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West Virginia at Louisville


1/31/09


In this Big East match-up, the 15-5 West Virginia Mountaineers travel to Freedom Hall to take on the red-hot #7 Louisville Cardinals. The Cards are currently at 16-3 overall, and tied for 1st place in the Big East at 7-0 alongside the # 8 ranked Marquette Golden Eagles.


Louisville has been on a major roll since a 1 point home loss to the UNLV Rebels back on Dec 31st. Since then they have reeled off 8 straight victories, including 7 in a row vs conference opponents, and 4 against ranked opponents, with the biggest being a 69-63 home win over then #1 ranked, and previously undefeated Pittsburgh. Five of their 7 Big East wins have been by double-digits. They are 10-1 playing on their home court, with the only loss the previously mentioned 1 point decision against UNLV.


Louisville is averaging around 78 pts per game at home this year. In their 7 conference games they have averaged 71 ppg overall, and around 73 ppg in the 3 that were played at Freedom Hall. They are led on offense by the trio of Earl Clark, Terrence Williams and Samardo Samuels, who are all averaging between 13-14 pts per game. A core group of another 4 players with significant minutes include Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles and Andre McGee who are contributing a combined 25 ppg on average. As a team, they are making about 43% of their FG’s, about 34% from 3-point range, and around 66% from the charity stripe. They have played pretty well on defense, giving up an average of just under 60 pts per game, and allowing opponents to convert on just 38% of their FG attempts and just 31% from 3-point land.


The Cards have done well against West Virginia in their short history. In 4 meetings since 2005, Louisville is 3-1 vs the Mountaineers with all 3 wins being by at least 8 pts, and the loss being a 4 pt decision at West Virginia.
 

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At 15-5 overall and 4-3 in the conference, the Mountaineers have played very well on the road too, where they have gone 6-2 so far. A couple of their biggest road wins have been a recent 75-58 thrashing of the then #12 ranked Georgetown Hoyas, and a 76-48 demolition of the then #15 ranked Ohio St Buckeyes back in late December. Their 3 conference losses, however, have been to the 3 teams at the top of the Big East along with Louisville, including a 22 pt road loss to Marquette, a 6 pt home loss to UConn and a 12 pt home loss to Pittsburgh.


West Virginia is averaging a healthy 73 pts per game overall, with nearly identical shooting percentages as Louisville in every category, and they are giving up very close to the same amount of points also, at just under 60 ppg. Against the cream of the Big East however, that scoring average has dropped to a little over 58 ppg., while giving up an average of just over 71 ppg. They are led on offense by Junior F Da’Sean Butler who is averaging 17.4 ppg, and is sinking 48% of his FG’s and 44% of his 3-point attempts. He is followed by Senior F Alex Ruoff who is averaging 16.2 ppg, shooting at a 43% clip and who is also their best 3-point option with 49 three’s on the year.

The Mountaineers have certainly proven that they can play away from home, with their 6-2 road record and 3-2 neutral record. And they do have the big road wins over Georgetown and Ohio St, who were both ranked at the time. But they have not proven that they can hang with the big boys in the Big East conference. Also, in their games against teams that are currently ranked in the top 25 of the Sagarin ratings they are 0-4, and just 2-5 vs teams in the top 50. Louisville is 2-0 vs teams currently in the top 25, and they are 5-2 against teams in the top 50. The Cards are on a major roll right now, and they do have UConn on deck, but I can’t see them over-looking a strong conference foe and a school that they are developing a strong rivalry with (especially in football!) No way would I go against them right now, and I am willing to lay a few with them playing this one at home. I’ll go with the Louisville Cards minus the 4 - 6 pts in this one, which is somewhere around where the line should fall.

 

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