What Louisville needs: Driving Donovan

Donovan Mitchell

Jamie Rhodes/USA Today Sports

If you have been reading blogs or listening to sports talk radio all week, you hear people say what they think needs to happen for this Louisville team to make a run. Who needs to step up? What player will be the x-factor? What stat will be crucial for this team to make it to the Final Four?

I usually try to think outside the box and go away from the star players. Just this week, I was a guest with Howie Lindsey on “Louisville 1st” in the morning, and I talked about Mangok Mathiang. I may write more on him in another post. But for this one, I will focus on one of those main guys for Louisville and not try to get fancy and find someone not so obvious. When it comes down to it, we need to see Driving Donovan.

I am a numbers guy. I like to look at stats. We know that Donovan Mitchell is a heck of a basketball player. I am not breaking news by saying that. He can shoot. He can knock down the three. But that needs to be a bonus to his game right now. Donovan Mitchell needs to drive the ball to the basket first, and shoot the outside shot second. Why? Let’s look at some numbers.

When Donovan Mitchell scores 15 or more points this season (20 games), he is shooting an average of 4.1 free throws per game, and he is making 3.3 for 81%. He is 66-81 total. What else happens when Mitchell scores 15 or more? Louisville has a record of 16-4.

In games where Mitchell was held under 10 points (9 games), he is shooting an average of only 1.3 free throws per game and making 1 of them. He is only 9-12 (75%) in these games. Louisville’s record in those games? 5-4.

Louisville goes as Mitchell goes. When he struggles, so do the Cards. This doesn’t mean that Louisville’s only hope of winning is if he is getting to the free throw line. But that certainly does seem to help matters this season. Sometimes I think that stats can be misleading. In this case, I believe that the numbers do not lie. His scoring and free throw attempts match up with the team’s record this season of either 16-4 or 5-4. You can’t dismiss that.

Mitchell can clearly knock down the three point shot. You can check his stats from the season and see multiple games where he made five or six threes in a game. You don’t do that unless you can shoot. But that opens up much more after you become a threat to drive to the basket, especially when you are usually the most athletic player on the floor. Take advantage of that. Drive, get to the rim, get fouled. The defense backs off so they don’t get beat, and THEN you drill a three on them.

We need Driving Donovan to make his way to Indy this weekend.

Go Cards…Go Krogering!


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