Louisville Cardinals (2-1) vs. No. 19 Texas Longhorns (3-0)
Empire Classic Semifinals
Game Time: (approximately) 3:30 p.m.
Location: Madison Square Garden: New York, N.Y.
Announcers: Karl Ravech (play-by-play), Jay Williams (analyst) and Myron Medcalf (sideline)
Favorite: Texas by 17.5
Series: Louisville leads, 4-1
Last Meeting: Louisville won 78-63 on March 21, 1997 in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 in Syracuse, N.Y.
Projected Starting Lineups:
- G Skyy Clark (6-3, 205, So.)
- G Tre White (6-7, 205, So.)
- G/F Mike James (6-5, 200, R-So.)
- F J.J. Traynor (6-8, 190, Sr.)
- F Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (6-10, 240, Jr.)
- G Max Abmas (6-0, 175, Gr.)
- G Tyrese Hunter (6-0, 175, Jr.)
- G Ithiel Horton (6-5, 200, Gr.)
- F Dillon Mitchell (6-8, 205, So.)
- F Kadin Shedrick (6-11, 231, Gr.)
Texas’ Season to Date:
Fresh off the program’s first trip to the Elite Eight since 2008, head coach Rodney Terry — who inherited the job on an interim role following the firing of Chris Beard and then was given the full-time gig after the season — has Longhorn fans thinking about UT’s first trip to the Final Four since 2003.
Terry brought back a pair of key pieces from that team and then loaded up with high-profile transfers to create a roster that justifiably has Texas ranked in the nation’s top 20 heading into its pair of games in New York.
The Longhorns are driven by a trio of guards who all excel in very different areas of the game.
First, there’s the diminutive Max Abmas, who led the NCAA in scoring and became a March Madness legend at Oral Roberts a couple of years ago. Abmas, who had already scored 2,562 points in his career before transferring to UT, has had little trouble transitioning to high major basketball so far, and is averaging a team-best 14.7 ppg. Abmas has unlimited range and the ability to drop 30 on virtually anyone, especially a Louisville team that has struggled to defend dynamic guards in recent years.
U of L was a finalist in the Tyrese Hunter sweepstakes two years ago before ultimately losing out to Texas. The Iowa State transfer has been as good as advertised for the Longhorns and leads the team in assists (4.0) while also averaging 14.0 ppg. After getting lost in the shuffle a bit last year because of UT’s crowded backcourt, Hunter is stepping into more of a leadership role this season. He runs the show for Terry.
Ithiel Horton is another name that should sound familiar to Louisville fans. The former Pitt standout is the most physical of the three guards at 6’5, 200-pounds, and he’s also the best shooter. Horton has connected on nine of his 15 three-point attempts so far this season and can torch the Cards from deep if he’s left unchecked on the perimeter.
With Dylan Disu still sidelines by a foot injury, Terry has turned to returnee Dillon Mitchell and Virginia transfer Kadin Shedrick to compose his primary frontcourt. Shedrick had a nice 11-point performance against U of L two years ago but has never really given the Cards a ton of problems. He is, however, currently playing the best basketball of his career. He and Mitchell are combining for nearly 20 points and over 14 rebounds per game.
The good thing about Shedrick and Mitchell is that neither one of them are outside shooters, which limits Terry’s ability to spread the floor and create more opportunities for his dynamic guards. For all the talk about “mismatches” in recent games, this afternoon could be a solid opportunity for Dennis Evans to make a major impact.
Texas is currently No. 10 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, but the Longhorns have yet to play anyone of any real consequence. The Longhorns rank in the top 50 of virtually every major defensive statistic, and are limiting opponents to just 20.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
To sum up, there’s a reason Louisville is a 17.5-point underdog in this game.
—The winner of Sunday’s game will face the winner of the day’s first game between UConn and Indiana in Monday’s championship game. The two losers will square off at 3:30 in the Third Place Game.
—In its history, Louisville has 31 regular season tournament championships.
—Louisville has an all-time 32-27 record in Madison Square Garden. The Cardinals had a 10-game winning streak in the building snapped with a loss to Texas Tech in 2019 in a game where U of L was ranked No. 1 in the country.
—U of L won the 1956 NIT Championship in the Garden, the 2009, 2012 and 2013 Big East Championships, and the 1971 Holiday Festival.
—Since 2012, Louisville is 10-1 in games played inside Madison Square Garden.
—Texas has held its first three opponents to a combined 20.4-percent mark (11-54) from three-point range. In Wednesday’s win against Rice, the Longhorns limited the Owls to a 4-of-22 (.182) mark from beyond the arc.
—The Longhorns have topped the 80-point mark in each of their first three contests and are averaging 84.7 ppg while converting 54.3-percent (89- 164) from the floor, including a 45.7-percent clip (32-70) from three-point range. Texas has reached double digits in 3-pointers made in all three contests this season.
—This will be Louisville’s first game against a ranked opponent this season. The Cardinals have won 45 of their last 108 games against AP ranked opponents. Louisville has a 62-76 record against Top 25 teams over the last 13 years.
—The Longhorns are making their seventh appearance in the Empire Classic. Texas also competed in the event in 1997, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2019. UT won the event in 2014 after posting a 71-55 victory against California in the championship game.
—Louisville is 220-14 over the last 20 seasons and 17-2 over the last three when scoring 80 points or more. The Cards scored 94 points in their season-opening win over UMBC.
—Louisville is 14-0 over the past 10 seasons when limiting opponents to no more than one three-point field goal.
—Since 2004, Louisville is 129-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.
—Louisville has won 163 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Texas 80, Louisville 65