Battle On The Frontier: #11 Louisville At #25 Notre Dame
- Coachingck Pitino has more than 600 wins as a college head coach, has been to six Final Fours, and won a national championship. His current Louisville squad is capable of returning to the Final Four for the second straight year.Mike Brey has had great success in the regular season—Notre Dame finished third in the Big East last season and second the year before—but has struggled in the NCAA Tournament. He is great at adapting to his personnel.
- OffenseThe Cardinals have an explosive backcourt with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, an All-American candidate. Sophomore Chane Benhanan is as athletic a forward as there is in the country.Don’t let Notre Dame’s extremely slow pace fool you—Brey may favor the “burn” offense but this year’s Irish squad is 11th in the country at 1.16 points per possession. Jack Cooley, a 6’9” center, leads the Irish with 14.8 points per game.
- DefenseLouisville’s aggressive defense style has been extremely disruptive this season; the Cards rank second in the country in efficiency. Smith hounds opposing guards and 6’11” Gorgui Dieng is an elite rim protector, averaging 2.5 blocks per game.The Irish don’t play defense as well as they have the last couple of years. Their offense can help out their defense on Saturday—they can’t turn it over and give Louisville easy baskets in transition.
- Bench DepthNine guys play at least 12 minutes per game; sophomore Wayne Blackshear gets starters minutes and averages 9.1 points per game. He led all scorers with 19 in Louisville’s win over Rutgers on Wednesday.Only a handful of teams rely on their starters more than Notre Dame, whose depth took a hit when Scott Martin got hurt.
The Irish are great at home, though they’ve already dropped two in South Bend this season, to Connecticut and Georgetown. After losing three straight, Louisville comes in on a three-game win streak. Despite the categorical sweep, this figures to be a tight, low-scoring game. -Andrew Kahn, College Basketball Contributor