There are 16 “Round of 32” games on Saturday and Sunday as the most exciting weekend of the sports calendar continues. As we always do every March here at MSF, we try to cover you with previews, informed and reasoned predictions, and pertinent viewing info as soon as we can get it posted.
In this post, we preview the West Region’s second round matchup between Rick Pitino’s 4th-seeded Cardinals of Louisville and the 5th-seeded Lobos of New Mexico, coached by Steve Alford.
Louisville-New Mexico Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #4 Louisville v #5 New Mexico in West Region
- Louisville-New Mexico Date: Saturday, 3/17
- Louisville-New Mexico Tip Time: 9:40 ET
- Louisville-New Mexico Location: Portland
- Louisville-New Mexico TV: TBS
- Louisville-New Mexico Announcers: Brian Anderson and Dan Bonner
- Louisville-New Mexico Point Spread: TBA
- Tickets: Syracuse-Kansas State Tickets
- Tickets: West Regional Tickets in Phoenix
Louisville-New Mexico Analysis and Prediction
On Thursday afternoon, Louisville used the momentum it built in the Big East Tournament to dispose of Davidson in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate. Guard Peyton Siva scored 17 points and dished out six assists before fouling out, while freshman Chane Behanan notched a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. One of the day’s best games involved New Mexico and Long Beach State, with the Lobos winning by seven behind 18 points and 13 boards from Drew Gordon.
New Mexico appears to have a clear advantage when Louisville has the ball. The Cardinals’ offense has struggled throughout the season and ranks outside of the Top 200 in effective field goal percentage and turnover rate. They also don’t get to the line much, and the one area where they excel is on the offensive glass. However, thanks in large part to the efforts of Gordon, the Lobos rank 24th in defensive rebounding percentage. In all, New Mexico finished 13th in adjusted defensive efficiency.
On the other end of the floor, Louisville’s defense is a tough test in its own right, as the Cardinals finished second in adjusted efficiency. They rank fourth in two-point defense and 31st in three-point defense, while posting a high turnover rate as well. The Lobos shoot it well from beyond the arc and boast the 38th-ranked effective field goal percentage. They have nice inside-outside balance with Gordon down low and multiple proficient outside shooters and slashers on the perimeter like Kendall Williams and Tony Snell. Turnovers could be a concern though for a New Mexico team ranked in the middle of the pack in turnover rate.
For as good as the Cardinals are forcing missed shots and turnovers , they do struggle to clean the defensive glass, which Gordon, Cameron Bairstow, and even A.J. Hardeman can take advantage of.
In the game against Davidson, Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng got in early foul trouble, but that can’t happen against a guy as talented as Gordon in the post. That’s definitely one key to this game, while New Mexico’s ability to limit turnovers is the other.
I had the Lobos advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in my bracket (albeit over Davidson), and I’m sticking with it. Their defense will cause Louisville fits, and I think there is enough offensive firepower to score against a stingy Cardinal defense.
Predicted Winner: New Mexico
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.
New Mexico Lobos Team Capsule
- Conference: Mountain West
- Record: 27-6 (10-4 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 8-2
- Record vs. Tournament Teams:
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Colorado State, New Mexico State, Saint Louis, San Diego State (2), UNLV (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Colorado State, New Mexico State, San Diego State, UNLV
- Player to Watch: Drew Gordon (6’9” F, Sr.) – 13.4 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.2 spg, 53.7 FG%
New Mexico Bottoms Line:
The Lobos tied with San Diego State for the regular season title in the Mountain West, but they settled things on the floor in the MWC Championship Game, which New Mexico won by nine. Steve Alford’s team gets it done with defense and finished the season in the Top 15 in defensive efficiency. They hold opponents to low shooting percentages from both two- and three-point range and rarely allow offensive rebounds. The Lobos are also efficient on the on the offensive end, ranking in the Top 40 thanks in part to 38.5 percent shooting from long range.
Big man Drew Gordon will be a tough matchup in the NCAA Tournament and is a load in the post and on the glass. In fact, he grabs nearly 30 percent of available defensive rebounds, which places him in the Top Five nationally. New Mexico has six other players who score at least six points per game. Sophomore Kendall Williams rebounded from a slow start to average 12.0 points and a team-high 4.1 assists, and fellow soph Tony Snell makes nearly 40 percent from downtown.
The Lobos finished the season by going 25-4 in their last 29 games, so they enter to tournament with plenty of momentum.
Related: Jump to our West Region Bracket Breakdown