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StLouHoo's Preview:

Senior Night Against the Cardinals

Louisville Cardinals

Virginia takes the floor at JPJ for one last time this season, and for Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key, the last time ever. Virginia will be off to the ACC Tournament next week and the NCAA Tournament the week after that. But first, UVA is hunting its eight straight senior night victory against the league-leading Louisville Cardinals. The first game was a shootout thriller; will UVA get its revenge as it bids farewell to our beloved seniors?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Saturday, March 7th, 4:00 pm ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
TV:ESPN/2/U

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:UVA -1, O/U 115, equates to ~58-57 UVA win
Torvik:Ranks UL #10, predicts a 56-55 Louisville win, 51% confidence
KenPom:Ranks UL #9, predicts a 56-55 Louisville win, 56% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#0 Lamarr Kimble, 6'0" 185, SR
21.6 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 2.6 apg, 29.6 3P%
SG#30 Ryan McMahon, 6'0" 185, SR
24.7 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 1.8 apg, 43.1 3P%
SF#24 Dwayne Sutton, 6'5" 220, SR
31.7 mpg, 9.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 50.5 FG%
PF#33 Jordan Nwora, 6'7" 225, JR
32.9 mpg, 18.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 44.3 FG%
C#23 Steven Enoch, 6'10" 255, SR
20.3 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 51.4 FG%
Key Reserves
G#2 Darius Perry, 6'2" 195, JR
19.6 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 2.6 apg, 39.1 3P%
G/F#13 David Johnson, 6'5" 210, FR
15.8 mpg, 6.5 ppg, 2.8 apg, 21.7 3P%
F#10 Samuell Williamson, 6'7" 200, FR
15.2 mpg, 4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 46.8 FG%
C#5 Malik Williams, 6'11" 245, JR
19.1 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 50.3 FG%

 

The ABC's of Louisville:

A) Nwora is still on track for ACC PoY. In the week after the Cards beat UVA a month ago, Jordan Nwora went into a mysterious funk. The preseason ACC Player of the Year scored just 7 points over the next two games combined and didn't even start the road contest at Clemson. No word ever really came out what extenuating circumstances may have been at play, but the slump was short-lived. He's scored double-digits his last four games, averaging nearly 17 points and 9 rebounds in those contests. His three point shooting's been a little off, but otherwise he's still the versatile matchup nightmare he's been for years, and once again he's going to be a difficult cover for Mamadi and Braxton.

B) They've been struggling on the road. Louisville's been dominant at home this year, 17-1 with the lone loss by single digits to Top 10 peer FSU two months ago. That the Hoos were able to play them tight at the Yum! was an accomplishment. But on the road in ACC play, it's been another story. They're 6-3 on the road in ACC play, but more relevant, those three losses have all come in the last month. Following their first game against UVA, the Cards got slowed down by blue collar GT and lost 64-58. Three days later they went to Clemson and lost by a surprising 15 points. And a week and a half ago, FSU finished their sweep in Tallahassee with their own 15 point win over Louisville. If the Cards win at JPJ this weekend, it'll be their first road win in over a month.

C) They're strong on the glass. Between their excellent 5-man tandem of Enoch and Williams (though Williams' status is uncertain as he may be resting an injured ankle in advance of the postseason), and their active veteran forwards in Nwora and Sutton, the Cards dominate the glass on both ends of the floor. Defensively, as their pack line approach imitates Virginia's they're committed to limiting opponents' second chance opportunities, and in our first matchup UVA managed just a measly 3 offensive rebounds. With the ball in their hands, they're 3rd in the ACC in offensive rebounding rate, recovering nearly a third of their misses and further fueling an already-efficient offense. Virginia's front line will have its hands full today trying to prevent rebounding from tipping the balance in favor of the Cards.

 

Their Season To Date

Louisville is 24-6 on the season, 15-4 in the ACC. They lost two non-conference games to Texas Tech (N) and Kentucky (A), before losing their first ACC game of the new year at home to Florida State. They then won 10 straight games that included a win at Cameron Indoors, and was capped with a 7 point home win over Virginia. Since that Feb 8th game, Louisville lost three road games before, most recently, running away from Virginia Tech in the second half in a 16 point senior night win.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Disrupt their shooters. This didn't really work out last time out against the Cards, as Louisville shot a healthy 41% from 3 on 9-of-22 shooting. But that wasn't a one-time thing, as the Cards are the best-shooting team in the ACC, hitting collectively an enviable 39.1% in ACC play on solid volume (6th in the league on 3PA rate). The shooters are at multiple positions on the floor: Nwora, Perry, Sutton, and McMahon are all plus snipers. Virginia's league-leading 3P% Defense (ACC teams convert only 29% against us) must come through in this game to take a key element of Louisville's attack out of the equation.

2) Get Tomas going. I'm recycling my Key from Miami because I still think it's critical that our best floor spacer get back on track (3-of-17 from 3 over his last four games). He's obviously facing markedly increased defensive attention, teams now gluing their best perimeter defender to him and giving him no space with which to operate comfortably. This may mean some creative scheming from Tony to get Tomas some shooting windows, and maybe some better screen-setting from his teammates. Either way, we can't have one of our key starters go 0-fer yet again; if the last matchup against the Cards was any indication, our offense is going to have to show up for the Hoos to win this, and we can't rely on the bigs by themselves against a Cards' pack line defense which will be uniquely focused on slowing down Huff and Diakite.

3) Finish the game strong. The Hoos have led in the closing minutes of every ACC game, and the ability to protect those slim leads and win single-possession games has proven the difference in making UVA an ACC contender this year. In the trip to Louisville last month, the Cardinals were the one to win the last five minutes and thus the game. UVA rode its starters hard in that game, only 16 minutes combined going to the bench, and it's likely that contributed to UVA's defense faltering in the closing minutes. Virginia will also have emotions to deal with in this game due to Senior Night, and must manage and channel those emotions into 40 continuous minutes of focus, rather than becoming overcome or peaking too early out of the gate.

 

 

Predictions:

Let's get this out of the way, UVA hasn't lost on senior day since 2012. That's a lot of seniors year after year that Tony has managed to send out of JPJ with a win (semantics, I know, not counting Bub's home NIT loss in 2013). The whole team annually seems singularly focused on sending that year's seniors out with a victory, and no doubt we'll see Mamadi and Braxton get the same treatment.

(Side note, if you missed it, check out our tribute to our two seniors: here)

Louisville is a great team. Tons of veteran presence across both their starting lineup and their bench, and most of those veterans have been a part of too many losses to Virginia for their liking, never having won at JPJ, and they're still competing with FSU for the ACCT #1 seed (tied going into today), so they've got their own motivations to take out Virginia.

The UVA offense at Miami is cause for concern. We were very not good against one of the ACC's worst defenses, though ostensibly there were some letdown issues following the big Duke win. But no excuses, the Hoos will 100% need to improve their offensive output today to score the Louisville win. It may not be pretty, but I just can't bet against UVA on Senior Day.

Hoos Win 60-59