Rick Pitino is 10-0 in the Sweet 16 with an average margin of victory of 22 points with 3 different teams (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville). Pitino’s Sweet 16 record at Louisville is 4-0 with wins over Washington, Tennessee, Arizona, and Michigan State. This will be Louisville’s 26th Sweet 16 Appearance (25 if you omit 1951’s 16-team NCAA Tournament) & the Cards have advanced to the Regional Final 12 times in their history.
The Cards have met 3 teams from the current PAC-12 in the Regional Semi-finals and have a 2-1 record. The Cards and Ducks have met just 3 times in their history with Oregon holding a 2-1 series advantage. Louisville’s only win in the series came on December 20, 1954 in the Jefferson County Armory (now Louisville’s unused Louisville Gardens) where the Cards beat the Ducks 101-72.
Oregon then caught Louisville at a most inopportune time in Cardinal basketball history for the Cards in their most recent two meetings. The Cards hosted the Ducks in Louisville’s Freedom Hall during the final season of the Denny Crum era and defeated the Cards 88-65. Louisville then traveled to Portland, OR (neutral site) in the first year of the Rick Pitino era in 2001 to hand Rick Pitino his first loss (2nd game) as a Cardinal 90-63.
Friday Night Louisville & Oregon will square off in Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts. Last weekend Card fans flocked to Rupp Arena and by Saturday night the venue was commonly accepted as Russ Arena. This week, Card fans are already dubbing Lucas Oil Stadium “LukeRuss Oil Stadium” in anticipation of another big weekend.
But this weekend won’t be a walk in the park. The Oregon Ducks are HOT right now winning 5 in a row starting in the PAC-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. The Ducks finished 3rd in the PAC-12 regular season and went on to win 3 games in Vegas over Washington, Utah, and UCLA to clinch the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. There is a lot of speculation about whether the Ducks were mis-seeded in the 68 team field as a 12-seed, and with convincing wins over Oklahoma State & St. Louis no one is questioning the ability of the Oregon Ducks coming into the Midwest Region Semi-Finals.
A closer look at the Ducks shows that the period of time between January 23rd & March 9th, the same period of time that Dominic Artis was slowed by a foot injury, the Ducks were 7-6. Artis did return to action on February 28th, but was not put back into the starting line-up until the beginning of the PAC-12 Tournament. Oregon’s record with Artis in the Ducks’ starting lineup is 22-2 on the season with the only losses being a November netural site loss to Cincinnati, and a road triple overtime loss to UTEP in December. So clearly Artis is a key component to Oregon’s success and the foot injury that hampered him from Late January-All of February seems to be completely healed.
Oregon Head Coach Dana Altman doesn’t just have Artis in his stable of talented players either. Louisville fans should be closely acquainted with Duck Center Tony Woods. Woods transferred to Oregon via Wake Forest……but that isn’t entirely accurate. Woods spent at least a year living in Louisville between his transfer and fully intended to enroll and be a part of this Louisville Basketball program. Woods even worked at Louisville’s UPS WorldHub and attended Cardinal basketball games while attending class at Jefferson Community College & volunteering at the Daniel Pitino Shelter. The 6-11, 243 lbs Center has started 35 of 36 games for the Ducks, hits 52.1% from the floor, averages 9.1 points per game, and 3.6 rebounds.
Oregon Head Coach Dana Altman has a career coaching record of 483-279 (63.4%) and to date has probably done his most impressive work building the Creighton program from 1994-2010 and producing players like Kyle Korver. This will be his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament with Oregon after the previous two seasons of winning the CBI and falling in the NIT Quarterfinals last season.
|Strength of Schedule||6th||101st|
|Points Per Game||73.9 (30th)||71.7 (64th)|
|Avg Scoring Margin||+16.3 (3rd)||+8.5 (34th)|
|Field Goal %||45.2% (65th)||44.8% (80th)|
|Rebound Rate||52.8% (55th)||54.6% (15th)|
|Blocks Per Game||4.1 (86th)||4.0 (96th)|
|Steals Per Game||11.0 (2nd)||8.5 (21st)|
|Assists Per Game||14.9 (27th)||13.1 (128th)|
|Turnovers Per Game||12.6 (111th)||15.1 (298th)|
|Team Fouls Per Game||17.8 (187th)||17.4 (147th)|
|2-point FG%||50.3 (56th)||49.1% (99th)|
|3-point FG%||33.2% (202nd)||33.2% (202nd)|
|Free Throw %||71.1% (115th)||70.7% (129th)|
|Opponent Shooting %||39.1% (20th)||41.1% (86th)|
|Opponent 2-point FG%||42.9% (27th)||44.4% (63rd)|
|Opponent 3-point FG%||31.5% (59th)||33.4% (148th)|
|Opponent Block Per Game||3.4 (161st)||2.9 (53rd)|
|Opponent Steals Per Game||5.7 (55th)||6.7 (189th)|
Louisville’s strength of schedule is obviously well out in front of Oregon’s as a product of playing tough out of conference opponents & in the Big East. Oregon does have quality games throughout their schedule against teams like Vandy, UNLV, Cincinnati, Nebraska, Nevada, and then of course their PAC-12 schedule. However the RPI, which the above Strength of Schedule is based on places the PAC-12 #6 and the Big East #3.
The average scoring margin difference of 7.8+ in favor of the Cards has been a common theme of the season for Louisville opponents. But Oregon is closer than most schools the Cards have played recently. The Ducks are a good rebounding team and play an uptempo style of game. The tempo the Ducks want, the Cards want too. So I expect depth to play a factor along with Turnovers. Turnovers is really where I think the advantage swings to Louisville on paper. The Cards are incredible at limiting possessions on the glass and by creating turnovers & steals. Lately it’s taken up another notch. There really isn’t another team left in the tournament that can duplicate or match Louisville’s pressure, and there may not have been a team to duplicate it to begin with.
Player & Bench Match-Ups
Peyton Siva vs. Dominic Artis is a big time match-up in this game. In Siva the Cards have their all-time leading steal leader and #2 all-time assists man. Artis is a freshman that has propelled the Ducks to a 22-2 record when in the starting lineup. Artis suffered a foot injury that limited his action throughout the month of February. Since his return to action Artis really hasn’t been asked to play more than 20 minutes, so I’ll be interested to see how much the Ducks lean on him throughout the game and how well he can move laterally. Bringing the ball up the floor could be very interesting for the freshman.
|Peyton Siva||Dominic Artis|
|6-0, 185, Sr.||6-1, 185, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||41.00%||36.70%|
Russ Smith vs. Damyean Dotson is an obvious size problem for Russ. But he’s dealt with that all season and still managed to score 18.4 points per game, average 3 assists, and 2.2 steals. Russ does a lot of his damage at the line, beating defenders off the dribble and getting fouled. Dotson is a good 3-point shooter and does not turn the ball over at a high rate. I’m interested to see this match-up, but overall I’d have to say that Dotson’s height advantage is his only advantage. While Russ is quicker and plays a more complete brand of basketball, but if Dotson starts hitting over Russ’ head things could get interesting. Both of these guys are on fire right now.
|Russ Smith||Damyean Dotson|
|6-1, 165, Jr.||6-5, 202, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||41.60%||44.30%|
Wayne Blackshear vs. EJ Singler is going to be a big test for Wayne. And if he isn’t up to the task Luke Hancock is going to be in early. Pretty much at this point Wayne & Luke are really splitting minutes almost equally on a game by game basis at the 3 spot. Singler plays nearly 31 minutes a game, so splitting things up could have its advantages late. Singler is dangerous scoring the ball but he also hits the glass and is a great distributor for the Ducks and is almost like a point forward. He also isn’t someone you want to send to the free throw line. Against Wayne Singler has the advantage….but Singler is going to hear a lot from Hancock off the bench too. Singler had 8 turnovers against St. Louis & 4 against Oklahoma State.
|Wayne Blackshear||EJ Singler|
|6-5, 230, Soph||6-6, 215, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||42.30%||40.70%|
Chane Behanan vs. Arsalan Kazemi is a total mis-match for how Behanan has been playing lately. Kazemi is the first Iranian to play D-1 basketball and is a member of the Iranian National Team. Arsalan has 33 rebounds in the first two NCAA games while Behanan has 4. In fact, Chane Behanan hasn’t had more than 4 rebounds since 2/27 against DePaul and hasn’t had more than 4 rebounds against an NCAA Tournament team since Louisville’s 5 overtime loss to Notre Dame (Louisville’s played 9 games against Tourney teams since then).
Meanwhile, Kazemi is a double-double threat on any given night. Kazemi transferred to Oregon from Rice and was granted his waiver to sit out this season by the NCAA. I think we are all waiting for Chane Behanan to start playing like Chane again, but if he doesn’t appear I don’t think Coach Pitino will stick with him very long against a player like Kazemi. Behanan has played just 39 minutes in the NCAA Tournament and the Cards have been getting big efforts from Stephan Van Treese and Montrezl Harrell off the bench.
|Chane Behanan||Arsalan Kazemi|
|6-6, 250, Soph||6-7, 226, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||50.60%||58.70%|
Gorgui Dieng vs. Tony Woods is not a match-up I ever thought I would write. I think most Cards fans expected Woods to be the starting Center for Louisville and Gorgui Dieng really had no expectations. Now the two players face off in the NCAA Regional Semifinal with Dieng expected to hit some draft boards this June. Woods struggles with foul trouble and is limited to just 21 minutes a game, while Rick Pitino often struggles trying to keep a rotation going where Dieng can be given rest. Dieng is obviously a better rebounder and defender and easily wins this match-up.
|Gorgui Dieng||Tony Woods|
|6-11, 245, Jr.||6-11, 243, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||51.90%||52.10%|
The bench is interesting because it is a rare scenario when a team can actually match the Cards body for body in their regular rotation. Montrezl Harrell is going to have to play a lot along with Stephan Van Treese if Chane Behanan doesn’t come around. But Harrell & SVT have been playing extremely well lately. Oregon counters with Ben Carter and Waverly Austin. I think Montrezl & Van Treese are slightly a notch above these two so the question really becomes how effective Kazemi is in order for Louisville to win the front court.
In the back court Luke Hancock and Kevin Ware have also been outstanding of late. I don’t think there is a better bench in America, and I might be biased, but I also watch a lot of basketball. Carlos Emory, though is a GREAT asset off the bench. Emory matched with Singler gives Oregon (in my opinion) an advantage at the small forward postion. When they play together, and they often do, they cause problems for their opponents. Oregon also relies heavily on Jonathan Loyd in their backcourt. There aren’t many (or any) players faster than Ware or Russ Smtih but Loyd could be someone that the Ducks rely on to get the ball up the floor along with Artis.
|Montrezl Harrell||Ben Carter|
|6-8, 235, Fr.||6-8, 219, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||57.00%||39.70%|
|Luke Hancock||Carlos Emory|
|6-6, 200, Jr.||6-5, 205, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||40.60%||46.90%|
|Stephan Van Treese||Waverly Austin|
|6-9, 245, Jr.||6-11, 270, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||66.70%||45.40%|
|Kevin Ware||Jonathan Loyd|
|6-2, 175, Soph||5-8, 165, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||43.10%||36.60%|
When you write a lot of words it is easy to find a point while writing and say, “I could have stopped there.” For me, I could have stopped this entire preview by typing:
“Oregon is 298th in Turnovers”
But in the interest of full disclosure I decided to go with the whole deal. For me, the tendency to turn the ball over is just something Oregon won’t be able to overcome. Turning over good ball-handling teams is a staple of this basketball team. The Cards turned Duke over 14 times in November and the Blue Devils are 8th in the Nation in Turnovers. Throw in two freshman guards against the Siva, Russ, and Ware triumvirate and I don’t like any teams’ chances.
I do think Oregon has an advantage at the 3 & 4 spots. But the advantage at the 3 is minimal at best and if Wayne Blackshear continues to come along that advantage could reverse at any moment. Kazemi is the only player that Louisville can’t currently match production with, but the Cards have more capable bodies off the bench to deal with him. In the end, it does worry me that Oregon is 22-2 with Dominic Artis in starting line-up and maybe I should throw out every stat that isn’t the last 5 games for the Ducks but I just don’t see it on paper right now over the course of the season.
Louisville 75 Oregon 63
Louisville Sweet 16s
1951 (only 16 teams), 1959, 1961, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013.
1951-Lost to Kentucky 79-68
1959-Beat Kentucky 76-61
1961-Lost to Ohio State 56-55
1967-Lost to SMU 83-81
1968-Lost to Houston 91-75
1972-Beat Southwest Louisiana 88-84
1974-Lost to Oral Roberts 96-93
1975-Beat Cincinnati 78-63
1978-Lost to DePaul 90-89
1979-Lost to Arkansas 73-62
1980-Beat Texas 66-55
1982-Beat Minnesota 67-61
1983-Beat Arkansas 65-63
1984-Lost to Kentucky 72-67
1986-Beat North Carolina 94-79
1988-Lost to Oklahoma 108-98
1989-Lost to Illinois 83-69
1993-Lost to Indiana 82-69
1994-Lost to Arizona 82-70
1996-Lost to Wake Forest 60-59
1997-Beat Texas 78-63
2005-Beat Washington 93-79
2008-Beat Tennessee 79-60
2009-Beat Arizona 103-64
2012-Beat Michigan State 57-44
For just the fourth time, Indianapolis will host an NCAA Men’s Basketball Regional. The event features two “Sweet 16” games on Friday, with the two winners meeting Sunday in the “Elite Eight.” The winner of that game advances to the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Atlanta.
Friday, March 29
#1 Louisville vs. #12 Oregon at 7:15 p.m.; #2 Duke vs. #3 Michigan State tip approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. The two winners will play Sunday (that game time will be determined following Friday’s games).
Thursday, March 28
Each team will have an open practice that is free for the public to attend.
Oregon (Noon-12:50 p.m.); Michigan State (1-1:50 p.m.); Louisville (2:10-3 p.m.); Duke (3:10-4 p.m.)
Lucas Oil Stadium; Indianapolis, Ind.
Tickets are still available for the event via www.NCAA.com/mbbtickets. All-session tickets are $90, while single-session tickets are either $50 or $55. More than 32,000 tickets have already been sold, including more than 2,000 over the weekend as the four teams were winning their respective games to advance to Indianapolis. The seating capacity at Lucas Oil Stadium for this event is approximately 36,000, with the court positioned near the south end zone (if using the Colts field as a reference). Temporary seats will be used on one side of the court.
- · Indianapolis also hosted Regionals in 1940 (then Butler Fieldhouse, now Hinkle Fieldhouse), 1979 (Market Square Arena) and 2009 (Lucas Oil Stadium).
- · Louisville (Midwest #1 seed) and Michigan State (Midwest #3 seed) also played in the 2009 Midwest Regional at Lucas Oil Stadium. Michigan State defeated Louisville, 64-52, to advance to the 2009 Men’s Final Four. In 2009, 33,780 attended the Friday session, while 36,084 were at Lucas Oil Stadium for the Sunday game. The seating configuration in 2009 was different than 2013 (the 2009 set-up included the court at mid-field, similar to the 2010 Men’s Final Four set-up).
- · Indianapolis has hosted six Men’s Final Fours (1980, 1991, 1997, 2000, 2006, and 2010). Of the six national champions crowned in Indianapolis, four are included in the Midwest Region field (Louisville, Michigan State, and Duke – twice). Arizona won in 1997 and Florida won in 2006. Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium is also the host for the 2015 Men’s Final Four. The 2016 NCAA Women’s Final Four will also be played in Indianapolis (as were the 2005 and 2011 Women’s Final Fours).
- · In addition to Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournaments in Indianapolis, Michigan State has also played in the 1979 and 2009 Regionals (winning two games to advance to the Final Four each time), as well as the 2000 and 2010 NCAA Men’s Final Fours. The Spartans won the 2000 national championship at the RCA Dome.
- · Louisville won the 1980 national championship at Market Square Arena.
- · Duke (Midwest #2 seed) won the 1991 Men’s Final Four at the RCA Dome and the 2010 Men’s Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium.
- · The Horizon League and IUPUI serve as NCAA co-hosts for the event. Indiana Sports Corp manages the Indiana Host Committee for the event.
- · Pacers head coach Frank Vogel has worked for current Louisville head coach Rick Pitino on several occasions (including with the University of Kentucky and the Boston Celtics).
- · Each of the four teams has “Indiana ties”: Duke’s roster includes Mason and Marshall Plumlee of Warsaw, Ind. (their brother Miles is on the Pacers roster); Louisville’s roster includes Stephan Van Treese (Indianapolis); Michigan State’s roster includes Russell Byrd (Fort Wayne), Branden Dawson (Gary) and Gary Harris (Fishers); Oregon assistant coach Kevin McKenna formerly was the head coach at Indiana State.
Fans interested in hotel information for this weekend can find that at http://visitindy.com/
Tomorrow is Rick Pitino’s News Conference. We will have it in FULL here once available.