(Photo of Louisville Players: Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Playing their fourth game in seven days, the Louisville men's basketball program has started as hot as any one in Division I basketball. Forcing 21 turnovers and shooting 44.4% on three-point attempts, the Cardinals routed Western Kentucky 75-54 on Tuesday night to continue their undefeated run to begin the 2020-21 season. Concluding a five game home-stand, Louisville now fixes their eyes on UNC Greensboro. Tipoff is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4th at 2:00pm EST, and can be viewed on the ACC Network.
Here are a couple of the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Cardinals' matchup with the Spartans:
When the Wade Houston Tipoff Classic's field was announced, this was a game that most casual Louisville basketball fans should have paid a little more attention to. While Seton Hall & Western Kentucky undoubtedly garnered most of the attention, UNC Greensboro is a solid addition as well.
Head coach Wes Miller has turned the Spartans into a Southern Conference threat during his tenure. After going 60-92 during his first five seasons at the helm, UNCG has gone 104-34 in the last four seasons, winning 25+ games in three of those four seasons.
Despite losing three starters and two of their four top scorers in the offseason, the Spartans were still chosen as the preseason favorite to win the SoCon Championship. While there is still plenty of time for Miller to right to ship, UNCG hasn't had a smooth start to the season.
After capturing their season opener vs. Little Rock, the Spartans then dropped their next two games vs. Winthrop and Duquesne. Through three games, UNCG is averaging 18.7 turnovers per game, shooting just 41.1% and allowing opponents to shoot 39.5% on three-point attempts.
It's Miller Time
While it's tough to lose three starters and two of your top four scorers, UNCG still retained their unquestioned best player and top option to keep them in games.
Senior guard Isaiah Miller is the reigning SoCon Player of the Year as well as their Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named ESPN’s Preseason Mid-Major Player of the Year, a preseason All-America selection by Stadium, and is the SoCon preseason Player of the Year.
So far through three games, and Miller is living up to his billing. He is averaging 21.7 points per game, shooting 58.0% from the field. while also averaging 3.7 assists and 3 steals per game.
Though he's not the only threat for the Spartans. One game removed from having to face All-American candidate WKU center Charles Bassey, the Cards will have another test down low in the paint. Center Hayden Koval is one of four double-digit scorers for the Spartans, averaging 11.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game.
Living On The Line
While UNCG has been coughing up the ball at an extreme rate and not shooting the ball extremely well, perhaps the biggest factor in their two losses has been the play at the free throw line. The Spartans haven't been great at getting to the charity stripe, whereas their opponents have been doing it with ease.
They attempted 21 free throws against Little Rock, 18 against Winthrop, and then just 9 against Duquesne. On the other end? Little Rock also took 21 free throw attempts, then Winthrop attempted an astounding 37 and Duquesne shot 33.
UNCG's Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA), one of the 'Four Factors' in KenPom.com's efficiency formula, is currently sitting at 58.3% on defense and ranks No. 259 in the country. For additional context, the national D1 average is 33.2%.
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