Postseason basketball is back for the Louisville Cardinals. Hopefully you have your excuse ready for why you will be skipping out of work a little early on Thursday, or why your computer just happens to have audio playing of a basketball game when you clearly have something work-related pulled up on your screen. Most conferences have average games for their quarterfinals matchups. The ACC will have Louisville taking on Duke. Not too bad.
In their first meeting this season back in January, the Cards won 78-69. Things were different for Duke back then. Coach K was out with his back issues and forward Amile Jefferson was out with a foot injury. Both are back for the Blue Devils, but now Grayson Allen is dealing with an ankle injury that limited him to just 12 minutes against Clemson on Wednesday. How he will deal with games on back-to-back days will be something to keep an eye on.
In their last four games, both Louisville and Duke are 2-2. Both have losses to North Carolina and both have a loss to a team they probably should have beaten. Louisville lost to Wake Forest. Duke lost to Miami. Both also have a good win in those last four games. Louisville beat #19 Notre Dame and Duke beat #15 Florida State. So neither team comes into Thursday on an incredible hot streak, but neither team limped into Brooklyn either.
Duke has plenty of talented players, but Louisville’s main focus on defense will be to contain Luke Kennard. The 6’6 sophomore is averaging 20.1 points per game this season and can beat you in a myriad of ways. He can drive to the basket, he can shoot the three (45%), and he can beat you from the free throw line (84.7%). Rick Pitino is usually successful at having his teams take away the opposition’s best player. It will be a challenge for Louisville to slow down Kennard, but it could be a necessity if the Cards plan to advance to Friday’s semi-finals.
Louisville comes into the game after an impressive performance against Notre Dame. Quentin Snider knocked down some huge shots on his way to 17 points, while also dishing out 6 assists. He was 6-8 from the field and that includes 4-5 from three. How Snider plays could determine how long the Cards are in Brooklyn this weekend.
Donovan Mitchell also played better against the Irish, so that needs to continue on the big stage, especially after being named to the All-ACC First Team this week. Mangok Mathiang had a career game with 18 points and 11 rebounds. The effort will always be there from Mangok. I don’t know that we need the 17 shot attempts from him though. Maybe that was just Mangok saying “It’s my senior day, I am lettin’ it fly!” You do you, big fella.
We should be in for a heck of a game on Thursday. I don’t know how well Duke fans travel, but you have to think that it will be a pro-Louisville crowd. Assuming North Carolina wins, their fans will stick around and cheer for anyone not named Duke. Fans of any other team in the building will probably cheer against Duke also because, well that’s just what people do.
Get your work done. Clock out early.
Go Cards…Go Krogering…Beat Duke!