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Louisville Cardinals
First, I want to thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. At Hoops Insight, I hope to use data to find insights that reveal things you didn't realize about the Louisville Cardinals. I'm using play-by-play data to track what's happening, who's doing it, and who is in the game, in order to show you things the box score can't. For a primer on the stats I like to use, click here: If you'd like to take a look at previous newsletters I've sent, check out my archive.

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UofL opened the ACC Tournament in strong fashion with a blowout win over Notre Dame. While the Cards put away the Irish later in the game during the regular season, this one was almost never in doubt as UofL led by double-digits for most of the last 30 minutes. As the stats profile for this game (linked below) indicates, this was a dominant defensive performance by UofL. The Irish put up an effective FG% of 29%, and were inefficient even in their fast-break opportunities with a 39% eF% on shots in the first 10 seconds of the clock. Notre Dame avoided turnovers as usual, but couldn't manage anything positive with the ball. The Irish rarely send opponents to the foul line, and that held true, but UofL still managed to have a strong offensive performance thanks to very few turnovers. Every UofL lineup who played more than 3 possessions managed to outscore the Irish by at least 7 points, leading to the easy win. UofL and Notre Dame's stats were quite similar to the last matchup between the two, with the exception of Notre Dame's horrendous shooting this time. It's good to see UofL stay consistent against lesser opponents.

Stats Profile for UofL vs Notre Dame, Mar 13, 2019

The next game for the Cards will be a matchup against North Carolina. Here is the stats profile for the two games earlier this season between the two:

Stats Profile for UofL vs UNC, Jan 12 and Feb 2, 2019

UofL should have plenty of confidence going into this one given their 21 point win at UNC this year, even thought the Tar Heels won the rematch in Louisville. As the stats profile indicates, UofL's starters had a lot of success against UNC (+18 in 32 possessions), although they were +17 in the first game and only +1 in the second. That +1 isn't too shabby, however, considering they were one of the only lineups to offer any resistance in the Feb 2nd matchup. During the first 30 minutes of the game UNC opened up an 18 point lead, with only UofL's starters and a Cunningham/McMahon,Sutton/Nwora/Enoch lineup managing a positive plus/minus (+1 each). 

A big key for UofL is going to be their 3 point shooting. During the first UNC game, the Cards shot 40% from deep. In the second matchup, however, the Cards were at 21% from deep through the first 30 minutes as UNC opened an 18 point lead. A hot streak from deep in the final 10 minutes helped close the gap to the final 10 point margin and get the Cards to a more respectable 34% on threes for the game.

UofL also had a very strong rebounding game against UNC in the first matchup, getting 36% of their misses and 79% of the Tar Heels'. That's unlikely to repeat today, as UNC is in the top 20 nationally in both offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding. UNC's board work was stronger in the second matchup, as UofL nabbed just 18% of their misses and 57% of UNC's. 

Neither team really showed their true self in their corresponding loss in the earlier matchups. In the first, UNC was much worse at turning the ball over and rebounding than their season averages. In the second, UofL couldn't grab a rebound to save their lives, and barely got to the foul line. I'd expect UofL to get more free throws than they did in the loss to UNC, but not have as much success rebounding and forcing turnovers as they did in their win. I think these two teams are a good matchup for each other, and I think the game will be decided by only a couple of points. I believe UofL's 3 point shooting will be the wild card, and will be the determining factor in whether the Cards get the win. I'd also like to see UofL give a lot of time to their starting lineup, especially late; as I wrote about in my last article (here) the Cards' starters don't see as much time late in close games as they do earlier. I think that's a mistake if it continues today, given that UofL's starters have shown they can hang with the Tar Heels.
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