One half of the Elite 8 will be set tonight as the East and West Regions play their semifinal games. As always, we’ll have immediate previews and predictions ready for you here at MSF.
For our second Elite 8 preview post, here is a look at the Wast Regional Final game between #4 seed Louisville and #7 seed Billy Donovan, in yet another Elite 8 appearance for the great Rick Pitino….this time against his former player at Providence Billy Donovan.
Louisville-Florida Elite 8 Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #4 Louisville v #7 Florida in West Region
- Louisville-Florida Date: Saturday, 3/24
- Louisville-Florida Tip Time: 4:30 ET
- Louisville-Florida Location: Phoenix
- Louisville-Florida TV: CBS
- Louisville-Florida Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, and Len Elmore
- Louisville-Florida Point Spread: TBA
- Tickets: West Regional Tickets in Phoenix
Louisville-Florida Regional Final Analysis and Prediction
Once again, winning the Big East Tournament seems to have propelled a team to a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Louisville became the first squad to take down a one seed this season, as a stingy Cardinal defense held Michigan State to just 44 points in a 13-point victory. Chane Behanan led the way with 15 points and nine rebounds, but big man Gorgui Dieng’s seven rejections were pivotal. On Saturday, the Cardinals will face Florida with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
The Gators knocked off Marquette behind 21 points from freshman Bradley Beal and a surprisingly effective defense.
Louisville-Florida By The Numbers
When Florida has the ball, this will truly be a matchup of strength on strength. The Gators are among the most efficient offensive teams in the country, while Louisville is one of the best teams on the defensive end.
For Florida, it starts with three-point shooting. The Gators take over 44 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc and hit better than 38 percent from long range. However, Louisville ranks in the Top 20 in three-point defense and ranks even higher in two-point defense, thanks in part to the shot-blocking prowess of Dieng. Florida shoots it well inside the arc, so something has to give there as well.
The Gators also boast a low turnover rate, but their poise and decision-making will be tested against Louisville’s pressure. The Cardinals completely disrupted and rattled Michigan State on Wednesday night, and it will be imperative for Erving Walker to take care of the basketball in this matchup.
For the season, Louisville has really struggled to clean the defensive glass, but they held Michigan State to just six offensive rebounds, which is astounding given Sparty’s gaudy offensive rebounding percentage. Patric Young corralled five offensive boards against Marquette, so keep an eye on his activity level and effectiveness on the glass.
On the other end of the floor, you have Louisville’s offense, which has struggled this season, taking on a Florida defense that has been markedly better in the tournament.
The Cardinals hit 9-of-23 from long range against the Spartans, which is well above their season average. If guys like Chris Smith and Russ Smith can stay hot from the outside, it certainly helps Louisville’s chances. However, the Cardinals can’t fall in love with the three and would be well served to attack inside with Behanan and Dieng.
Both of them will certainly play a factor on the offensive glass, as the Cardinals have grabbed nearly 36 percent of their misses this year. Both Behanan and Dieng have posted offensive rebounding percentages of 12.0 or better this year, and even though the Gators have done relatively well on the defensive glass, there is certainly reason for concern.
While Louisville has struggled with turnovers this season, Florida doesn’t force them at a high clip, which should take some of the pressure off of Peyton Siva. Similarly, the Gators have done a solid job of keeping their opponents off the stripe, while the Cardinals haven’t done a great job of getting their either.
In addition to the matchup between Behanan, Dieng, and Young inside, I can’t wait for the point guard showdown between Erving Walker and Peyton Siva. Both guys can get out of control at times, but both have also made plenty of clutch plays over the course of their careers. Ultimately I think the winner of this matchup will determine which squad will earn a trip to New Orleans.
Florida has one of the most potent offenses in the country, but the Cardinals’ defense has been sensational throughout the tournament. Anchored by Dieng in the middle, I’m siding with the stingy and disruptive Louisville defense in this one. Whether the Cardinals can parlay their Big East Tournament win into a National Title as UConn did last season remains to be seen, but I like their chances to make the Final Four.
Predicted Winner: Louisville
Florida Gators Team Capsule
- Conference: SEC
- Record: 23-10 (10- 6 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 4-6
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 4-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Alabama (2), Florida State, Vanderbilt
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Kentucky (3), Ohio State, Syracuse, Vanderbilt
- Player to Watch: Bradley Beal (6’3” G, Fr.) – 14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.4 spg
Florida Bottoms Line:
The Gators started the season as a Final Four contender in the eyes of some analysts, but they struggled to beat quality teams throughout the season. Five Florida players score in double figures, led by Kenny Boynton with 16.3 points on 42.7 percent shooting from long range.
Freshman Bradley Beal has been solid as well, and in addition to his scoring ability, he does a nice job on the defensive glass. The team also has a veteran point guard in Erving Walker, who scores 12.1 points per game and leads the Gators in assists. On a guard-heavy roster, the big men don’t get many touches, but Erik Murphy and Patric Young both average at least 10 points, with Young shooting over 60 percent from the field and Murphy content to shoot from the perimeter. The late-season loss of forward Will Yeguette hurts their frontcourt depth as well, particularly because of his high rebounding rates.
In all, the Gators rank third in offensive efficiency, because they shoot 39.0 percent from deep and have a low turnover rate. However, their reliance on the three-point shot has come back to bite them in multiple games this season, because when they aren’t hitting from long range, Florida doesn’t really have a plan B. They also struggle on the defensive end, which could ultimately be their undoing in the tournament.
Louisville Cardinals Team Capsule
- Conference: Big East
- Record: 26-9 (10-8 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 10-7
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Lamar, Long Beach State, Marquette, Memphis, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Western Kentucky
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Marquette, Syracuse (2)
- Player to Watch: Peyton Siva (5’11” G, Jr.) – 9.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.8 spg
Louisville Bottoms Line:
The Cardinals battled injuries and shooting woes for most of the season but pulled it together for an impressive four-game run in the Big East Tournament. They rank in the Top 5 in defensive efficiency, thanks largely to a strong effective field goal percentage defense and their ability to force turnovers. The offense numbers for the season are pretty ugly for the most part, with the exception of their high offensive rebounding percentage. For the year, the Cardinals shot just 31.1 percent from beyond the arc to go with a high turnover rate.
Six players score at least 9.0 points per game, led by Kyle Kuric with 13.1. Guard Russ Smith can get hot and score in bunches, but he is the definition of a volume shooter. Peyton Siva struggled for much of the season but played some of his best basketball in the Big East Tournament, while Chris Smith is the team’s best long-range shooter. Inside, Gorgui Dieng has really improved as a sophomore and shoots 54.9 percent from the field and grabs over nine rebounds per game. He’s joined up front by freshman Chane Behanan, who also boasts solid rebounding percentages on both ends.