Rick Pitino is due.
You've no doubt heard the statistic by this point that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is 10-0 in Sweet Sixteen games, winning all ten games by double-digits. Indeed, the Cardinals are 10-point favorites heading into tonight's matchup, and the consensus seems to be that Oregon has a 15-20% chance of winning this game.
If this were a completely random process, that gives you odds that are not impossible. And this isn't a random process--Oregon has a lot of control over how they play. Those of you who listened to the ATQ Podcast earlier this week heard Matt and I break this game down. The Ducks and Cardinals shoot the exact same percentages: 45% from the field, 32% from three, and 71% from the line. Oregon does have the rebounding advantage--grabbing 55% of all rebounds as opposed to 52% from Louisville. The Cardinals are the much more efficient offense, with a lot of that stemming from the easy baskets that they get out of their full court press.
And it's that full court press that (and Oregon's tendency to be turnover prone) that makes Louisville the overwhelming favorite in this game. The Ducks have turned the ball over 18 times in each of their two tournament games, while the Cardinals force 19 turnovers per game on the season. Could the Ducks turn the ball over 25 times in this game?
Now, there is something to be said for the fact that the Ducks turn the ball over so much and keep smashing teams anyway. This is due to a smothering half court defense that allows very few open shots in the half court, and the fact that Oregon has had an overwhelming advantage on the boards, making up any possession discrepancy that you would expect from their high turnover numbers. It's harder to do that with Louisville, because turnovers in the full court press go for layups on the other end, and you have time neither to set your defense, nor misses that you can rebound.
Oregon does have an advantage on some other teams in the sheet number of ball handlers they can put on the floor--not just Artis, Loyd, and Dotson, but Kazemi, Singler, and Emory can all do an adequate job of ball handling. Of course, this hasn't led to an absence of turnovers in other games, so that is something you have to keep in mind.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: hold onto the basketball, and the Ducks have a shot at taking out Louisville tonight.Ducks can find a way to keep to 15 turnovers or under, they negate Louisville's big advantage. The Cardinals can press all game, and Oregon has enough depth that it's not going to wear them down. The Ducks aren't going to give up easy shots in the half court. Oregon will likely win the rebounding battle.
Another factor Oregon has going in its favor--they won't get outcoached by Pitino, as so many others have.
Of course, holding onto the ball is not easy to do against this team, but that is Oregon's challenge. If they can accomplish it, the odds shift from longshot and approach even money.
4:15 p.m. PT