracuse has already been explored extensively. A collision of defensive juggernauts: the nation’s first and third most efficient defenses, respectively. The two lead the Big East and are top-five nationally, again, in creating steals. The Cards check in at #2 in the country in turnovers generated; the Orange: #8. Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams leads the conference with a staggering 3.18 steals per game and combines with Brandon Triche to produce 4.8 SPG; Peyton Siva and Russ Smith are top-five, producing a cumulative 4.6 pilfers.
On paper it’s a push, and a juicy storyline to hype. In reality, Syracuse fields an excellent defense, but Louisville’s has the potential to be historic, and it’s just now hitting its stride.
Team defense: a body of work
Heading into today’s game, Ken Pomeroy reports an adjusted defensive efficiency rating of 79.5 for the Cards. To put that in perspective, Anthony Davis’ imposing defense at UK finished their title run with an 88.2 rating––in other words, those dominant Cats gave up almost 9 points more per 100 possessions than this Louisville team has thus far. Matt Norlander points out, “No team has finished a season by cracking the 80 barrier,” and the 82.2 Kansas posted in 2007 remains the stingiest finish in the past decade (h/t @loverofthegame_). Certainly, the regular season is barely halfway over and several potent offenses await Louisville in the Big East schedule, but they’re off to a good start.