By Conner Farrell —
After an uninspired performance against fourth-ranked Duke on Feb. 21, men’s basketball obtained some redemption on Feb. 24 in Blacksburg where they knocked off a hot Virginia Tech team to the tune of 75-68.
In the victory, the team kept the door open for a possible NCAA tournament berth, improving their resume with another RPI Quadrant 1 win. This is a crucial aspect for a team currently projected by some bracketologists as one of the First Four teams in/First Four teams out.
The win also boosted their RPI ranking to 40, which is an important part for a team like Louisville who may be on the bubble.
Other analytics that improved with U of L’s win at Va. Teach include moving up to 34 in KenPomeroy, 20 in Sagarin, and improving their Strength of Schedule to 30.
With all of the following taken into consideration, this upcoming week can make-or-break the Cardinals with two games remaining in the regular season.
The team’s first foe may their toughest opponent all season: the first ranked Virginia Cavaliers. The two teams already met once this season on Jan. 31, where the Cavs won in a 74-64 performance.
Their match-up in Charlottesville was much closer than the final score indicated. The Cards shot 50 percent from the floor, much higher than what Virginia allows on a game to game basis. The Cavaliers’ defense typically limits their opponents to 37.9 percent shooting, making them the third-toughest defense in the nation.
Another statistic to consider is Louisville’s final score. They posted 12 more points than Virginia’s scoring defense usually allows at 52.7 points per game, which is first in the country.
Although the Cards have only beaten Virginia once in 2015 since joining the ACC, there are certainly signs they can to add another victory to that total. Their match-up falls on March 1.
Louisville’s last regular season outing features a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the NC State Wolfpack. They currently sit at 9-6 in the ACC and have wins over North Carolina and Duke.
The Wolfpack are much improved in comparison to last year’s squad, after the addition of former Louisville assistant Kevin Keatts. Keatts served under former head coach Rick Pitino from 2011 to 2014.
Any road game is tough in the ACC, but this one may prove more challenging as the Wolfpack have only dropped two conference games at home this season, and both to ranked teams. The game takes place on Saturday, March 3.
The ideal scenario for the men’s basketball team would involve winning both games in order to secure a surefire bid into the NCAA tourney.
That being said, a single road win against NC State may be enough to send them over the edge. This would give the Cardinals four Quadrant 1 wins.
This truly is the make-or-break week for the U of L Cardinals.
Photo by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal