I'm well aware that this will be the most skimmed over NCAA Tournament breakdown of all-time, and that's OK. The dance is here, Louisville is the No. 1 overall seed; nothing can bring me down.
For reference, the following is based off of Morehead's first game against Louisville, its OVC semifinal win over Tennessee-Martin and Tuesday night's opening round game.
What The Eagles Do Well
Morehead State ranks seventh in the country in rebounding margin, out-boarding opponents by an average of nearly nine rebounds per game. Despite not boasting a player taller than 6-8, and just two taller than 6-5, the Eagles - in particular, Kenneth Faried (see below) - are tremendous when it comes to rebounding position and blocking out.
They dominated the glass in Tuesday night's win over Alabam State, outrebounding the Hornets 50-27. There's little chance of the margin being as extreme, but Morehead will have to beat Louisville on the glass to have any shot at beating the Card on the scoreboard. U of L won the rebounding battle 42-37 in the first meeting between these two.
2. Switch Defenses
Morehead coach Donnie Tyndall likes to have his guys play almost an equal amount of man-to-man and zone in the first half, and then he sees which is working best and adjusts, or doesn't adjust, accordingly at the break. If for some reason Louisville isn't getting a steady dose of transition points, it needs to be able to recognize the type of defense its facing and get into the proper halfcourt set.
3. Share The Wealth
Four different Eagles come into the game averaging double figures in points, somewhat of a rarity for a low-major conference champion.
4. Be Familiar With Its Setting And Opponent
It isn't going to keep Louisville from being one of the biggest favorites of the first round, but having been in Dayton since Monday and having played a game inside UD Arena on Tuesday is an undeniable advantage for Morehead State.
Also, regardless of how lopsided the final score in the initial meeting was, it is more of an advantage to have already faced the top seed you're paired with than to be preparing for them for the first time. These guys have already played U of L on a basketball court and no one died, the season wasn't called off because the Cards almost won by 40, the Eagles learned from the experience and got better. Even if they were intimidated in November, they won't be in March.
5. Get To The Free-Throw Line
Morehead led the Ohio Valley and ranked in the nation's top 20 in both free-throws attempted (809) and free-throws made (583). Their 72.1% free-throw percentage was second best in the OVC.
6. Outwork Their Opponents
In both the OVC semifinals and Tuesday's opening round game, the Eagles simply appeared to want the victory more than an opponent that was at least equal in talent. Hopefully, this won't be the case Friday evening.
What The Eagles Don't Do Well
1. Take Care Of The Ball
You don't see a great deal of backcourt pressure in the OVC, but when the Eagles have been pushed by teams with better athletes, their guards haven't handled it particularly well. Despite falling by 15 on Tuesday, Alabama State turned Morehead over 21 times and nine of those came from the Eagles' starting backcourt.
Louisville forced 17 turnovers in the regular season opener, and six came from floor general Demonte Harper. It's a safe bet that the Cards might utilize some pressure on Friday.
Morehead has a couple of guys who can get hot, but their collective three-point shooting percentage of 33.2 ranks just 207th in the nation. Open looks are generally hard to come by against Louisville, so it's probably going to take someone getting into an abnormally unconscious zone for the Eagles to keep things close.
3. Defend The Post
Morehead can actually boast one of the better inside games in the OVC, but they simply don't have the size to keep guys like Vanderbilt's A.J. Ogilvy and Louisville's Samardo Samuels out of scoring position. Both players had big games in easy non-conference wins over the Eagles back in November.
4. Be Athletic
It goes without saying that Louisville has a sizable advantage when it comes to athleticism.
Kenneth Faried F-C, 6-8 (13.9 ppg/13.1 rpg)
The 2009 Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Faried is the nation's third-leading rebounder and has recorded a whopping 23 double-doubles in his sophomore season. He plays with the energy and bounce (and hair) of Renaldo Balkman, but is also prone to the same poor offensive decisions. He isn't a horrendous shooter, but he's not a guy Pitino is going to have a problem with taking an open 17-footer.
He's a terrific defender, but he lacks the size to pose any shot-blocking threat to the likes of Earl Clark and Samardo Samuels. Faried will almost certainly be fronting Louisville's post players, forcing the other Cardinals to make a more difficult pass.
Coming out of Newark, Faried is a terrific success story, and you have to live this quote:
"I play in a smaller conference," Faried says of the Ohio Valley. "I'm not a guy who scores the ball and puts up 40 a night. If I do get to the NBA, I will have accomplished a life goal. If I don't, I will have my degree and be a tall businessman."
Maze Stallworth F, 6-3 (12.0 ppg/4.1 rpg)
Despite ranking just third on the team in points, Stallworth is probably Morehead's best - and maybe only - pure scorer, and often times the team goes as he goes.
He's the Eagles' most deadly outside shooter and isn't afraid to pull the trigger, attempting at least ten three-pointers on six occasions this season. Faried and Leon Buchanan will find a way to get their points in the paint, but if Stallworth doesn't have a career night then the 16 seed won't have a prayer. He hit 3-of-8 treys and scored nine points against Louisville in November.
He's a good, but not great, defender who will likely draw the unenviable assignment of Terrence Williams.
Leon Buchanan F, 6-5 (15.1 ppg/6.4 ppg)
Despite standing just (officially) 6-foot-5, Buchanan is a grinder who finds ways to get shots up and in around the bucket against much larger frontlines. He's more versatile than Faried offensively, but he still isn't going to set the world on fire with contested fadeaway jumpers. He isn't much of a shot-blocking threat, and we'l likely surrender the outside shot when matched up with Clark.
Demonte Harper G, 6-4 (10.8 ppg/4.1 rpg)
A respectable outside shooter whose major issue is taking care of the ball. Harper has had just one game this season where he hasn't committed a turnover, and has given it up five or more times on 11 different occasions.
That noise you just heard was Preston Knowles's stomach growling.
Brandon Shingles G, 6-3 (5.0 ppg/2.7 rpg)
Shingles is a lightning quick guard who has become relied upon more and more as the season has progressed. He's extremely athletic and can make big plays happen with the ball in his hands, but he's a horrendous shooter and is nearly as turnover prone as Harper.
Steve Peterson F, 6-4 (1.8 ppg/2.2 rpg)
The only reserve who saw extended action on Tuesday, Peterson will forever be known as the guy who buried the game-winner against Austin Peay in the OVC title game. The freshman has the potential to become a solid mid-major player, but he's nowhere near ready to compete with the likes of Louisville. He's scored in double figures just once this season.
Robert Murry G, 5-10 (8.3 ppg/ 1.7 rpg)
The team's fifth-leading scorer was riddled with illness towards the end of the season, and hasn't seen the floor in Morehead's last five games.
Terrance Hill G, 6-1 (4.0 ppg/1.6 rpg)
Hill, a freshman who started the first game against Louisville, missed the Alabama State game with a sprained ankle and his status for tonight is still up in the air. His playing time had been dwindling as the season winded down.
Cecil Brown G, 5-11 (0.9 ppg/0.5 rpg)
The only reserve outside of Peterson to see the floor on Tuesday, Brown probably won't leave the bench if Hill is good to go, and might stay on it even if he isn't.
--"I think we can do a lot better than (the first game against Louisville). That game is a big blur to us. None of us remember that game -- or we don't want to remember that game, honestly." --Maze Stallworth
--"They have a couple of pro players on their team and have a great coach as well. Louisville's a great team. We got our hands full, but we're going to get prepared to the best of our ability." --Demonte Harper
--"A guy who's been a great mentor to me, coach Wayne Martin, was the last guy to take them to the tournament, 25 years ago. It's amazing how it played out. … I hope we can play the Cards as tough as Coach Martin did 25 years ago." --Donnie Tyndall
--"We're going to try to play our hearts out. But in the long run, we're just happy to be on the same court as them." --Kenneth Faried
--"Kenneth Faried, I don't know, he's just got a knack for getting boards. Like he says in practice, if he sees it in the air he feels like rebounding is an opportunity to score, so he go gets it." --Brandon Shingles
There's no doubt that Morehead's going to come out and play as if their lives are on the line, but I can't imagine Rick Pitino not having his team equally geeked for its NCAA Tournament opener. Faried and Buchanan will find ways to score and the Eagles will be able to hang around early if Stallworth gets hot from the outside, but they simply don't have anywhere near the firepower to play right with a team like Louisville for 40 minutes, a fact that was undeniably evident after the first meeting between these two.