No. 11 Louisville Seeks Revenge Against No. 6 Florida State in Tallahassee: Preview, Vegas Odds, How to Watch
Louisville's (21-5, 14-3 ACC) season was on the precipice after losing on January 4th to Florida State. They had lost two games in a row, and three of the last five. Then they won 10 games in a row, including away games at Notre Dame, NC State, and in one of the best wins in the country by any team, Duke. Then Jordan Nwora disappeared of the face of the Earth and they dropped two games in a row. Unfortunately for FSU, it appears Louisville has righted the ship.
There's a lot on the line for both teams in this marquee match-up. Louisville controls their own destiny for seeding in the ACC tournament, but if they lose this game their chances to win the ACC regular season drop precipitously. They also stand as a high 3-seed in the bracket matrix, so a win today would probably see them replace FSU on the 2-line. On the other hand, Florida State needs this game to stay alive in the ACC 1-seed race. They also stand to improve their NCAA Tournament seeding after losses this past weekend by Gonzaga, San Diego State, and Maryland.
Cardinals on Offense
To put it simply, the Cardinals have one of the best offenses in the country. They have great shooting, where they rank top 50 in eFG% in the country. But this doesn't tell the entire story. Louisville is a top-10 three point shooting team in the country with four shooters in the top 400 in the country, three of which are are 40% or better. They are merely average inside the three point line.
Their other major strength is gathering offensive rebounds. This is a much bigger problem for Florida State, a team that has had major issues this season grabbing defensive boards. Everyone on their team except for their 1s and 2s are at least good offensive rebounders. The Cardinals are also pretty good at preventing turnovers, but all three of their point guards can be turnover prone. Their biggest "weakness" is at getting to the line, where they are merely average because they spend most of their possessions raining in threes.
Cardinals on Defense
Louisville coach Chris Mack is one of the premier pack-line defense coaches in the country. The same philosophy as Tony Bennett at UVA, the focus of the pack-line is to prevent easy baskets in the lane, instead preferring to give up more three-point attempts. The lack of aggressiveness also yields few turnovers. They also are in good position to snag defensive rebounds and prevent fouling. In practice, this is exactly how their stats play out.
They rank 17th in the country in defensive eFG%. They are effective at preventing both two-pointers and three-pointers. Check. Top 100 in preventing rebounds and fouls. Check. Bottom 80 in forcing turnovers. Check. Luckily their defensive isn't quite as polished as UVA's, as Louisville's is merely a top-50 defensive according to computer metrics.
The Seminoles will need to shoot well from outside the paint in order to win this game. Luckily they are one of the best shooting teams in the country, so this could be a good match-up, especially if Devin Vassell can show out for the scouts that will inevitably be at such a stacked game.
Cardinals To Watch
Junior Power Forward Jordan Nwora was many people's preseason ACC Player of the Year, and he has lived up to those lofty expectations so far this year. He shoots 42% from three despite a high usage rate and being the man game-planned against. He also draws a lot of fouls, which is good for him because he shoots over 80% from the line. He is also a rebounding threat on both ends of the floor. Nwora has only scored less than 10 points four times this season, and the Cardinals lost three of those.
Jack of all trades Senior SF Dwayne Sutton will remind FSU fans of Terance Mann. He is the 19th most efficient player in the country with above-average three-point shooting and over 60% two-point shooting, where he lives on offensive putbacks and cuts to the basket. He is an excellent rebounder and blocker for his size, and rarely turns the ball over. He's great at getting to the line, where he shoots less than 70%. On defense he can guard 1-5 and does an excellent job on wings.
Senior Steven Enoch and Junior Malik Williams form the best big duo in the ACC. Chris Mack almost always has one of them one the court. Enoch is known for being the defensive player of the pair, and Williams for his offense. They are both efficient players, shooting nearly all of their shots at the basket, but Williams hardly ever turns the ball over whereas it can be a weakness for Enoch. Williams is one of the best offensive rebounders in the country, a problem that will probably be exacerbated by him being boxed out by guards at the ends of possessions with guard switches, but they only grabbed one offensive rebound between the two in the first matchup. Oddly enough, they both have a block rate of exactly 4.0% and defensive rebound rate of 22.0%.
Senior SG Ryan McMahon is their resident sharpshooter, where he shoots 42% in 145 attempts. He changes the way you have to play defense with his gravity, as you can't help off him - FSU will need to stay disciplined while guarding him. He is an undersized shooting guard that Coach Hamilton has exploited on defense often in McMahon's career match-ups against Florida State.
Senior Lamarr Kimble and Junior Darius Perry are the Cards' veteran point guards and have been disappointing this season. Both are undersized and don't do anything particularly well on offense, except that Perry is a threat from three where he shoots 40%.
Don't be surprised if talented top-100 Freshman David Johnson starts at the point. He has shown out since their win over Duke, where he scored 19 points on 12 field goals and had 7 assists. He is leading the ACC in assist rate during conference play, and is also excellent at drawing fouls, nabbing steals, and grabbing offensive rebounds. His main weakness is that he takes a ton of shots and is much less efficient than his teammates.
How to Watch: 7:00 Tonight at
Vegas Odds: FSU -2.5, o/u 136.5
Last game, FSU won the three-point lottery at 11-23 and had four players with excellent games. I expect that luck to even out this game and for Mack to exploit FSU's defense on switches after watching film of Bennett doing the same thing. There's no shame in splitting the season series with an excellent team like Louisville and I'd love to be wrong, but I predict FSU to lose a nail biter 72-73.