"I saw it myself, Russ! You thought about shooting it from RIGHT HERE!"
Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals roll into town tomorrow to take on YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles. It's a matinee game with a 2:30pm Central Time tip off due to Martin Luther King Day. Making this slightly more strange is that a game between the Chicago Bulls and the Memphis Grizzlies is actually ESPN's lead in to the Marquette game. I suppose the upside here is that the announcers will spend a decent chunk of the game talking about .
Back to the Cardinals, though. They come into the game with a record of 14-4 and 2-3 in Big East play. Louisville had reeled off 12 straight wins to start the season before going 2-4 in their last 6. A relatively easy win over DePaul yesterday broke a 2 game losing streak of a double overtime game at home against Notre Dame and an absolute asskicking at Providence. Kyle Kuric didn't play against DePaul due to a high ankle sprain and Gorgui Dieng was seen before and after the game in a neck brace. Without the neck brace on, Dieng put up 13 points and 14 rebounds while playing 38 minutes, so I think it's safe to say that he's going to play against Marquette.
With a tip of the cap to StatSheet.com, we go inside the numbers...
1) They're terrible on offense. Just completely broken. There's only one thing to be proud of as a team and that's how many of their misses that they grab. Here's the tempo free numbers, with their national ranking in parentheses:
Efficiency: 102.5 (164)
eFG%: 48.2% (211)
TO%: 20.9% (152)
OReb%: 36.5% (56)
FT Rate: 38.7% (126)
As lousy as the tempo free numbers are, the traditional statistics don't do anything to improve the picture of the Cardinals on offense:
FG%: 43.2% (188)
3 point%: 31.5% (273)
FT%: 67.8% (192)
So the good news is that, as Cracked Sidewalks pointed out, this is the best that Marquette has played on defense under Buzz, relative to the rest of the country. It's never a bad thing to play a struggling offensive team when you're moving in a positive direction on defense. The bad news is the qualifier in that CS post. Marquette has difficulty with teams that do well at offensive rebounding.
2) They make up for all of this on defense. Surprise, surprise, a Rick Pitino team plays good defense. 13th in efficiency, 6th in effective field goal%, 4th in straight FG%, 6th in both steal% and steals/game, 25th in block%. Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, and Kyle Kuric all average more than a steal and a half per game. The impressive thing about the great block numbers is that most of that is just Dieng. He averages 3.3 blocks per game. Kuric & Chane Benehan average a block every other game, but that's about it.
3) They might be in a lot of trouble if Kuric can't go. Kyle Kuric makes up a lot of what Louisville does. Here's a player impact chart:
Kuric contributes all over the floor, and in a significant manner in every facet. What happens when Kuric can't go is what happened against DePaul: Russ Smith turns on the VOLUME SHOOTER ALERT. Smith's 10-22 shooting (including 0 for 7 behind the arc) against DePaul provoked this quote from Pitino after the game:
"Our offense was Russ Smith in the middle of a playground in Queens and four guys."
Or to put it into Smith's own words:
"If you're open, you can't draw up a better play than getting open."
If he's open, he's gonna shoot it. So heads up ahead of time, Marquette. For more on the Cardinals, point your Google Machine at Card Chronicle.