For the next several days, the Tar Heel Blog staff will be previewing each ACC team heading into the ACC Tournament. We’ll be highlighting how the season has gone for each team, and discussing the state of each school heading into the postseason.
Overall record: 24-7
Conference record: 12-6
Best wins: vs. Purdue (71-64), vs. Kentucky (73-70), vs. Duke (78-69)
Worst losses: at Notre Dame (77-70), at Wake Forest (88-81)
Key players: Donovan Mitchell, Quentin Snider, Deng Adel
Louisville heads into the ACC Tournament with the highest RPI ranking in the conference, just ahead of Carolina. However, key losses in conference play dropped the Cardinals to the #4 seed in the tournament and put them in a slightly tougher path to the championship game. Unless Clemson can upset Duke today at 2:00 PM, Louisville will have to beat Duke and potentially UNC to reach the finals. Of course, stumbles by either team makes Coach Rick Pitino’s job much easier in his quest for Louisville’s first ACC Tournament crown.
With one of the toughest schedules in the country, the Cardinals have most of the games they should and do not have any bad losses on their resume. Their loss to Wake Forest last week, in which they were leading by one at the half, was their worst according to the RPI rankings. Wake Forest is ranked 32nd in the RPI, the highest out of any of the seven losses on Louisville’s record.
The Cardinals rely on their length and athleticism to play tough defense and pull down a bunch of rebounds. These were on display in the first half against UNC, as the Heels were outscored and out-rebounded in the first half. The Heels reversed these trends in the second half and capitalized on trips to the free-throw line.
In a quote to the Associated Press after their loss to Carolina, Donovan Mitchell, the leading scorer for UL that game, said, “Offense is not there every night. Defense is.” The Cards cannot rely solely on Mitchell to carry the water for the offense. He came up big in an important win in their regular season finale against Notre Dame, and as a team they were much better from behind the arc. If the Cardinals can find more balance on offense and keep their intensity on defense, Louisville could make a significant run in the ACC or NCAA Tournaments.