NCAAT Game No 2: #1 Louisville vs #8 Colorado St

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Mar 21, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; The Colorado State Rams mascot carried the flag in the second half against the Missouri Tigers during the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at Rupp Arena. Colorado State defeated 84-72. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

It’s gameday in the Ville.

GAME INFO:

  • TIME:  5:15 pm EST
  • LOCATION:  Rupp Arena; Lexington, Kentucky
  • CHANNEL:  CBS
  • RADIO:  840 WHAS
  • COMMENTATORS:  Ian Eagle (PxP), Jim Sparkanel (CC), Allie LaForce (CC)

Ok so let’s be honest, Colorado St looks like a tough team.  And they don’t only look the part, but they play it quite well.  After their win versus Mizzou, the Rams really showed how good they are, and just which statistical areas they are good in.  This is a Rams team that, as most any college basketball fan SHOULD know, is arguably the best rebounding team in the country.  This such stat was made evident the other night against the Tigers, as the Rams absolutely DOMINATED the boards, winning the rebounding war 36-18.  This from a team that averages about 40 rebounds per game.   The Rams’ unique frontcourt tandem of Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung, both of whom average 9+ rebounds per game, is the key ingredient to the team’s success.  Another piece of information that concerns me is the fact that every single player that started for them on Thursday night vs Mizzou was a Senior.  Senior translates to experience and toughness, both mentally and physically.

The biggest concern though is that pesky little rebounding average for the Rams.  Louisville may be pretty good on getting offensive rebounds (which ultimately lead to more scoring possibilities), but they are near the bottom of the NCAA in defensive rebounding, one thing that the Cards did very well last year.  The Rams basically have vacuums named Colton and Pierce under the basket, and they will grab anything that happens to drift near them.   This will be a big challenge for the Cards who, as I previously stated, are very good at grabbing offensive boards.  They’ll need to be on offensively, because they probably won’t be getting all of those offensive rebounds against the Rams.  This means that Pitino will probably look to play some bigger players more, which means I’m looking at you, Van Treese.  Van Treese’s large presence, coupled with the height of Dieng, will lead to Louisville definitely being able to compete more on the glass.

Another thing I saw is that they just aren’t that great defensively.  The Rams are rarely ever able to steal the ball from opponents, averaging about 5 steals per game, as opposed to Louisville’s 11.  Louisville is also better in another defensive stat-blocks.  The Cards are leaps and bounds ahead of the Rams in this category, having over 2x as many blocks as CSU.  Now, if Colorado St actually turned the ball over more, this would definitely matter.  The Rams are very stingy, and hardly ever give up the ball, which is tough for Louisville due to the fact that steals and forcing turnovers is the basic tenet of their defensive scheme.  If they can’t turn the opponents over, they can’t give themselves extra opportunities to make up for something like a lack of offense.

Another thing for the Rams is that they have a chip on their shoulder.  As one of the only two Mountain West Conference teams left, pending the San Diego State-Oklahoma game, they have a lot of pressure weighing down on them.  This is the conference that was first in RPI entering the  tournament, yet they’ve had every team BUT Colorado St lose.  That list of losers includes 3-seeded New Mexico and 5-seeded UNLV.  Colorado St definitely has something to prove.  The Cardinals do have a plus though in the fact that CSU is 6-6 in road games which, even though Saturday’s game is technically at a neutral court, it’s basically a Louisville home game.  The Cards should take this home-court advantage that the Rams struggle with and run with it.  The Cards also have a weird piece of history on their side:  they’re 3-1 when facing the 8 seed.  That normally wouldn’t matter but it’s kind of interesting (right?).  These teams have also never played each other before today’s game.

Mar 21, 2013; Lexington , KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals forward Stephan Van Treese (44) dunks the ball against the North Carolina A

Once this game is said and done, I think Louisville will be advancing to the Sweet Sixteen for no reason other than the fact that they are simply the better team.  But, there’s still a week for anything to happen.  There’s no room for error.  If Colorado St can shut UofL down offensively and out-rebound the Cards, they’ll pull off the upset.  If the Cards can hit, turn over the Rams, and keep the rebounding battle about even, they’ll be victorious.  Only time shall tell.  Until then, Go Cards.