There are big expectations for the Louisville Cardinals in March, expectations that come with being the number one overall seed. The Cards are on a ten game winning streak after their thrilling victory over Syracuse in the Big East Championship. Louisville is playing their best basketball of the season right now and are coming together as a team. Players are starting to know their roles and are peaking at the right time of the year. These keys will give the Cards a chance to win any game in the tournament:
- Full Court Defensive Pressure: The defensive pressure of the Cards has been the backbone for the team all season. The front court with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith has given opposing point guards fits all year. This defensive pressure is exactly what brought Louisville back to beat Syracuse.
- Luuuuukkkkee: Luke Hancock has been shooting at a big rim lately. In the past ten games, Hancock is shooting a little over 40 percent from behind the arc (15 of 37). Luke needs to stay hot to keep the defense spread to open the lane for Siva and Smith.
- Wayne Blackshear: On the opposite end, Wayne has been ice cold during this win streak. He has shot right at 20 percent from behind the 3-point line (6-30). Having someone else catch fire with Luke could open endless opportunities. Blackshear has the potential, just needs to get his confidence back.
- Gorgui Dieng’s Jump Shot: Teams have played zone against the Cardinals all year. In a zone, the middle is wide open at the free throw line. Lately Dieng has been able to exploit this space and make teams pay with his jump shot. If he can continue to make this shot, it can open the shot fake and drive to the lane, or find an open teammate down low.
- Chane Behanan?: Behanan has been virtually non-existent lately. He has gotten his rebounds on the defensive end but is struggling to break double digits offensively. Hopefully he turns this around like he did in last year’s tournament.
- Big Men Bench Play: Montrezl Harrell and Steven Van Treese have given quality minutes off the bench, giving Dieng and Behanan needed rest. Harrell contributed 20 points in 24 minutes against Syracuse. The two big guys off the bench may not have the offensive firepower that Dieng and Behanan do, but they play major roles in giving Dieng and Behanan rest to be fresh late in games.
- Kevin Ware: Just like Harrell and Van Treese, Ware plays a big role in giving other players needed rest. Ware has been playing much better and Pitino has put more faith in the young point guard. Ware is coming in to give Siva and Smith rest while not losing much on the defensive end of the floor.
If Louisville can continue to play like they have been and build on these keys, there is no reason why they cannot leave Atlanta on top. This tournament will be fun to watch. Anything can happen just like every year. Go Cards!