CRAWFORD | Cards, Ducks aim to make it to Lucas Oil Speedway in Sweet 16
INDIANAPOLIS (WDRB) -- In a city where pace cars are important, pace was the subject of the day when discussing the University of Louisville's NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal matchup with Oregon Friday night.
Not many teams venture into the fast lane with the Cardinals. Most Big East teams like to play between the tackles, even if the game is basketball. Georgetown, Syracuse, Cincinnati, it's rare to see a track meet break out. Of those that do on occasion -- Connecticut, Marquette, DePaul -- the results aren't encouraging for others who want to do it.
Oregon will. It's the Ducks' style. While his team was getting up shots during its Lucas Oil Stadium shootaround, U of L coach Rick Pitino wandered over the sidelines and said, "They actually have more different presses than we have. They'll go three-quarter court, or fake like they're guarding the ball, then go deny guys. They're good.
Oregon is averaging 15 turnovers per game, and its turnover percentage (turnovers per 100 possessions) is the highest-remaining in the NCAA field. But Oregon coach Dana Altman said his team will just have to move past any mistakes it makes.
"We're not, in three or four days, going to change the way we've played all season," he said. "We've got to try to clean it up a little bit. We're going to make mistakes. We've just got to play through those mistakes. We've been able to overcome our turnovers in most situations. We really had a good handle on it in January when we were probably playing our best basketball. We had a real bad February."
This week, U of L has been prepping to be pressed itself. If few teams want to get into an up-tempo game against the Cards, fewer still have tried to press them.
The Cards have been trying to replicate Oregon's various press looks in practice, and in the process, have been attacking each other with a pretty good level of ferocity in bringing the ball up the court.
"We've all been under pressure all week," Smith said, talking about the defense U of L is playing against itself in practice. "Everybody has done a good job against it. It helps when you've got a speed demon at point guard like Peyton, and me, and Kevin Ware. But everybody has been good against it, Wayne (Blackshear) and even Luke (Hancock). It just takes Luke 9.7 seconds to get it across when he brings it up."
But Pitino said that kind of preparation goes only so far. Travis Ford, coach of Oklahoma State, which lost to Oregon on the tournament's first weekend, stopped by U of L's practice on Tuesday and told Pitino that Oregon's speed and physical play is more impressive in person than it is on video.
Altman said the same thing about the Cardinals.
"No one on our schedule this year played like they do, so we haven't had any games to really get a look at this," he said. "We've made the comparison that it's almost the same situation that our football team runs into when teams are trying to get ready to play for them. They play so much faster and their team speed is different. I don't think teams can really get ready for our football team.
"I've watched that the last three years. And I don't think we can prepare for the speed of Louisville, their quickness, their guard quickness, their overall team speed, and the different looks they throw at you. Rick does a great job of changing it up. One time they'll have a guy on the ball; one time they won't. They'll face guard you one time. They just give you so many different looks to try to keep you off balance that presents a lot of challenges. You've got to stay focused for 40 minutes. They beat people up mentally as much as physically, because they just ‑‑ if you're not focused, you make a mistake, they get those runs that they just turn a game around. So staying focused for 40 minutes is going to be pretty tough. Our freshmen guards at times haven't done a great job of that. Our overall team hasn't done a great job of that. So that's a real big challenge for us tomorrow night."
In a game where speed and style are so similar, U of L could have one significant advantage -- seasoning. The Cardinals have been on this stage before, and have the more experienced backcourt in Siva and Smith. Smith said they're going to have to make that count.
"It doesn't always mean much," he said. "It's who is playing the best, and not how much experience you have. But we have to make it count by being prepared and locked in and focused on the scouting report. Basically, with these teams you've got two teams getting after it and scrambling and stuff, and whoever can be the least confused probably is going to win the game."
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