Pick – Analysis
A lot of people thought Louisville would be done for after losing Chris Jones, but that hasn’t been the case. The Cardinals have won three straight before closing out the regular season with two high-profiled home Games, this one against a well-rested Notre Dame squad.
Both of these teams are sitting around the 3- to 5-seed mark for March Madness and a win here would be important for both. For the Cardinals, a win would be their first against a ranked opponent since January and show the committee they are still a formidable team even without Jones. As for the Fighting Irish, they’ve been off for over a week and need to rid themselves of a home loss against Syracuse. Losing back-to-back Games for the first time all season isn’t how they want to enter postseason play.
Notre Dame has a high-scoring, efficient offense that fell flat against the Orange last week, going 3-of-22 from long range while turning it over 14 times. They’ll face a much different defense in Louisville, who defends the entire cOurt with full pressure. The Irish don’t turn it over a whole lot and have able ball handlers in Demetrius Jackson and Jerian Grant. The experience of those two will not only help in the environment, but also against Louisville’s pressure.
If Notre Dame doesn’t play reckless, that will in turn hurt what Louisville does on the offensive end because a lot of their scoring comes from forcing turnovers on defense. Then again, the Irish don’t have that great of a defense, which is their main weakness.
The Cardinals are coming off a big confidence-boosting 22-point win at Florida State over the weekend in which Quentin Snider and Anton Gill played valuable minutes. That needs to continue to happen, as Chris Jones won’t be returning.
The best matchup might be down low with Montrezl Harrell and Zach Auguste. It’s hard to see Auguste going toe-to-toe with Harrell defensively, so he’ll need to match whatever Harrell does on the offensive end. If Louisville’s pressure creates open looks at all for Notre Dame, that could be crucial as the Irish shoot the ball extremely well, no matter how they looked against Syracuse.
Jerian Grant usually plays up in big Games and this is one of those. The future NBA player has struggled the last couple Games and his team will need him. The Cardinals could put Wayne Blackshear on him, but if Grant has any confidence, no one from Louisville will be able to guard him each possession.
The Cardinals haven’t looked all that great at home in recent Games, beating Miami by only two and losing to NC State in their previous one. If they can win one of their final two Games, that would be all fans could ask for. The Irish still have a shot to grab a 3-seed for March Madness, but that won’t happen unless they get a win here.
Our Pick – We’ll take any points available with Notre Dame (this was written before lines were posted)