Opponent: Florida International Panthers
Head Coach: Anthony Evans (1st Season)
All-Time Series: Louisville Leads 2-0
Last meeting: December 19th, 2012 – Louisville 79, EKU 55
2013 Record: 8-4
Tipoff: 6:00 p.m.
Game Location: US Century Bank Arena – Miami, Florida.
TV: Fox Sports 1 with Adam Alexander & Mike Gminski on the call
Radio: 84-WHAS with Paul Rogers and Chris Redman on the call
Referees – Gerry Pollard, Jose Carrion and Tony Henderson
Spread: Louisville -21
Russ Smith – G 6’0, 175 lbs
Terry Rozier – G 6’1, 185 lbs
Wayne Blackshear – F 6’5, 230 lbs
Montrezl Harrell – F 6’8, 235 lbs
Mangok Mathiang – C 6’11, 215 lbs
Jerome Frink – F 6’6, 218 lbs
Tymell Murphy– F 6’5, 210 lbs
Rakeem Buckles – F 6’7 215 lbs
Jason Boswell – G 6’6, 205 lbs
Dennis Mavin – G 6’3 185 lbs
After closing out a 5-game home-stand and playing 9 of their first 11 games in the friendly confines of the KFC Yum! Center, the 4th/6th ranked Louisville Cardinals have hit the road for sunny South Beach (Miami) and will face Florida International tomorrow at 6:00 on Fox Sports-1. The Panthers (8-4) have not played since December 7th, when they defeated Florida Gulf Coast, 72-61. In that victory, FIU got a nice performance from senior forward Tymell Murphy who scored 23 points and collected 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Former Louisville power forward Rakeem Buckles (who transferred before the start of last season) posted a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Louisville had its way with Florida International in the Yum! Center last year (Dec. 19th, 2012), defeating the Panthers 79-55, but plenty has changed (maybe for the worse) since then.
For starters, this series was created between the two programs when Richard Pitino took the job in the spring of 2012. Pitino spent one season in Miami before taking the head coaching gig at Minnesota. Also, amidst plenty of academic woes, several players transferred after the school was hit with a post-season ban by the NCAA. New coach Anthony Evans has done an admirable job, all things considered, but he’s got his work cut out for him tomorrow. Louisville leads the nation in scoring margin (+25.5) and have been red-hot after losing their only game of the season to North Carolina on November 24th.
Looking at FIU, the one thing that definitely does stand out are their aforementioned forwards. Murphy has been sensational, averaging 16.3 points per game on 61% shooting from the floor. More of a wing at 6’5, Murphy can score off the dribble as well as from outside (36% from the three-point line). Unlike Louisville’s small forwards, he’s also a good rebounder from the three-spot, averaging over 8 boards per game. Buckles has also been a revelation this year averaging 14.7 points and 10.5 rebounds. He’s one of only 8 players in the country currently averaging at least 10 points and 10 rebounds. The 6’7 Miami native will pose an interesting match-up for both Montrezl Harrell and Chane Behanan down on the low blocks. In the backcourt, junior shooting guard Dennis Mavin is the only other active player averaging double figures in scoring (10.0 ppg). Senior point guard Raymond Taylor was averaging 12.2 points and 6 assists before he was sidelined with eligibility issues in late November.
From a statistical standpoint, this is a team that doesn’t score the ball real well (their 72.3 points per game is good for 202nd in the nation) and they don’t distribute at a high clip, either (11.8 assists per game – 260th in the nation). They do, however, rebound the ball incredibly well. In fact, they’re currently averaging 41.1 rebounds per game (25th in the nation). The Panthers are 215th overall according to Kenpom.com and ESPN’s BPI has them ranked 245th. Louisville, conversely is rated 1st and 18th on those two websites, respectively.
Prediction: Louisville 82, FIU 66