Opponent: UConn Huskies
Game Location: XL Center, Hartford, Connecticut
Tip Off: 7:00
Record: 12-3 (2-1)
Head Coach: Kevin Ollie (1st season)
TV: ESPN with Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas calling the action
Radio: 790 WKRD (joined in action on WHAS-84) with Paul Rogers & Bob Valvano calling the action
Officials:Karl Hess, Pat Driscoll, Doug Shows
Projected Starting Line-up’s
C Gorgui Dieng, 6’11”, 235 pounds
PF Chane Behanan, 6’6”, 250 pounds
F Wayne Blackshear, 6’5”, 230 pounds
G Russ Smith, 6’0”, 165 pounds
PG Peyton Siva, 6’0”, 185 pounds
F DeAndre Daniels, 6’8″, 195 pounds
F Tyler Olander, 6’8″, 2225 pounds
G Ryan Boatright, 6’0″, 190 pounds
G Shabazz Napier, 6’1″, 171 pounds
G Omar Calhoun, 6’5″, 195 pounds
No rest for the wicked / weary /whatever other adjective you wanna throw in there, as the University of Louisville travels to Hartford tonight to take on the UConn Huskies. It marks the third game played in the last six days for both teams. The contest is part of ESPN’s Big Monday and will tip at approximately 7:00 p.m. Fresh off a 64-38 home beatdown of South Florida this past Saturday, the Cards will likely head into tonight’s match-up with the nation’s #1 ranking (polls are officially released later this morning). No extra motivation for UConn, whatsoever. Not that they need much inspiring after ending Notre Dame’s 17-game home winning streak this weekend, 65-58. Junior combo guard Shabazz Napier led UConn with 19 points and forward Tyler Olander put up 12 second half points en route to a career high 16 point effort. Sophomore Ryan Boatright also chipped in 14 points and 5 assists in the win. The Huskies cannot participate in post season play this year due to NCAA sanctions, but their probation has not slowed down new head coach Kevin Ollie and his team continues to claw and scrap their way to an impressive start.
Louisville might see some bigger, badder backcourts this year, but they won’t see any as fast as Boatright and Nappier. Both possess blinding speed, can handle the ball in the open court and play capable defense. Near mirror images of Louisville’s backcourt duo (Russ Smith and Peyton Siva) they’re not tall (6’0 and 6’1, respectively) but they can both score the ball or create opportunities for the teammates off the dribble. Nappier (17.5 ppg – 5th in the Big East) has championship experience and will be the focal point of the UConn offense, particularly in the halfcourt. However, Boatright (16.1 ppg – 10th in the Big East), as he proved last year by putting up 18 points in a blowout loss in the KFC Yum! Center, provides the Huskies with a powerful second option. UConn, like USF, also takes great care of the ball (11.1 turnovers per game, 3rd in the Big East, 30th in the nation) while the Cards remain one of the absolute best at turning over their opponents. The Huskies committed just 7 turnovers on Saturday in their win over the Irish and shot 50% from the field.
One thing this UConn team is missing, however, is a dominate frontcourt. In last years meeting, the Huskies had both Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi battling for them on the low blocks. Now Tyler Olander (5.4 ppg and 4 rpg) and DeAndre Daniels (11 ppg, 4.6 rpg) have the unenviable task of trying to match-up with a Louisville frontcourt that features two of the best big’s in the conference. Olander is a limited post player and isn’t much of a scoring threat offensively, while Daniels simply isn’t bulky enough (6’8, 195 lbs) to truly do battle with Dieng or Behanan underneath. Louisville has done a much better job lately of pumping the ball inside early and trying to establish some offensive rhythm on the posts, so expect more of the same tonight from Rick Pitino. The duo of Boatright and Nappier combine to form the second highest scoring tandem in the Big East, but if the Huskies want to spring the upset, they’ll need something from their post players.
Louisville has won 5 of the last 6 meetings against UConn and owns a slight advantage in the overall series, 7-6. The last time the Cards lost to the Huskies was the Big East Tournament in 2011. That win over Louisville helped propel UConn to an eventual National Championship (their third since 1999). The Huskies currently hold the #23 spot in the RPI and they’re ranked 43rd in the Sagarin Ratings. KenPom.com has them ranked 44th overall. Against a stingy Louisville defense that ranks 3rd in the nation in steals (11.5 per game) and has a turnover margin of +7.8 (second in the nation), UConn will have to take care of the ball and likely shoot a high percentage from the floor to get a win tonight.