Conference play is tough but it is much tougher the second time around. 21 days ago this Louisville team walked into Dean Dome at Chapel Hill with a lot of questions. They found some answers to those questions that day and have had all the right answers since.
The Cardinals are riding a six-game win streak beating UNC, Boston College, Georgia Tech, NC State, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest in that time. Winning those games by an average of 18 points. Its the longest conference win streak in the Cardinals’ five years in the ACC.
This Louisville team has been able to build off of each win. Becoming more consistent on the offensive end of the floor and more deliberate on the defensive end of the floor.
The Cardinals have scored 80 or more points in 13 of its 21 games are 14th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency by Kenpom and second in the ACC in scoring offense. Louisville has allowed less than 55 points in three of its last four games and held nine opponents under 40 percent shooting on the year. The Cardinals are 24th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency by Kenpom.
Things have just continued to get better for the Cardinals since that win in Chapel Hill. It’s like this team used that game as a springboard.
The Tar Heels are currently sitting on a four-game winning streak of their own, taking out Notre Dame, Miami, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech in that stretch. And I think they have probably used that home loss to the Cardinals as their springboard.
Their biggest challenge of this season so far is getting their pieces all working together and finding their identity. Roy Williams is known for playing a certain style, one characterized by a fast tempo, offensive rebounds, exceptionally tall front lines and shooting a lot of free throws, to name a few. They’ve been using their athletic advantages and doing those things more consistently currently ranked 12th in KenPom’s offensive efficiency they are also 13th in defensive efficiency.
The Cardinals are 28-2 since March 1, 2003, in home games against teams faced on the road earlier in the same season, as it will be when UofL plays North Carolina on Saturday. The Tarheels are currently 4-0 on the road in the ACC this season.
This is all set up to be one helluva a game. The Cardinals might have caught the Tarheels sleeping a little in that first matchup but you can bet they’ll be wide awake this time around. With nothing but payback in mind.
The Louisville Basketball program will pay homage to The Great One with the White Out theme on Saturday. Ali was at his best when facing his toughest challenges. One of my favorite Ali quotes:
“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”
Louisville basketball fans and the guys on this Louisville Basketball team all know what it’s like to be defeated. We’ve been beaten to hell and back over the last couple of years. We have all waited for a big game like the one on Saturday. Top 20 matchup, big atmosphere, a battle for conference supremacy. The Program has made its way back.
A looming factor here will be Louisville’s 83-62 victory over the Tar Heels back on January 12, and the result of this game will tell us a lot about each team as we head towards March. Enjoy it, folks!