StLou's Previews: Louisville Cardinals

Louisville Cardinals

The Hoos come home from their biggest win of the year to find a dangerous Cardinals squad waiting for them. It's been a very one sided series in recent years, but this one has the potential to see fortunes reversed.

Game Details:

Date/Time: Wednesday, Jan 31st, 7:00 PM Eastern
Location: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA

What 'They' Say

Vegas: VIRGINIA -10, O/U 122.5
TAPE: Ranks Louisville #31, predicts a 70-56 UVA win, 89% confidence
KenPom: Ranks Louisville #31, predicts a 64-52 UVA win, 88% confidence


Depth Chart:


PG #4 Quentin Snider, 6-2 175, SR
33.1 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 4 apg, 37% 3P%
SG #0 V.J. King, 6-6 190, SO 
25.2 mpg, 9.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 40% FG% 
SF #22 Deng Adel, 6-7 200, JR 
33.5 mpg, 15.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 47% FG% 
PF #13 Ray Spalding, 6-10 215, JR 
26.2 mpg, 11 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 51% FG% 
C #5 Malik Williams, 6-11 215, FR 
12.1 mpg, 4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 37% FG% 

Key Reserves


#30 Ryan McMahon, 6-0 170, SO
16.9 mpg, 6.9 ppg, 1.6 apg, 39% 3P%
G/F #24 Dwayne Sutton, 6-5 200, SO 
13.4 mpg, 4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 41% FG% 
F  #33 Jordan Nwora, 6-8 215, FR 
12.4 mpg, 5.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 46% FG% 
F/C #14 Anas Mahmoud, 7-0 215, SR 
24.8 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 58% FG% 


The ABC's of UL:

A) Despite the preseason tumult, Louisville is in the ACC title hunt. They lost their coach and their prized freshman in the FBI investigation, but interim coach Padgett inherited a veteran core that we (pre-scandal) had predicted to win the ACC. They took some early lumps, but emerged without any bad losses (margin of defeat to rival Kentucky aside). In ACC play they've held serve at home and fought hard on the road, undefeated in regulation (their two losses were both in OT, at Clemson and Miami, nothing they should be punished for). As predicted, the upperclass core of Snider, Adel, Spalding, and Mahmoud have provided a steadying force, and they're coming into tonight's game fully ready to score the upset and firmly establish themselves as a top ACC contender.

B) They've maintained Pitino's fierce defensive posture. They're the ACC's #2 defense to this point, with a defensive efficiency of 96.9 in ACC play thus far. They're doing it with a focus on turnover generation, 2nd both in dead ball TOs and steals, shutting down the three point line with their long wings (holding ACC opponents to 30.2% from range), and effective shot blocking (block percentage over 15%, primarily by Mahmoud's 3.5 bpg and Spalding's 2.1 bpg). We should be okay against their ball pressure, with our ACC-low offensive turnover rate, but I do wonder about our ability to score on them given how much difficulty we've had against shot blockers like GT's Lammers or Syracuse's Chukwu. They'll come at us from a variety of angles to ensure our shooters are contested and drive us into their rim protection, so we'll need some creative offensive sets to get good looks.

C) Their offense is at its best playing downhill. There aren't elite 3 point shooters on this squad. Certainly their guards are serviceable (Snyder shoots 37% from 3, McMahon 39%, King 37%, and Adel 35%), but this isn't a team that's looking to jack a lot up. Only 34% of their shots are from deep, 235th nationally, and 12th in the ACC, so they want to get into the lane as much as possible. And they're good at it. Mahmoud and Spalding are both excellent back-to-the-basket posts, and Adel and Snider are both 50%+ at the rim. McMahon is the only true gunner (62 3's attempted on the year, only 13 2's), so he's gotta be respected, but everyone else, our defenders have to be ready to defend the dribble-drive.

Their season to date:

Louisville is 16-5 on the season, 6-2 in the ACC. Their best wins are at FSU, at a short-handed Notre Dame, and over VT. They've lost games to Seton Hall, Purdue, Kentucky, at Clemson, and at Miami (the latter two in Overtime). Most recently they beat visiting Wake Forest 96-77.

Keys to getting the win:

1) Win the turnover battle. Both teams do an excellent job generating turnovers (UVA #1 in the ACC, UL #2), and both teams take good care of the ball (UVA #1, UL #4). It's possible this is a game where turnovers play a minimal role, but I suspect one team may gain an advantage here, seeing as how turnover margin is a key aspect of both programs' success. UVA needs to be the one to come out ahead here. With three of our forwards possibly slowed by injury or illness, we need to lean on our excellent guard quartet of Jerome/Nigel/Guy/Hall to tip the scales here. Louisville can be forced into mistakes, such as when ND (missing both Colson and Harvey) forced 16 TOs (9 live ball) to keep the game close, or when Clemson forced 21 (15 live ball) to score the win. Getting Louisville out of the fast break (they own the ACC's 2nd fastest offense) and into the half-court means a lot of opportunities to force contested ball movement in the middle of the floor.

2) Use the midrange game to open up the lane. Louisville is going to make hitting 3 pointers difficult. They're also going to camp Mahmoud and/or Spalding near the rim and dare us to attack them. What does that leave? The midrange game. This means different things for different players. For Jerome and Guy, it's runners and floaters. For Mamadi and Wilkins, it's a 10-15' jumper. Hunter would've been ideal for this, but he's likely unavailable due to his high ankle sprain suffered at Duke. Either way, we NEED to get these to fall early, because it's going to force Louisville to adjust either by bringing their center out to challenge or by making their guards sag to protect the lane. Either way, unless we force Louisville to adjust (meaning make those early mid-range shots), then we're not getting many clean looks at the rim or for our 3-point shooters.

3) Crash the offensive glass. If Louisville has one clear weakness, it's rebounding. They're 10th in the ACC in offensive rebounding and 12th in the ACC in defensive rebounding. Now, of course, rebounding has been a weakness of ours as well, currently rated 11th in the ACC in each category, but a good game plan by coach Bennett here may make this something we can exploit. Given the Cards propensity to run, I expect sending enough players back to cut that off. But there's a real opportunity here for our bigs to get decent position on the offensive glass and get just enough 2nd chance opportunities to tip the scales in UVA's favor. It doesn't have to be many, 10 offensive rebounds is a reasonable target, especially if we can control the glass on our defensive end as well (something we've been improving on since bad showings against Cuse, UNC, and NC State).


Taking Flight and Staying Grounded

Updated on January 30, 2018 by Seattle Hoo

The stars are lining up for a big game from Nigel Johnson.  Reports out of Charlottesville are that De'Andre Hunter is day-to-day with his sprained ankle, and Devon Hall did not practice on Monday because of the infamous "flu-like symptoms."  The latest news is that Hall likely will play, but Hunter is not expected to. An ill Devon Hall is not going to have energy to play well for 39 minutes as he did on Saturday. With Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy already maxed out on minutes, any slack pickup for Hall is going to fall to Johnson first.

But Louisville also plays into Johnson's strengths for UVA. Starting point guard Quentin Snider is 6-2, 175.  The primary guard backup is 6-0, 170-pound Ryan McMahon, whose claim to fame is having been discovered by superscout Dick Vitale.  The other backup guard receiving minutes is 6-2, 170-pound freshman Darius Perry.  The Cardinals are going to have at least one guard no taller than 6-2 on the floor at all times. Unlike teams like Syracuse and Clemson whose guards could overpower or shoot over Johnson, Louisville will present a good matchup for Johnson.

What's more, that matchup will be their preferred player to bring the ball up and initiate the offense.  Look for Johnson to pick up 94' from the basket again and bleed a few seconds off the shot clock.  The deeper into the clock you can force Louisville, the worse they perform.  Based on hoop-math.com statistics, Louisville's percentage of shots as 2-pt jumpers goes progressively from 18.8% of shots in the first ten seconds of the shot clock, to over 50% in the final five seconds, and their FG% on those jumpers goes from 41.7% to 33.3%.  Get them deep in the shot clock and make them take those 2-pt jumpers, then hit the boards, where Louisville is 10th in the ACC at OR%.  This is not the Louisville we are used to where crashing the offensive boards is an integral part of their offense.

Johnson can help force them into those two-point jumpers late in the clock. Make them burn a few seconds bringing the ball up, stay close to Snider, or run McMahon off the arc, and cut down their options.

On the offensive end, one of Nigel's B1G Tournament performances would be great here.  Louisville pressures the perimeter and funnels offense into the paint where they block a lot of shots - but they give up a lot of offensive rebounds.  They have not played as strong a mix of offensive rebounding teams as has Virginia and they are behind the Hoos in defensive OR%.  High pick-and-roll could again figure in this game, although we still have not seen Nigel run it much while I've been calling for it several times.  If Nigel is going to see a lot of minutes, getting at least one big near the perimeter and Nigel into the lane is going to be important.

The Hoos desperately need at least one of Devon Hall and Hunter to be ready for major minutes against the wing-heavy Cardinals. Louisville starts the 6-7 junior Deng Adel and 6-6 sophomore V.J. King at the wings, and both are excellent slashers with decent outside shots to keep you honest.  They back those guys up with 6-5 sophomore Dwayne Sutton and 6-8 freshman Jordan Nwora.  Without at least one of Hall or Hunter on the floor, Virginia is going to have the 6-1 Johnson and 6-2 Kyle Guy out there for more minutes than is healthy.  A healthy Hall will go a long way toward winning this game. Can we start calling him The Eraser?  He's been erasing perimeter scorers from the game.  In truth, it's more fair to say he has been leading the UVA perimeter troop in erasing perimeter scorers, because matchups are fluid and that unit has been working in concert to do it - but Hall is at the forefront of the effort.

If Hall can't go, then the Hoos need Hunter in the backcourt, and that hurts strategically, because Hunter has become a terror at the 4.  Having Hunter able to go against Spalding on our offensive end would be enormously favorable. Hunter being forced to the wing would also put more strain on the post rotation, where Mamadi Diakite might not be available (last report is Mamadi should play).  That means Isaiah Wilkins needs to stay out of foul trouble in this one. Going from Bagley-Carter to Mahmoud-Spalding is not quite frying-pan-to-fire, but it's close.  Wilkins-Salt-Diakite have historically dominated the Louisville bigs, but Spalding is probably a better baller than the departed 7-footers.  Expect to see a lot of post doubles, which will have to be executed better than they were against Duke, when our bigs were giving up the baseline.

Louisville's defense is top three in the ACC at 2FG% and 3FG%, and generating turnovers and blocking shots. They do, however, put teams on the line (9th in ACC at defensive FTr and 12th at defensive OR%).  That implies that the best way to attack them is spread out the defense and drive.  Take it at the shot blockers, then go to the boards in a broken court situation. Virginia does not send numbers to the offensive boards, but on a spread floor, two or three players have the chance to scoop up loose balls. Look for Wilkins, in particular, to be mobile here, setting screens out on the perimeter and charging the glass when the shots go up.  Wilkins is our best offensive rebounder.



If we were certain to be at full strength, I'd feel good about this one, as we've won the last 4 in this series by margins of 16, 22, 12, and 16. So much of the predicted outcome of this game is dependent on how healthy our rotation is, with recent nagging injuries (Wilkins' back, Hunter's ankle) and illness (both Hall and Diakite reported with flu-like symptoms Monday) potentially affecting our readiness. I'm working off of the assumption that Wilkins, Hall, and Mamadi will play, that Hunter will sit this one out to heal, and that reduced practice time and lingering effects may leave the team short of peak performance. Our base defense is pretty ideally suited to defend against Louisville's ball screen heavy, downhill offensive system, so the key here is merely having our 3's and 4's (that's Hall, Wilkins, and Diakite) effective enough to slow down Adel and Spalding.  The challenge in this one will be generating good offensive looks against a defense that takes away the paint and the perimeter in equal measure. Expect this to be a lower scoring game, with both defenses getting the better of the offenses. At home, I think the Hoos have enough to pull out a close one, understanding we're down our X-Factor with Hunter injured, but with the coaching edge going to the veteran Bennett over the rookie Padgett. 

Hoos Win - 56-52.