Saturday, March 29, 2008

North Carolina vs. Louisville Preview

North Carolina and Louisville. Two of the best programs in college basketball will battle for the right to head to the Final Four. Both teams have some of the best talent in the country, and two of the better coaches around – Roy Williams and Rick Pitino – will match wits. It should be an outstanding game.

North Carolina, the overall No.1 seed in the entire NCAA Tournament, has been on a tear so far in the Big Dance, annihilating any team in its path. The Tar Heels opened the Tournament with an easy win over Mount St. Mary’s, although the game was close for some of the first half. In the second round, UNC jumped out to a 25-point halftime lead against Arkansas and never looked back. The Tar Heels scored over 100 points for the second consecutive game. Against Washington State in the Sweet Sixteen, they didn’t quite reach triple-digits again, but they overcame an early deficit to go on a big run in the first-half en route to a 21-point victory.

Louisville struggled early in the season, but was playing some of the best basketball in the country near the end of the year, and continued that trend in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals defeated Boise State handily in the first-round, taking control early and winning by 18. In the second round, it was more of the same. Oklahoma seemed like a worthy challenger, but the Cardinals doubled the Sooners up in the first half and eventually won by 30. Against Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen, Louisville took an early 24-8 lead before Tennessee made a comeback. However, the Cardinals got easy basket after easy basket in the second half and won by 19.

North Carolina came into the season as one of the favorites for the national title and did nothing to dissuade that for most of season. The Tar Heels lost just two games, to Maryland and Duke, both in Chapel Hill. North Carolina is led by Player of the Year co-favorite Tyler Hansbrough, who has carried the Tar Heels at times this season. He is relentless inside and can simply overpower and outwork for points and rebounds. In the backcourt, Ty Lawson is back and healthy. He is extremely quick with the ball and gets UNC’s offense going. Wayne Ellington is an outstanding shooter who can get hot from outside and the mid-range. Marcus Ginyard is a lockdown defender, while Danny Green is the ultimate role player and sixth man. Deon Thompson has shown flashes of his potential inside, while Alex Stepheson provides depth. Quentin Thomas has proven he can handle the point guard position if necessary.

As said earlier, Louisville didn’t get off to a good start this season, but it bounced back in Big East play and finished the season playing very solid basketball. The Cardinals are deep and talented and can beat opponents in a variety of ways. Terrence Williams and David Padgett lead the way. Both are playmakers who get their teammates involved. Williams is athletic and can do-it-all, while Padgett is a terrific passing big man who can also score. Earl Clark is a tough match-up at forward; he is supremely talented. Juan Palacios is solid, while Derrick Caracter is tough to handle around the basket. In the backcourt, Jerry Smith is the team’s best three-point shooter. Andre McGee is a good point guard who can play solid defense and shoot the three with efficiency. Edgar Sosa is arguably more talented, but he struggles at times to play within himself and the Louisville system. Preston Knowles also sees minutes in the backcourt.

This is going to be an outstanding game between two of the most talented teams in the country. There are going to be at least a handful of future pros on the court at all times, which should make for a great contest to watch. Additionally, these teams have been the most dominating of the tourney, as UNC has won its games by an average of 30.3 points per game, while Louisville has won its contests by an average of 22.3 per game. Both teams like to get out and run to try and get points in transition, but both can play in the halfcourt if necessary. If North Carolina is going to win, the Tar Heels need to force turnovers and get transition baskets. Louisville is prone to turning the ball over, but UNC has to take advantage of that. UNC also has to get out on the Louisville shooters; if the Cardinals get hot from deep, look out. Offensively, allowing Lawson to control the game and then throwing it down low to Hansbrough will be the best offense. On the other side, Louisville has to take care of the ball. They turned the ball over 20 times against Tennessee; they can’t do that again. Furthermore, Williams has to take over like he did against the Vols. Ginyard is a good defender, but Williams needs to get to the lane and create. Clark should have a big game against the UNC bigs, as well. Lastly, the Cardinals need to get out on the Tar Heel shooters and force them into poor nights.

If Louisville hits its three-pointers and takes care of the ball, I think the Cardinals will get the win. They have the frontcourt to force Tyler Hansbrough into a tough night, and the athleticism on the perimeter to make life difficult for the UNC guards. Earl Clark could be the difference down the stretch.

Prediction: Louisville 78, North Carolina 76


  1. Your a tool and your analysis is never even close. Glad I took North Carolina and didn't look at your sorry picks.