(4) Louisville vs. (7) Florida: West Region
Louisville 29-9, 10-8 Big East (Conference Tournament Champions)
Florida 26-10, 10-6 SEC (At large)
Time: 4:30 p.m. Saturday
Location: U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix
Winner will face: (1) Kentucky, (3) Baylor, (4) Indiana or (10) Xavier, March 31 in New Orleans
Louisville def. Davidson, 69-62; def. New Mexico, 59-56; def. Michigan State 57-44
Florida def. Virginia, 71-45; def. Norfolk State, 84-50; def. Marquette 68-58
Louisville No. 17 AP; No. 18 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Florida No. 25 AP; No. 21 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: Florida -1½ (O/U 131)
Players to Watch
Louisville: G Peyton Siva, 6-0 Jr. (9.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 1.8 spg); C Gorgui Dieng, 6-11 So. (9.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.2 bpg); F Chane Behanan, 6-6 Fr. (9.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 50.6% FG). Like Siva, Dieng is effective even when he’s not scoring. Despite just five points, the sophomore had a huge impact on Thursday’s win over top-seeded Michigan State with nine boards, seven blocks and three steals.
Florida: G Bradley Beal, 6-3 Fr. (14.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.4 spg); G Kenny Boynton, 6-2 Jr. (16 ppg, 2.6 apg, 41.1% 3s); C Patric Young, 6-9 So. (10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 61.6% FG). Beal has played his best basketball in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 19.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and almost two steals in the Gators’ three games.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Louisville: The Cardinals’ defense has been unmatched in the tournament. Teams are scoring just 54 points per game, and are shooting just 34.7 percent from the floor and are 14-of-52 from the 3-point line (26.9 percent) in three tournament games. Top-seed Michigan State managed to shoot 28.6 percent overall and 23.8 from deep. U of L’s defense also has 16 steals in the tourney. The Louisville offense is balanced with five different players averaging at least 9.1 points per game. Against the Spartans, seven players scored at least four points and the Cardinals’ bench outscored MSU’s 17-4. The Cards out-rebounded a very good rebounding Michigan State team 34-32.
Florida: The Gators have to be a confident bunch after out-scoring their three NCAA Tournament opponents 223-153. The first two games could be chalked up to good matchups, but the win 10-point win over 3-seed Marquette was impressive. The Gators won unconventionally. They hit just seven of their 27 3s, but they held the Eagles to 20-of-65 from the field and 6-of-21 from the 3-point line. They out-rebounded Marquette 39-34 and blocked nine shots. For the season, Florida is shooting 38 percent from deep, they’ve made more 3-pointers (349) than any team in the country and almost every Gator is capable of hitting shots from the outside. Their 1.35-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks 11th in the country and they have five regulars who shoot 76 percent or better from the charity stripe.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Louisville: While the Louisville defense has been great, its offense still struggles to put up points. It has managed to just better than 40.4 percent just once in the tournament and has been over 50 percent just once in the last 17 games. They made just 21-of-55 overall against Michigan State. Louisville turns the ball over 14.3 times per game and has a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. For the season, the Cardinals shoot just 42.4 percent from the field and 31.6 from behind the 3-point arc.
Florida: Despite Thursday’s effort, Florida is not a great defensive team. They are allowing 64.8 points per game, 42.3 percent shooting and 34.1 from the 3-point line. They have just a 2.8 rebounding margin for the season. Florida is a decent perimeter defensive team, but besides Young, has little paint presence. With the injury to Will Yeguete, the Gator bench is very thin, especially in the frontcourt.
The Bottom Line: Louisville’s perimeter defense will shut down the Gators and send the Cardinals to the Final 4.
The Pick: Louisville 63, Florida 56
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 214-168-6