The Cardinals hold the #1 seed in the entire tournament and earned the luxury of playing the winner of the play-in game. The team led by Rick Pitino is looking for their 3rd NCAA National Championship and 9th Final Four berth. Louisville usually has a tremendous home court advantage at Freedom Hall where they average the 4th highest attendance ranking in the nation. Their current squad is led by a duo of experienced players that should provide an entertaining matchup against the Wildcats' big 3. Terrence Williams, pictured below, provides senior leadership for the squad and will be a good matchup for Chase Budinger. He averages 12.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists a game for the Cardinals.
Earl Clark, a Junior, is the second of the duo and he leads the Cardinals in points for the season. He's close to averaging a double double with his 13.9 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. He'll probably be seeing a lot of Jordan Hill on Friday, which will be a very entertaining matchup. One very impressive stat for Earl Clark is the fact that he has only fouled out of one game all season. This is a testament to Louisville's tremendous depth, which is definitely far superior to Arizona's.
The Cardinals are arguably the hottest team in the nation right now with 12 straight wins, with some of those wins over strong Big East teams such as Syracuse, Villanova, Providence twice, Marquette, and West Virginia. The last team to provide any contest for Louisville was Siena in their last game on Sunday. The Saints kept the game close all the way to the end, but they were simply out shot by the Cardinals, who shot just enough better than Siena to pull out the victory.
Louisville will basically be the home team tomorrow as their campus is 117 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium, while Arizona's campus is 1474 miles away. The UL fans are likely to make the short trip to see their team play in the Sweet Sixteen.
I want everyone reading this to think about something real quick. By the time Arizona's game starts tomorrow at 4 PM there will only be 12 teams in the nation still eligible to be national champions. Our Arizona Wildcats will be one of those teams. We had seen flashes and stretches of brilliance out of this squad, but I'll be honest; I didn't think the Cats would get this far.
The Big 3 will need to come up big against the Cardinals
Everyone's debating it now. Are the Wildcats really that good or are they benefitting from the easiest couple of matchups in the tournament? The other bloggers in the Pac-10 sure seem to think the latter. I'll admit that the Wildcats didn't get the toughest pair of opponents for a 12 seed, but they aren't getting the full respect they deserve for how well they've played.
They won both their 1st and 2nd round match ups by 13 and 14, respectively. Against Cleveland State the Cats shot 50% from the field and against Utah they shot 54.5%. We've seen it before, when the Wildcats are on their game, they are a force to reckon with.
Against Louisville, the Wildcats may have a good match up, but only with the starting lineups. The depth of the Cardinals may be an issue for the Wildcats so a 4th player and maybe even a 5th strong player is a must. It'll be interesting to see if the Wildcats come out in the same aggressive press that they've been using so far in the tournament. Against Louisville the Wildcats cannot afford to pick up fouls, much less cheap press fouls.