Cards face first true road test in Charleston
If you're like me, the night before the start of fall semester final exams was a night of thinking about studying and instead doing anything else. Dusting the two pieces of furniture in the dorm room. Cleaning out the tiny prison sink. Skimming the waiver wire for a fantasy QB because mine just clinched home field advantage and won't play Week 15. And if I was lucky, walking to the gym to catch a men's basketball game. Those games were the best for relieving test anxiety and the feeling that tonight is your last night to be a regular person before Finals Self-Loathing Panic Mode Person kicked in the next morning.
This is what U of L's walking into tonight. Finals start tomorrow at College of Charleston and the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals will be the highest-ranked team to play on CofC's home court in school history. A den of 5,100 screaming fans, the loudest of whom will be wearing their pre-finals nervous energy on their vocal chords and "Beat Louisville" shirts on their torso, will be a fun environment for U of L's first true road test. Oh, and CofC's not bad at basketball either.
As you've probably heard by now, CofC just returned from a three-game roadie where they went 3-0, including close wins at #24 Baylor and at intra-city rival Charleston Southern. They also lost to Auburn (who just lost to DePaul at home) and St. John's at home during the Charleston Classic prior to hitting the road. So, while they don't have an NBA talent like Jackie Carmichael, they do have veteran players and do several things well, so let's get nervous together as we look at their statistical profile.
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON WINS IF THEY control the pace, knock down threes and limit Louisville's offensive rebounds.
Tempo, tempo, tempo. CofC does not want to run with Louisville, so look for coach Doug Wojcik to keep things as slow as possible. Four of the Cougars' five highest-volume 3PT shooters are hitting 42% or better from behind the arc. And the other is shooting 36%. Also, CofC has held every opponent below their offensive rebounding percentage (OReb%) season average, except for Elon on Saturday, which happened to be the third game of CofC's recent 3-game road trip. With Gorgui Dieng out, CofC should key on forcing Louisville to shoot long jumpers and focus on blocking out Chane, SVT and Trez. The obvious bonus to winning the defensive rebounding battle for CofC will be limiting U of L's full court press and being able to muck-up the pace without worrying about Russ Smith's hands in their face 75 feet from their basket.
LOUISVILLE WINS IF THEY do what they do best: force turnovers, limit open looks and be opportunistic on the offensive glass.
The Cards have shown they can hit the three, but not consistently. HELLO, SHOCKING FACT THAT JUST SMACKED YOU IN THE FACE. But seriously, we're not counting on Wayne Blackshear to become Wes Person in his first road game of the year. (Would love to see that though, Wayne. Wouldn't hate that at all.) So, when you miss a lot of long jumpers, it's important to be a good rebounding team. Fortunately, U of L's most reliable offense--ok, second to Russ Smith in transition--has been offensive rebounding. On the season, the Cards are grabbing 41% of available offensive boards, good for 15th nationally. Not terrible. Finish tonight's game anywhere near 41% and the Cards should win comfortably.
Speaking of Russ Smith in transition, let's all just acknowledge that Russ Smith doing Russ Smith things has become a legitimate offense now that he's improved his shooting percentages, especially when Four Fouls Peyton is sitting next to Kevin Keatts.
Do Louisville fans want Russ to average 20 points per game? It doesn't seem like the best long term strategy but his effective field goal percentage, or eFG% (takes 3PT FG value into account) is over 50%, compared to a miserable 40% mark last season, and Dieng's injured and uh, I forgot my other excuses.
It's just fun watching Russ Smith be Russ Smith, but at some point one would like to see a pick and roll offense generate more, um, offense from the low post guys like Chane Behanan. But one would also like for Chane to make more of his low percentage shots, too. Saw a glimpse of Florida Chane on Saturday vs. Illinois State. So hot. Infrared hot.
So, my answer to Russ averaging 20 ppg would be yes and no. Yes, when necessary, but not every game. CUTTING EDGE ANALYSIS, MUST CREDIT HOT HOT.
Tipoff: 9pm ET
Television: ESPNU, WatchESPN/ESPN3.com
Broadcast Team: Carter Blackburn (play-by-play) and Fran Fraschilla (analyst)
Radio: 790 AM (Paul Rogers); XM 196, SERIUS 94
Site: TD Arena (5,100 capacity); Charleston, South Carolina
Series History: Louisville leads 2-0, both at home
Last Meeting: Louisville won 69-63 on 20 Dec 2011 at home
Stripes: Jeff Clark, Brian O'Connell, Doug Shows
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
LOUISVILLE (6-1) Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG Hometown
F 20 Chane BEHANAN 6-6 250 So. 9.4 8.6 Cincinnati, Ohio
F 21 Wayne BLACKSHEAR 6-5 230 So. 7.4 3.7 Chicago, Ill.
C 25 Zach PRICE 6-10 250 So. 0.8 1.3 Cleveland, Ohio
G 2 Russ SMITH 6-0 165 Jr. 19.9 2.7 Brooklyn, N.Y.
G 3 Peyton SIVA 6-0 185 Sr. 11.7 1.9 Seattle, Wash.
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (5-2) Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG Hometown
F 1 Adjehi BARU 6-9 225 So. 7.6 8.9 Abidjan, Ivory Coast
F 3 Anthony THOMAS 6-7 207 Jr. 8.4 5.7 Winston-Salem, N.C.
G 53 Willis HALL 6-6 235 Jr. 8.3 5.3 Charlotte, N.C.
G 4 Andrew LAWRENCE 6-1 185 Sr. 14.0 4.0 London, England
G 22 Anthony STITT 6-1 180 So. 10.6 2.3 Charlotte, N.C.
Head Coach: Doug Wojcik (Navy ‘87) 5-2 in first year at CofC; 145-94 in 8th year overall.
Meek Prediction: Russ Smith scores at least once
Bold Prediction: Russ Smith dunks. TWICE.
Game Day Socks: medium thickness, grey-and-black hiking socks
Spread: Louisville by 10
Score Prediction: Louisville 64, College of Charleston 55