With the Louisville Cardinals set to appear in the 2013 NCAA Tournament final after coming in to the season with high expectations, we wanted to get an inside look at the team that is playing such emotionally charged ball and looking to get Rick Pitino his second national championship.
Louisville expert, Cam Newton from BigRedLouie.com, took some time out of his schedule and answered a few questions to explain how Louisville got to this point and what they will have to do to earn the tournament championship. Here is what Newton had to say:
How they got here: From the beginning of the year, Louisville was projected to go the distance. After their surprising run to win the Big East and make the Final Four last year, many had them winning it all since Siva, Russ, and Dieng were all returning. Louisville started very strong, losing its first game for quite some time to Duke.
Eventually, it kept winning, beat rival Kentucky, then went on a three game losing streak in the mid-late season. They bounced back and became the two seed in the Big East Tournament, winning in amazing fashion vs Syracuse.
On Selection Sunday, Louisville was revealed to be the overall number one seed in the Midwest, a region that also contained Duke and Michigan State. After easily winning their first two tourney games against NC A&T and Colorado St, they played Oregon in the Sweet 16 and won (making Pitino 11-0 in the Sweet 16). They went on to play Duke in a game where Kevin Ware suffered a horrifying injury. They still managed to win by 22. Then they played Wichita State in the Final Four and won due to an amazing comeback mounted by Captain Luke Hancock and walk-on Tim Henderson.
Most Important Player for Success: I normally always answer this with Russ Smith. If he isn’t hitting, Louisville is struggling, as was the case Saturday night. But after Luke Hancock’s performance, I learned that every single one of Louisville’s players is important. They all have their roles and serve them well.
What does Louisville need to do to win: Contain Trey Burke. National Player of the Year, who could prove a problem for the Cardinals. Luckily, Louisville has two skilled guards in the backcourt. Burke showed against VCU that when he plays a tough defense, he’s in trouble. Hopefully Louisville will show the same. Louisville will also need to work to get better looks at perimeter shots and work to feed the ball inside to Behanan, Dieng, and Harrell more.
Difference Maker: I think Siva will be the difference for Louisville. We have to assume that Russ is determined to shoot better than on Saturday. I just hope the same can be said for Siva. He’s going to need to work to get better looks and not settle for terrible threes. He’s also gonna need to calm down and work on being classic Siva and not turning over the ball as much when passing down low. I think Siva will make or break this team.
Prediction: I really really really don’t wanna make one, but I’ve got Louisville winning 64-60 in a low-scoring affair due to Louisville’s defense hurting Michigan. Michigan was obviously affected by Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, let’s see how they do against the Louisville press.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”