Team of the Week: Louisville
Louisville (19-8, 9-4 Big East)
RPI: 52 (kenpom.com)
Strength of Schedule: 31 (overall), 144 (non-conference)
Games last week: W 66-53 @ #5 Pittsburgh, W 61-59 @ #13 Marquette
So, I bet you thought that you’d see Vanderbilt. The Commodores had a good week, winning games against South Carolina and top ranked Florida. But those wins were at home, as opposed to the Cardinals two wins over ranked foes on the road. Louisville has been an interesting case this season. They haven’t played the toughest of non-conference schedules, and there have also been some personnel issues of note along the way. Derrick Caracter, a highly touted freshman forward, has dealt with discipline issues throughout the season. Freshman point guard Edgar Sosa and sophomore forward Terrence Williams have had issues trusting their teammates on the offensive end of the floor. And for big men Juan Palacios and David Padgett, it’s been a struggle at times just to stay healthy.
But things are starting to come together at the right time for Rick Pitino’s Cardinals. Caracter is listening to his coaches, and it has shown on the floor in his improved play of late. Sosa and Williams have allowed their teammates to enjoy larger roles in the offense, especially freshman guard Jerry Smith, who knocked down three straight from downtown (including the game-winner at the buzzer) to knock off Marquette on Saturday. Palacios and Padgett are getting back to full health, giving this team two solid options on the block. Given the unpredictable nature of the team, it’s hard to say that they’re a lock for the NCAA Tournament. But if they keep this up, the Cardinals will be a team Big East rivals want to avoid in New York next month.
Honorable Mention: Vanderbilt (the home win over Florida wasn’t as shocking as the way in which they did it); Southern Illinois (Salukis moved their win streak to nine with wins at Missouri State and Butler, ending the Bulldogs’ 22-game home win streak); Memphis (say what you want about the Tigers’ conference schedule, but they’ve won 15 straight, including Saturday’s overtime win against Gonzaga); Appalachian State (huge win at Wichita State on Saturday puts the Mountaineers into the at-large discussion if they don’t win the Southern Conference tournament); Old Dominion (with all the talk about VCU, Drexel and Hofstra, not too many people realize that the Monarchs are on a nine-game win streak).