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Louisville vs. NC Central preview: LeVelle Moton and the Eagles come to town

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The Global Sports Shootout rolls on.

Indiana State v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals (3-0) vs. North Carolina Central Eagles (1-2)

Global Sports Shootout

Game Time: 5:05 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Will Flemming (play-by-play) and Chris Spatola (analyst)

Officials: Mark Schnur, Jerry Heater, Justin Porterfield

Favorite: Louisville by 32.5

Series: First meeting

Probable Starting Lineups:

NC Central’s Season to Date:

Lost at Stephen F. Austin (94-64) on Nov. 9
Defeated South Carolina Upstate (73-64) on Nov. 11
Lost at Akron (57-47) on Nov. 15

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About NC Central:

The preseason favorites in the MEAC, North Carolina Central has won the league’s postseason tournament and represented the MEAC in the NCAA tournament in each of the last three seasons. The Eagles also won the MEAC tournament in 2014.

LeVelle Moton has had plenty of opportunities to leave for more prominent jobs, but is back and entering his 11th season as the head coach of his alma mater. His 326 career wins are the second-most in the history of the program.

NC Central returns three starters from last season’s conference champs, a group headlined by senior guard Randy Miller Jr. Through three games, Miller leads the team in scoring at 15.0 ppg. He was outstanding in the Eagles’ only win of the season, hitting 5-of-6 threes, making all 12 of his free-throws and pouring in 29 points when NCCU knocked off USC Upstate on Monday.

Forward Jibri Blount, another returning senior starter, is the team’s most significant inside presence. The 6’7 native of Pittsburgh is currently averaging a double-double at 11.7 points and 11.0 rebounds per game.

Despite Blount’s inside presence, NC Central’s offense — like most low major teams — is more perimeter oriented. Ty Graves (11.3 ppg) is a significant outside threat who is finally back on the court after transferring in from Boston College. He last played for the Eagles all the way back in 2016-17. Redshirt freshman guard Nicholas Fennell (8.3 ppg/3.7 rpg) has also been a consistent offensive producer for Moton’s team so far. Wichita State grad transfer C.J. Keyser is a defensive stopper who does most of us his offensive damage in transition.

Unlike most teams in the MEAC, NC Central is a predominantly man-to-man defensive team. They do play zone from time to time, and may be more inclined to bust it out for longer stretches against a team like Louisville.

NC Central’s predominant issue up to this point has been carelessness. The Eagles rank dead last (353rd) in Division-I in both turnover percentage and non-steal turnovers committed. They shoot the ball well, their defense has been good enough, they force a decent amount of turnovers themselves (59th in the country), but sloppy play on offense has absolutely killed them.

The other deficiency Moton is working with is that NCCU is the second-shortest team in Division-I. As a result, the Eagles rank 315th in the country in rebound rate. That’s an obstacle they can overcome once they get into conference play, but it makes the path to victory extremely slim against a team like Louisville.

Notable:

—Louisville has won 52 consecutive home games in November, a streak which dates all the way back to a loss to Vanderbilt on November 30, 1972. The Cards are 39-0 in November games played inside the Yum Center.

—Louisville has won 75 of its last 79 non-conference games at the KFC Yum Center, a mark which spans over the last nine seasons.

—North Carolina Central will be Louisville’s 325th different opponent in men’s basketball. The Cards are 242-82 in first-time meetings, including 53-2 since 2002-03. The only two losses over that span came against California and Baylor.

—Sunday’s game is Louisville’s second in the Global Sports Shootout, a five-team, round-robin event played on campuses of the five participating schools. U of L defeated Youngstown State last Sunday in its first game of the event. The Cards swept the Global Sports Shootout in 2010, its only other appearance in the event.

—NC Central is 1-1 in the Global Sports Shootout, defeating USC Upstate at home but losing on the road to Akron.

—As a member of Division-I, North Carolina Central is 0-10 all-time against top 25 opponents.

—NC Central is 1-18 all-time against ACC opponents. The Eagles lone victory came on Nov. 22, 2013 when they pulled off an 82-72 overtime road upset of NC State.

—Louisville’s football and men’s basketball teams are a combined 5-0 in games played on the ACC Network.

—USC Upstate is the only Division-I team NC Central will host during non-conference play this season. Their other 10 non-conference games against D-I opponents are all true road contests.

—After three games, Louisville leads the ACC in field goal percentage (.541, ninth in the nation) and three-point percentage (.431, 19th in the nation), and are second in free-throw percentage (.778, 44th in the nation).

—Louisville has a 46-6 record during the month of November over the last nine years, winning 26 of its last 30 games in that month.

—Louisville has an 83-6 record against non-conference opponents in the KFC Yum Center. The Cardinals have won 39 of their last 42 home games against non-conference foes.

—Louisville has won 150 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 86, North Carolina Central 51