Rick Pitino's University of Louisville team is favored to defeat Mike Krzyzewski and Duke for a trip to the NCAA Final Four.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Ken Pomeroy's computer analytics likes Louisville to defeat Duke by four on Sunday in the Midwest Regional championship game in Indianapolis. Jeff Sagarin has a different computer formula – with the same result. Cards by four.
Rather than simply rely on computers, I decided to take this to a coach – former Western Kentucky and South Carolina coach Darrin Horn. He is working as an NCAA Tournament analyst for ESPNU this week. With Horn's assistance and insights, here are 3 Reasons Louisville Beats Duke – and 3 Reasons Duke Beats U of L – for trip to the Final Four.
1. Cards' Overpowering Depth -- Peyton Siva gets in foul trouble? Chane Behanan not getting enough rebounds?
It's not a problem because U of L coach Rick Pitino has developed a deep and productive team with as many as 10 functioning parts. Kevin Ware and Luke Hancock are playing at a level that would make them starters on most Sweet Sixteen teams.
Pitino has plenty of buttons to push. Duke fans, meanwhile, are crossing their fingers and hoping that if Mike Krzyzewski goes beyond his first six guys the Blue Devils get a plus instead of a negative. In fact, top subs Amile Jefferson (4.1 points) and Tyler Thornton (3.5) can't score like Hancock and Ware.
2. Defense. DEFENSE. DEFENSE!!!! -- Nobody plays it like Louisville Not in the full-court, half-court or any shape of the court. Even if the Cards aren't making the scoreboard tilt, their ability to create points off turnovers and pressure shooters makes the opposing team squirm on the offensive end. They've been doing that all season.
3. The Gorgui Factor -- Everybody remembers that Gorgui Dieng did not play when Duke beat Louisville, 76-71, in The Bahamas last November. What they might not remember are some of the inside stats from that game.
Duke center Mason Plumlee made six of 10 shots, grabbed seven rebounds and led the Blue Devils with 16 points. U of L center Stephan Van Treese gave a noble effort, scoring eight points with eight boards. But he never got to the foul line – and Louisville blocked only one Blue Devils' shot. Having Dieng around the rim makes it dangerous for Duke to come inside.
1. From Way Downtown – Rick Pitino has said all season that he hasn't been concerned about his team's inability to shoot the three-point shot consistently. Pitino said it's only a problem if the opponent is making three and the Cards are not. Disparity is the issue.
Duke is the kind of team that can punish you from the three-point line. The Blue Devils are shooting 40.3 percent from the three-point line, which ranks fifth in the nation. They average 7.6 threes per game. For Louisville, the numbers are 5.7 and 33.1 percent.
A disparity could arise. Duke has two players -- Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry -- who shoot better than 43 percent from the three-point line.
2. Navigating The Chaos – Coach K doesn't ask his guards to handle the entire load against full-court pressure. Plumlee and fellow big man Ryan Kelly can also handle the basketball and pass it. It's a five-man effort defeating the press. They did it against Louisville in The Bahamas, and they also did it well against VCU.
3. The Best Things In Life Are Free – Duke understands the value of getting to the free throw line. They know how to get there – and what to do after they have. The Blue Devils make nearly 74 percent of their free throws and average 22 attempts per game.
Of course, Louisville can also get to the line. The Cards average 22.5 free throw attempts per game. The Cards shoot 71 percent.
Both teams average nearly 18 personal fouls per game.