All things considered. You have to be happy with the draw for the Louisville Cardinals. The only complaint is that they have to travel 3,000 miles to play in Portland. While I certainly won't argue this fact, the last time Louisville went to the Final Four they were out West.
College Basketball fans nationally will be drooling over the possibility of Tom Izzo vs Rick Pitino, in a Sweet 16 match-up, if both teams can take care of business. What may be even more salivating? A potential match-up between Kentucky and Louisville, for the chance to go the National Championship. However, we have a long road to go before we can talk about that.
My first observation on this region: up-tempo basketball. If your a fan of the "run-and-gun" offense, this region is for you. This was noticeable, when I looked at the region, but It was made even more clearer when I looked at the stats. 8 teams in this region are in the Top 10 of possessions per game. That is something that plays in Louisville's favor. When you have a team that can't shot particular well, What do you want to do? Get out in transition and allow your team to take and make more high percentage shot. Louisville doesn't have to take 30 threes, and hope that Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith can knock 10. Instead, they can get out and run, and take the ball to the basket.
Keys for Louisville:
1) Peyton Siva- Siva may be the closet thing to Kemba Walker in this years tournament. By that, I mean he can take this team as far as they want to go, if the plays to his fullest potential. His play dictates whether this team will have another first round flame-out or make a run to the Final Four. Need proof? Look at what he did in Madison Square Garden
2) Offense- Quite Simple. Louisville has to keep up the offensive consistency that we seen in the Big East Tournament. It wasn't too long ago that Louisville had went 4 straight games failing to score over 60 points. If Louisville continues to be such a "Jackal-and-Hind" team, they will quickly be elimnated in this tournament.
3) Stay "Old-School"- Rick Pitino went back to his old school defense. Going into the tournament, Louisville only really pressed the other team, in the final 4 minutes. This changed in NYC. Louisville pressed virtually after every made shot, this allowed them to dictate the tempo, something they couldn't do against South Florida and Syracuse. Even in a game that had a combined 94 points, Louisville forced 11 turnovers against Cincinatti. Additionally, they held 3 out of their 4 opponents to under 60 points in the Big East Tournament.
4) Avoid the early fouls- I can't stress this enough, Gorgui Dieng can not get 3 fouls in the 1st half like he has been doing. Looking beyond the fact that he plays like another person when in foul to trouble, Louisville can not simply afford to have him off the court for an extended period.
I think this bracket has a great chance for upsets. Louisville could even be a victim of one in the first round, facing a Davidson team that can shoot lights out. But Louisville has more talent and simply more athletes.
Beyond that, Long Beach State, is a team that could make some noise facing New Mexico in the first round. New Mexico is a team that has been hot as of late, winning their last 7. However, Long Beach State, has shown they will not be scared, they've faced many marquee teams on the road including Kansas, North Carliona, and Louisville. They have three players that average double figures, with Casper Ware leading the way at 17.6 ppg.
The potential 2nd round match-up between Michigan State vs Memphis intrigues me as well. Memphis has been one of the hottest teams in the country, winning 11 out of their last 12. Personally, I don't think Michigan State is as talented as must think. This team has overachieved due to a great coaching job by Tom Izzo. If Memphis can get the Spartans into a running game, watch out for the Tigers.
Outlook for Louisville:
I think it's Sweet 16 or bust for this Louisville team. Sure, Davidson, New Mexico, and Long Beach State are all very talented teams. But, who isn't at this time of year? Beyond that, I really like Louisville's chances in this bracket. I like them even more if Memphis can upset Michigan State. Louisville will favor well against a team like Memphis, because they will be able to run and force the tempo. It all starts and ends with Peyton Siva. Will we see the Peyton Siva of Madison Square Garden or will there be a return of the old. Time will tell.