NCAA Tournament Round Of 16: #1 Louisville Vs. #12 Oregon
- CoachingRick Pitino’s long and storied career is well documented, and if Louisville’s trip to the Final Four last year is any indication, the guy has still got it. In this business, there’s scarcely anyone better.Dana Altman was an artisan at getting the most out of his players at Creighton, and nobody can doubt the job he just did, guiding the Ducks over favored Oklahoma St. and St. Louis. Still, he has a long way to go before reaching Pitino’s level.
- OffenseRuss Smith has been a one-man wrecking crew, leading a ferocious offensive attack that posted 161 points against North Carolina A&T and a solid Ohio State squad.When people think offense at Oregon, they think the spread attack in football, but the Ducks are pretty potent in basketball, too, as evidenced by their 71.7 points per game throughout the season.
- DefensePunishing, aggressive defense has been Louisville’s forte, holding opponents to just 57.6 points per game throughout the season while capturing 11 steals. Smith grabbed eight steals all by himself against North Carolina A&T on Thursday.Though not in Louisville’s league, Oregon has been one of the better defensive squads this year. Holding an explosive Saint Louis crew to 37.7 percent shooting Saturday showed how impressive they can be.
- Bench DepthThe Cardinals bench has gotten plenty of burn, but not always for traditional reasons – Louisville has been blowing other teams out so much, the scrubs get lots of opportunities. Plus, when you have players like freshman Montrezl Harrell, you’re always in good shape.Bench is key for the Ducks, who relied heavily on Carlos Emory and Johnathan Lloyd (more than 50 minutes per game combined between them) in both of their tournament wins.
Oregon’s ride from unheralded No. 12 seed to Sweet 16 crasher has been fun to watch, but Louisville is playing in another stratosphere right now and has to be considered heavy favorites. -Adam Spunberg, College Basketball Contributor