(4) Louisville vs. (13) Davidson: West Region
Louisville 26-9, 10-8 Big East (Conference Tourney Champions)
Davidson 25-7, 16-2 SoCon (Regular-season and Conference Tourney Champions)
Time: 1:40 p.m. Thursday
Location: Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.
Winner will face: (5) New Mexico or (12) Long Beach State, Saturday
Louisville No. 17 AP; No. 18 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: Louisville -6 (O/U 138½)
Players to Watch
Louisville: G Peyton Siva, 6-0 Jr. (9.1 ppg, 5.5 apg, 1.8 spg); C Gorgui Dieng, 6-11 So. (9.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.2 bpg); F Chane Behanan, 6-6 Fr. (9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 49.4% FG). Siva was named the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player after 55 points, 25 rebounds, 23 assists and 11 steals during the Cardinals’ 4-game run.
Davidson: F Jake Cohen, 6-10 Jr. (14 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.7 bpg); F De”Mon Brooks, 6-7 So. (16 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 53.7% FG); G Nik Cochran, 6-3 Jr. (11 ppg, 3.7 apg, 1 spg). Cochran averaged 10 points, four assists and three rebounds during the Wildcats’ SoCon Tournament championship run.
Why Each Team is Dangerous
Louisville: The Cardinals should be exceptionally confidence after dispatching Seton Hall, Marquette, Notre Dame and Cincinnati to win the Big East Tournament title. U of L plays suffocating defense, holding opponents to 42.2 percent from the floor and 30.8 from the 3-point line this season. The Cardinals have an exceptional floor leader in Siva, who has made better decisions late in his junior season. Dieng protects the rim and could cause Davidson’s big trouble.
Davidson: The Wildcats, who average 78.4 points per game, are an exceptional shooting team. They made 251 3-pointers this season. What makes them hard to defend is that everyone on the court can score for Davidson. All five starters average double-figures and all five shoot at least 34.2 percent from the 3-point line. Davidson can also score effectively in the paint and it made 76.6 percent of its foul shots, which is eighth-best in America.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Louisville: Louisville’s offense really struggles to score at times. The Cardinals broke the 65-point mark in one of their last nine games (an 84-71 win over No. 9 Marquette in the Big East quarterfinals). The Cardinals really struggle from the outside, hitting just 31.1 percent of the 3-point line. While Siva is a clutch playmaker, the Cardinals lack a go-to scorer – something that’s always key in tournament runs. Louisville lost to Morehead State, 62-61, in a first-round game of last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Davidson: Davidson allowed its opponents to shoot 46 percent from the floor and 36.4 from the 3-point line. The Wildcat defense has been pretty good at times, but Western Carolina, which was an average offensive team, scored 78 in regular and 91 after two extra sessions in the SoCon Tournament championship. The Wildcats are an average rebounding team and were out-boarded by 1.4 per game this season. Louisville is capable of dominating them on the boards.
The Bottom Line: This is one that could go either way, and a 6-point spread is way too big. Louisville’s defense is very good, but Davidson can score against anyone. Can Louisville do the same? I doubt it.
The Pick: Davidson 74, Louisville 69
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-148-6 (Through Sunday, March 11)