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NCAA Basketball Spread: Off
Louisville and Notre Dame both had difficult matchups last night, but both of them made their way into the Big East Conference semifinals. Notre Dame needed overtime to top South Florida in a defensive battle, while Louisville’s smothering defense catapulted the Cardinals to a huge 84-71 win over Marquette. This one will be the nightcap at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The winner will play in the Big East Conference Tournament final on Saturday evening.
Notre Dame outlasted South Florida in a game that looked like it may go the other way. The Fighting Irish benefited from some silly mistakes, but they also came through with some clutch shots. Jerian Grant’s three-point jumper late in overtime sealed the deal for Notre Dame. Mike Brey’s team is highly motivated for this tournament. Early in the year Brey made it a goal for this team to reach the Big East Tournament final, something they have never done before. In order to get there, they will need to control the tempo and make Lousville guard them for the full shot clock every time down the floor.
Jack Cooley is the most improved player on this team. Cooley averages 12.5 points and 9.2 boards per contest. He has great touch in the low post to go along with his big frame. The Fighting Irish have a very young backcourt, but they are extremely talented. Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins have blossomed into great play makers who take care of the ball quite well. Scott Martin is an unsung hero who does a little bit of everything for this team.
Louisville is the seventh seed in this tournament, but Rick Pitino’s squad pulled off a big upset last night over Marquette. The Cardinals defense forced Marquette into 25 turnovers. Jae Crowder was named Big East Player of the Year earlier this week, but Louisville held him to just ten points last night. Gorgui Dieng isn’t a great offensive player, but he is a great shot blocker and defensive presence in the middle of the paint. The biggest surprise of the win over Marquette was Louisville’s domination of the boards. The Cardinals grabbed 23 offensive rebounds and outrebounded Marquette 47-38.
Peyton Siva is generally not a scorer, but he put up 18 points last night. When Siva is scoring and distributing, the Cardinals are very tough to beat. Kyle Kuric is the team’s leading scorer, and he racked up 20 points last night. Freshman Chane Behanan has been vital to the team’s success of late as well. Behanan averages 9.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Chris Smith is the team’s best three-point shooter at 40%, while Russ Smith is a guy who can drive the lane and get to the rim. Louisville allows opponents to shoot just 38% from the floor.
Both defenses are tremendous, and it will likely be very tough to find open shots in this one. Look for this game to come down to the final shot.
College Basketball Prediction: Louisville 61 Notre Dame 60
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