By Dalton Ray–
A year removed from a self-imposed postseason ban, the men’s basketball team enters the 2017 NCAA tournament as a two seed in Midwest Region. Louisville will need to shake their recent losing ways if they want to make their 11th Final Four.
Why they will: Battle-tested
The perfect recipe
On paper, Louisville has everything a coach could want.
A calm and cool minded point guard that can score when needed? Check. A next-level star to carry the team? Check. A lengthy wing defender that can pitch in offensively? Check. An athletic and long front court? Check. Proven X-factors off the bench? Check.
Louisville’s three guaranteed starters – Quentin Snider, Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel – carry the load offensively with an average of 40 points per game. The first four front court players – Jaylen Johnson, Mangok Mathiang, Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud – give Louisville flexibility in the paint. Tony Hicks and VJ King are capable players that can fill in at multiple spots.
Why they won’t: No painstaking loss
Free throw woes
In Louisville’s most recent loss against Duke, free throws killed the Cardinals. U of L’s 68.5 percent at the line ranks them 232rd in the nation.
In the tournament, every detail matters. Louisville will be in trouble if the comes down to hitting the free shots from 15 feet away.
Final five-minute offense
Louisville consistently struggles on the offensive end during the closing minutes. Louisville doesn’t have a hands-down, go-to guy on the offensive end who can take the ball and go to work.
Aside from the final seconds, Louisville’s offense struggles in late-game execution. With the game slowing down, the Cardinals have trouble converting in half court sets down the stretch. Louisville operates best with a control chaos pace and that’s something that becomes harder to achieve the deeper a team goes into the tournament.
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal