BOZICH | Size, homecourt, Durr: Five Keys to Louisville-Marquette NCAA Tournament game
Louisville has advantages in size and the homecourt. Marquette can play without the pressure of expectations. Five storylines for the U of L-Marquette game Sunday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – You probably missed this result, but UMBC toppled top-seed Virginia by 20 points in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament Friday night.
I mention that for Louisville women’s coach Jeff Walz and Carolyn Kieger of Marquette because they were the only two basketball fans in America who filed to watch the second half of that game. They had work to do.
That score resonated everywhere a ball is bounced, including Louisville on Saturday.
Disbelief reigned in Charlottesville (and across the Atlantic Coast Conference). But folks were debating, discussing and dissecting Virginia’s jarring defeat here Saturday, where coaches and players from Louisville and Marquette gathered.
Louisville, a one-seed, will host Marquette, an 8, in a second round game at noon at KFC Yum! Center.
Five Storylines For The Cardinals’ Second-Round Game:
1. Expectations: Blessing or Curse?
Marquette is no UMBC. Their seeding, Ratings Percentage Index number (25) and record (24-9) testifies to that.
But as the top seed in the Lexington Regional with homecourt advantage, Walz and his players must manage expectations Sunday. The Cards are 33-2. Anything less than a trip to Rupp Arena next week will inspire XXXL heartburn.
“We’re not going to put the pressure on, like guys, the world is coming to an end at 3 o’clock on Sunday, if we don’t win,” Walz said “That’s not how it works.
“I just keep telling them to play for 40 minutes, don’t worry about the scoreboard. You guys give me your best for 40 minutes and then the scoreboard will normally take care of itself and that’s kind of how we talk.”
His players made a similar argument.
“Being in the NCAA Tournament, you’ve got to expect that everyone is good,” Louisville forward Sam Fuehring said. “You can’t take anyone lightly because it’s March Madness, too, so anything can happen.
“Teams are at their best and can compete with anyone.”
There is, of course a flip side. Marquette’s record against Top 25 RPI teams this season is 1-5. Louisville’s is 7-2. The Golden Eagles are definitely Rocky in his match-up. Unlike their coach, the Marquette players did watch UMBC celebrate.
“It was pretty amazing what UMBC did last night and I was kind of in awe because it’s the first time it happened in history,” said Allazia Blockton, Marquette’s leading scorer.
I’ll give Walz the last word.
“I’ve said all along that seeding is something they have to do to put teams in a bracket,” Walz said.
“But then, after that, I’m just a big believer it’s about momentum. It’s not about seeding. It’s momentum.
“You have to seize the momentum when you get it, and you might get one opportunity, you might get five, you might get six. But when you get momentum, you’ve got to run with it.”
2. Size Matters
Louisville wing Asia Durr was voted the ACC player of the year, but the Cardinals’ edge against Marquette will be around the basket. Marquette attacks with four guards and starts one player who is 6 feet. This will be a game when the Cardinals need production from forward Myisha Hines-Allen, a 6-2 senior, and Fuehring, who is 6-3.
“We’re very similar in some aspects and we’re very different in others,” Kieger said. “They obviously have size on us. I think we have quickness on some positions on them.
“I’m looking forward to two teams that are probably going to scheme a lot and see what they’re going to throw at us and hopefully we can throw some stuff at them that they have to adjust to.”
Advised of Kieger’s analysis, Fuehring politely disagreed.
“I don’t think height matters to be honest,” Fuehring said. “It’s all about heart, if you want to work hard or you don’t. Whoever works hard will win the game.
During the Golden Eagles’ interview session, Kieger advised her players not to share the game plan, but it’s no secret Marquette wants to run, run, run.
“I would say the faster the pace, the better for us,” said Natisha Hiedeman, who made eight three for Marquette against Dayton Friday. “They like to push the pace, so I think that works perfect for us in that aspect because we’re a fast team, so it plays right into our hands. We’re excited for that.”
3. Primed For the Moment
According to the RPI numbers, Louisville played the 14th most difficult schedule in the nation. Walz tested his team against Ohio State, Oregon, Connecticut and the ACC grind. Marquette competes in the Big East, but the Golden Eagles also scheduled Tennessee and Notre Dame.
They lost to the Vols by two in overtime in Mexico and to the Irish by six in South Bend. Marquette’s schedule was ranked 38th.
“I don’t think we’re scared to play anybody,” Kieger said. “I think that’s going to be a big advantage for our kids going into this game.
“We went over all Louisville’s scores and every opponent that they’ve played and matched up with, to who we’ve played, similar opponents. I think our team is really excited for this opportunity.”
By my count, the teams played two common opponents.
Louisville beat Notre Dame twice. Marquette went 0-1 against Irish. Louisville beat Michigan by 25. The Wolverines beat Marquette by six.
4. Home Court Advantage
Marquette averaged 1,865 fans for its 13 home games this season. The Golden Eagles played in front of three crowds of more than 3,000.
You know what Walz has done here. Louisville has played in front of five crowds of more than 10,000 and a dozen of more than 7,000. On Friday, 7,229 turned out for Louisville’s win over Boise State. A larger, more intense gathering is expected Sunday.
“You can definitely tell the difference between a 90-fan game or a 7,000 or 8,000 fan game,” Durr said “Like as a player, you try to not stay as focused with the fans and the crowd, you just try to stay tuned in to the game.”
“To beat the best, to be the best, we know we’re going to have to go through a number one seed at some points,” Kieger said. “We’re excited for a packed house, for loud noise and an awesome March atmosphere.”
Said Walz, “If we could get 8,000, 9,000 fans in here being a Sunday noon tip instead of Friday at noon, it would be outstanding.”
5. Get Asia Going
Durr has failed to make 50 percent of her shots for six consecutive games, including a 4 for 14 performance in the Boise State victory. During that six game stretch, Durr is 33 for 103.
That translates to 32.0 percent.
“My shot will fall,” Durr said. “I’m not concerned about that.
“Yeah, and just stay calm, stay with the game plan. It’s not so much about scoring, you’ve just got to stay with the game plan, trust your teammates and stay with the process.”
“We’re going to try different stuff, throw different people at her,” Kieger said. “We’ve got to be keyed in on her all game long and hopefully she has an off night.
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