NCAA Tournament Preview: Louisville

Submitted by Ace on March 18th, 2017 at 4:10 PM

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT #21 Michigan (25-11, 10-8 B1G) vs
#8 Louisville (25-8, 12-6 ACC)
WHERE The Nets Are On Fire Fieldhouse
Indianapolis, Indiana
WHEN 12:10 pm ET, Sunday
LINE Louisville -3 (KenPom)
Louisville -2.5 (Vegas)
TV CBS
PBP: Jim Nantz
Analyst: Bill Raftery & Grant Hill

Right: If John Beilein is head coach of the Golden State Warriors, Rick Pitino coaches the Monstars. [Bryan Fuller]

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THE US


[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Feelin' pretty good.

THE LAST TIME

It was clean. Brian wrote notes from a rooftop. I attempted to contextualize. Beilein will apparently bring it up during film study:

Diplomatically put.

THE LINEUP CARD

Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss ORtg SIBMIHHAT
G 4 Quentin Snider Jr. 6'2, 175 64 21 116 Not At All
Good distributor, excellent three-point shooter, iffy finisher inside arc.
G 45 Donovan Mitchell So. 6'3, 195 80 23 114 No
Top scoring option has 46/35/92 (2P%/3P%/FT%) shooting splits. Pesky defender.
F 22 Deng Adel So. 6'7, 200 72 20 111 No
Lanky wing is primarily a spot-up shooter in halfcourt. Good transition finisher.
F 10 Jaylen Johnson Jr. 6'9, 230 51 20 116 Yes
Great offensive rebounder, strong finisher at the rim, iffy foul shooter.
C 12 Mangok Mathiang Sr. 6'10, 220 50 20 112 Very
Another great rebounder, rim protector. Lacks touch around rim of other L'ville bigs.
F 13 Ray Spalding So. 6'10, 215 48 18 108 Very
Another great rebounder, rim protector. Hits 61% of FGs, 55% of FTs.
C 14 Anas Mahmoud Jr. 7'0, 215 42 16 110 Very
Boasts nation's #4 block rate. Good rebounder and finisher, awful FT shooter.
F 0 VJ King Fr. 6'6, 190 33 20 112 No
Good outside shooter and finisher, takes too many 2-pt jumpers.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]

THE THEM

This is very much a Rick Pitino Louisville squad: rotating giants in the frontcourt, crashing the glass with aplomb, and playing a great defense that throws a few different looks out there.

In fact, let's start up front. The Cardinals platoon four players at the four and five, and all are excellent offensive rebounders. The most experienced is 6'10" senior center Mangok Mathiang, who was in his redshirt year during the 2013 title game, making him the only holdover from that contest on either team. Mathiang is a very good shot-blocker and rebounder; he's only a so-so finisher at the rim. Burly 6'9" starting four Jaylen Johnson is a more effective scorer, though free throws are an issue, and posts the best offensive rebounding rate of the bunch—no small feat.

Johnson has ceded time to 6'10 sophomore Ray Spalding, another great rebounder and strong scorer near the basket who adds more shot-blocking on the other end. As if that weren't enough, the backup center is true seven-footer Anas Mahmoud, who has the fourth-best block rate in the country and makes 62% of his shots from the field. Oddly enough, he's the least productive rebounder of the group. The main weakness for all four players is free-throw shooting; they range from 46% (Mahmoud) to 68% (Mathiang) with relatively high free-throw rates. Turnovers can also be a problem. These guys don't create much on their own, but they'll be a huge problem if Michigan can't contain Louisville's perimeter players, and they form an imposing back line on defense.

Those perimeter players aren't quite Jawun Evans-fast, but they'll be tough to keep out of the lane regardless. Point guard Quentin Snider is a solid passer and excellent spot-up shooter, and while he's not much of a finisher around the rim, he creates a lot of buckets for his giant teammates by drawing in the defense and getting shots up. Two-guard Donovan Mitchell also gets to the rim with regularity and gets those shots to go more often than Snider. He takes half his shots from beyond the arc and hits 35% of them. These two will play most of the game; backup guards Tony Hicks and David Levitch only get spot minutes.

Small forward Deng Adel is a longer version of the guards: a decent, not great, outside shooter who can get to the basket and at least create a chance for a putback. He's backed up by freshman VJ King, the only non-big who gets significant time off the bench; King mostly gets what his teammates create for him, and he's a good three-point shooter.

THE RESUME

Louisville tallied a few signature wins in non-conference play, knocking off Purdue on a neutral court before losing to Baylor and beating Wichita State and Kentucky at home. They weren't quite as strong in ACC play, going 2-6 against conference foes currently ranked in the KenPom top 25. The Cardinals made easy work of Jacksonville State in the first round, rebounding nearly half their misses and forcing JSU to try to keep up from the perimeter.

THE TEMPO-FREE


Four Factors explanation

Like Oklahoma State, Louisville makes up for merely decent shooting by getting a ton of offensive rebounds, and they're better at taking care of the rock than the Cowboys. The Cardinals are very much an inside-out offense; they're 278th in 3PA/FGA. They look to get moving downhill off the pick-and-roll.

The defense is an entirely different story. They block a ton of shots and make good looks tough to come by both inside and outside the arc. Their weakness is fouling. If they choose to switch on high ball screens like many opponents have of late, Derrick Walton should be looking to draw contact from their bigs, who are willing to get very aggressive because of their four-man frontcourt rotation.

THE KEYS

Stay in front, don't get overwhelmed. Michigan managed to overcome Oklahoma State rebounding over half their missed shots yesterday, but Louisville's defense isn't nearly so forgiving. While the rebounding onus will fall on the bigs, it all starts with guard play: Derrick Walton and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman have to contain Snider and Mitchell, especially off the high screen, because being forced to rotate will inevitably lead to putback opportunities. 

Beat the pressure. Rick Pitino says Louisville won't press as much as usual tomorrow. You can bet, however, that he took note of how Oklahoma State's extended pressure once Michigan crossed halfcourt threw off the offense for an extended stretch early in yesterday's game. Michigan will be in trouble if they're scrambling to get their plays started with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. This is probably one of Beilein's top points of emphasis in practice today; he's proven his offense can give Pitino's defenses trouble once they get going, but he hasn't faced Louisville since the shot clock went down from 35 to 30 seconds—a seemingly minor difference that could play a huge role tomorrow.

Go DJ. The more I look at this matchup, the more I believe Michigan must get one of DJ Wilson's better performances of the season to win. Beilein went with Wilson at center down the stretch yesterday not because of Moe Wagner foul trouble, but because he was doing a much better job of challenging shots at the rim. He'll need to do the same tomorrow while keeping Louisville off the offensive glass as much as he can and using his versatile scoring (and drive-and-dish) ability to give their bigs issues on the other end.

THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES

Louisville by 3.

If I had to bet, I think Louisville's defense throws Michigan off with extended half-court pressure just enough to outscore them. If the Wolverines shoot close to as well as they did against OSU, however, all bets are off.

ELSEWHERE

UMHoops preview. Brendan Quinn catches up with Warde Manuel, who says his faith in Beilein never wavered, and he doesn't expect to say goodbye any time soon:

Beilein's age, Manuel said, is a non-factor in his mind.

"John is the winningest coach in Michigan history," Manuel said. "I'll address that when he addresses it. I don't see that being for awhile."

Comments

JamieH

March 19th, 2017 at 1:03 AM ^

Everyone KNEW Hancock could shoot 3s.  Letting him get all of those open looks in a row was just criminal, and it killed us.

Spike on the other hand, if I were them I would have been happy to let him shoot based on what our other options were (do you think they wanted Stauskas shooting?)    He just was out of his mind for 20 minutes. 

TrueBlue2003

March 19th, 2017 at 1:40 AM ^

says Hancock scored less than 3 times his season average.  Spike scored nearly 6 (!!) times his season average.  Spikes performance was FAR more standard deviations from the mean, and the far more extreme outlier.  The previous conclusion was correct that his performance was more "random" in the sense that it was far more unlikely.

WinThyGame

March 18th, 2017 at 4:19 PM ^

Louisville's size is scary. If we let them get as many second chances as OK State did, this could get out of hand quickly if we aren't torching the nets.

cletus318

March 18th, 2017 at 5:47 PM ^

Don't remember the time (although it was fairly late in the second half), but we had cut the lead from 10 to 3. We had all of the momentum, and we would've had the ball with a chance to tie. Instead, we went down five and never really got in a position to have the ball with a chance to tie again. You never want to say one play costs you a game, but that really ended up being our last best chance.

stephenrjking

March 18th, 2017 at 4:30 PM ^

Am I crazy thinking that Louisville putting two guys on the floor that don't have 3-point range is something Michigan can exploit? Of course, problems start pretty quickly if Wagner racks up fouls (an issue that also limits the foul shooting liability), but with guys packed in closer to the basket spacing works in Michigan's favor regarding rebounds and lane defense compared with Oklahoma State.

Maybe "exploit" is the wrong word here. "Not do as badly on" might be closer to it.

One gift the 2013 team had that this team doesn't quite reach is ball handling. While MAAR and Walton are good handlers, the 2013 team had an endless supply of guys that could be trusted to break presses, starting with a guy in Burke that could break anyone in college down one-on-one. 

This is an area where I expected to see Wilson used more than he was against Oklahoma State, and that I think he could contribute against Louisville. Not as the initial ball-handler, but as a guy coming halfway up court, taking and outlet, and making a perfect pass. Remember the MAAR dunk against Wisconsin?

ijohnb

March 18th, 2017 at 6:23 PM ^

is, if we can keep Wagner in the game with his defense. He was such a defensive liability yesterday he barely played in the second half. Seriously, Donnal is a poor defender but Wagner seriously gave up 10 layups in limited time yesterday and was completely lost help side. I think we should double tommorow. If Louisville beats us we should make them do it from deep.

TrueBlue2003

March 18th, 2017 at 7:02 PM ^

Ok St didn't hurt us in the post, and Louisville won't go there either so doubling will rarely even come into play.

What our bigs need to do tomorrow is help on the dribble drive when our guards get beat (which hopefully won't be often), and do it well enough to challenge shots such that the guards can't throw up de facto alley-oops to unguarded bigs.  Wagner has never shown any shot altering ability and he looked like he didn't even know how/when to help yesterday.

The good thing is that Lou will be play two bigs at a time, which means DJ will be able to protect the paint without needing to guard a stretch four on the perimeter.  So I think stephenjrking is absolutely correct here.  When opponents go small and have four shooters and one down low is what kills Wagner.  He can't be the only low man and I don't think he'll have to be tomorrow.

This should allow Wagner to play more and with him and DJ we should be able to exploit their bigs that won't be used to guarding the perimeter.

TrueBlue2003

March 19th, 2017 at 2:37 AM ^

I really hope I'm correct that Wagner can be fine (or at least covered for), because Louisville doesn't have a Just The Shooter type or stretch 4 that would be a good matchup for Duncan.  He's much improved on defense but that's usually with good matchups for him.  If we try to go small in this game with DJ at center, Duncan is going to give up a lot of size and rebounds to their 4.  Actually, this would be scenario in which doubling would come into play.  Lou will try to exploit Duncan if he's on Johnson and we'd be wise to double there.

I have a feeling Donnal is going to be called on for 10-14 important minutes and how he does might have a huge impact.  If he can be neutral, that'd be great.  But if he gets eaten up, it won't be good.

xtramelanin

March 18th, 2017 at 5:06 PM ^

to my kids.  the oldest 6 play basketball and know a fair amount about recruiting.  how ridiculous is that pitino even has a job? 

i agree with ace though, i think we're in for a long day unless we are really, really good at breaking the press. 

Needs

March 18th, 2017 at 5:37 PM ^

A big part of the outcome of this game, and the success of Louisville's press, will depend on whether the refs are calling hand-checking. Louisville really aggressively uses hand checks, both in the press and the half court, to restrict ball movement. If the refs are calling it and they back off, M's ball screen heavy stuff should find a lot of success, but if defenders are able to restrict movement with their hands (something OSU was doing a lot in the first half), we're going to struggle.

BlueSky

March 18th, 2017 at 5:42 PM ^

Walton is now like a coach on the floor. An advantage that is not too quantifiable, and gives me a little more confidence in getting the win.

stephenrjking

March 18th, 2017 at 9:24 PM ^

Yeah, driving the lane isn't a big part of the offense for this Michigan team. They'll do it, but they're more likely to kick out or pull up for a midrange shot than go to the basket. And our bigs can hit 3s. It would be pretty unexpected to see Michigan guards repeatedly driving to the hole with two big defenders waiting right under the basket in this game.

jmblue

March 18th, 2017 at 7:05 PM ^

Interesting that Pitino, one of the first coaches to make the 3-pointer a point of emphasis, has only three starters with 3-point range (per SIBMIHHAT).  That's encouraging to me - I don't care if we lose the battle inside if we can outgun our opponents from the perimeter.  

DomIngerson

March 18th, 2017 at 8:09 PM ^

Call me a homer but not too worried about this game. Was much more concerned about OSU. Louisville can't match up with us. If we hit a decent percent of our shots we win.

ak47

March 18th, 2017 at 9:37 PM ^

Playing oklahoma state it seemed like our team had never seen a pick and roll before.  Even if we shoot well if they are getting dunks everytime down the court its going to be tough to win.

I see this game going the way of the elite 8 game we lost to Kentucky when we shot well but they rebounded half their misses and won on a last second shot.  Just hope it breaks the other way this time.