Louisville Cardinals (3-0) vs. No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers (3-0)
NIT Season Tip-Off Semifinals
Game Time: 5 p.m.
Location: Barclays Center: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Announcers: Tom Hart (play-by-play) and Fran Fraschilla (analyst)
Favorite: Tennessee by 8.5
Series: Louisville leads, 12-7
Last Meeting: Louisville won 79-60 on March 27, 2008 in the East Region semifinals
Probable Starting Lineups:
Tennessee’s Season to Date:
Beat Lenoir Rhyne (86-41)
Beat Louisiana (87-65)
Beat Georgia Tech (66-53)
The No. 5 team in both the Associated Press Top 25 and Coaches’ Poll, Tennessee enters Wednesday’s game against Louisville sporting the same perfect 3-0 record that the Cardinals will.
The Volunteers are coming off a 2017-18 season in which they won 27 games, shared the SEC regular season title with Auburn, and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. UT defeated Wright State handily before being upset by eventual national semifinalist Loyola-Chicago.
Tennessee is led by 2017-18 SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams, who enters Wednesday’s game averaging 22.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Junior guard Jordan Bone — who has shown flashes of brilliance but been somewhat inconsistent in his first two college seasons — is second on the team in scoring at 14.3 ppg, and leads UT at 4.0 assists per game. Seniors Kyle Alexander (12.7 ppg) and Admiral Schofield (12.0) also arrive in New York averaging double figures in scoring.
Rick Barnes should get some additional help on Wednesday with the expected return of redshirt junior guard Lamonte Turner, who missed the first three games of the season because of shoulder soreness. Turner, who serves as Tennessee’s backup point guard, was the SEC Sixth Man of the Year in 2017-18 after averaging 10.9 ppg.
While Tennessee has some gifted offensive talent, there’s no question that Barnes wants to win with defense. The Vols are third in the nation in field goal percentage defense and 15th in the country in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score just 53.0 ppg. Their roster is loaded with big-bodied bruisers who are fine with turning high-profile matchups into two-hour rock fights.
This will be a massive test for Chris Mack’s new culture of toughness and physicality.
—Louisville has won five straight games against Tennessee, and 12 of its last 13 against the Volunteers.
—Louisville is 2-1 against Tennessee in neutral site games, but the Vols won the lone meeting between the two teams in New York City (100-84 on March 29, 1985, in the NIT).
—Louisville has a 42-4 record during the month of November over the last eight years, winning 22 of its last 24 games in that month.
—A Tennessee win would move Volunteers head coach Rick Barnes past the legendary John Wooden on the Division I all-time wins list. Barnes and Wooden are currently tied for 26th with 664 career victories.
—Louisville is off to a 3-0 start for the 10th consecutive season. The Cardinals have started 4-0 in each of the last nine campaigns.
—Chris Mack is fourth coach in Louisville basketball history to win his first three games, joining C.V. Money (1932-33), Peck Hickman (1944-45), and David Padgett (2017-18).
—Louisville has made nearly twice as many free-throws (99-of-127, .780) as its opponents have attempted (44-of-59, .746). Louisville is third in the nation in free-throws made and attempted, and is 30th in the nation in free-throw percentage.
—Tennessee’s Grant Williams was the 2017-18 SEC Player of the Year and a Second Team preseason All-American. He enters Wednesday’s game averaging 22.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
—This is just the third time in the last 25 years that Louisville has faced a top five team in the month of November.
—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 16 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).
—Tennessee is 111-99 all-time against current members of the ACC.
—Louisville is 86-61 all-time against current members of the SEC.
—Louisville is 11th in the nation in field goal percentage, connecting on 53.5 percent of its shots from the field (77-of-144).
—Tennessee ranks 15th in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 53.0 ppg. The Vols also rank third nationally in field goal defense (.293).
—Louisville has won 146 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.
—Louisville has won 12 of its last 14 games played in New York City. The Cardinals are 2-2 all-time at the Barclays Center.
—Tennessee is 7-16 all-time in games played in New York City.
—Louisville is 7-16 all-time against teams ranked No. 5 in the country. The Cards have won three of their last five games against fifth-ranked teams, with their most recent win coming in 2012, when they toppled Michigan State 57-44 in the Sweet 16. The Spartans were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but No. 5 in the most recent AP poll.
—This is the first of eight scheduled games that Louisville has against teams ranked in the top 10 of the preseason AP poll. That’s the most of any team in the nation three more than the next-closest school.
—Louisville is seeking its 30th regular season tournament championship.
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Tennessee 77, Louisville 69