LOUISVILLE: Men's Basketball Prepares for The American Championship
March 12, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
LOUISVILLE BASKETBALL RELEASE
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The University of Louisville men’s basketball team is preparing for the first American Athletic Conference Championship that begins this week. The No. 2-seeded Cardinals play the winner of the Rutgers-USF game on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.
The March 13 game will air on ESPNU, with Mike Patrick (play-by-play), Tim Welsh (analyst), and Andy Katz (reporter) calling the action. Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Doug Ormay (analyst) will announce the game on WHAS 840 AM. The contest also is available on SIRIUS channel 92 and XM channel 192.
The Cardinals, ranked No. 5 in both major polls, have faced each of their potential opponents twice this season and won both contests. Louisville defeated USF 86-47 on Jan. 22 and then 80-54 on Feb. 18. Against Rutgers, Louisville won 83-76 on Jan. 4 and then posted a 102-54 decision on Feb. 16.
The tournament as a whole is shaping up to be one of the toughest in the country. No other league has as many ranked teams as The American with five: No. 5 Louisville, No. 13 Cincinnati, No. 19 Memphis, No. 21 Connecticut, and No. 25 SMU. The American also features two of the last three national champions in Louisville (2013) and UConn (2011).
The Cardinals wrapped up the regular season with consecutive victories, handing SMU its first loss at home of the year on March 5 and then posting an impressive 81-48 victory at home against Connecticut on Senior Day. The win over the Huskies in which Louisville honored seniors Tim Henderson, Luke Hancock, Russ Smith, and Stephan Van Treese secured the Cardinals a share of the AAC regular-season title, their 22nd regular season conference crown and second straight.
In helping Louisville log a 26-5 overall record, more notably a 15-3 league mark, Smith and Montrezl Harrell were named all-AAC first-team selections on Monday. Freshman Terry Rozier was named to the all-rookie team.
Over its last 10 games, Louisville is outscoring its opponents 80.5-61.2 and shooting 48.6 percent from the floor. Defensively, the Cardinals are forcing 17 turnovers with an average of 10.7 steals per game. Individually, Harrell is averaging 17.5 points and 8.2 rebounds, and Smith is totaling 16.7 points, 4.8 assists, and 2.4 steals. Hancock has boosted his long-range shooting over that time, knocking down 43.6 percent (24-of-55) of his 3-pointers.
In the final regular-season statistical rankings, the Cardinals are listed in the top 15 in scoring margin (No. 1, +20.0), turnover margin (No. 1, +6.9), steals per game (No. 2, 10.0), total steals (No. 2, 309), 3-point field goal defense (No. 10, 29.3), scoring offense (No. 11, 81.8), and assist-turnover ratio (No. 11, 1.49).
As the team continues to mold for postseason success, the Cardinals enter the league championship under one of the most successful coaches in tournament play. Head coach Rick Pitino has a 45-13 record in conference tournaments, with an impressive 11 conference titles.
GAME FACTS - Louisville vs. Rutgers/USF