Louisville Cardinals (12-6, 3-2) @ Seton Hall Pirates (10-6, 1-4) 7:00PM Pre-Game Notes

Louisville @ Seton Hall, 7:00PM
Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Television: ESPN
Radio: 770 WABC  
Online: Cardinals vs. Pirates coverage

Projected Starting Five: G-Lawrence, G-Hazell, F-Mitchell, F-Pope, F/C-Hall

The Louisville Cardinals (12-6, 3-2) will come to the Rock on Thursday night, in what is being billed as a, "must-win," for both teams.  Obviously, the Pirates (10-6, 1-4) would have liked to knock off at least one of the Big East heavyweights in their path thus far and many expected the team to come through, however, they haven't been able to deliver.  If the Pirates can't defeat the Cardinals at home tomorrow, there probably won't be any further talk of must-wins, other than those which could bring about an NIT berth.  

The Pirates are coming off their worst performance of their Big East season after receiving a drubbing at the hands of the Georgetown Hoyas.  Up until the GTown game, finishing might have been an issue for the Pirates, yet, they showed a great deal of fight in each contest.  Against the Hoyas? Not so much.  The Pirates looked flat and lethargic from the tip, the team lacked structure in their offensive sets and played lackadaisical on the defensive end, often resulting in careless fouls on every 2nd half, Hoya possession. With a week off, there's no excuse for the Pirates to show up unprepared. Gonzo has had a full week to make adjustments (tighten the rotation, for one) after witnessing the Hall's first five conference games.  The players have had plenty of time to refocus and get their legs underneath them, but, most importantly, the team has had seven days to realize the season is slipping from their grasp.  Following the loss to Georgetown, I wrote the Pirates must realistically finish their last 13 games at 11-2, or at worst, 10-3 if an NCAA at-large bid is still on their radar:

The Pirates would need to close out the remaining 13 games at a clip of 11-2 or 10-3, to finish with a conference record of 12-6 or 11-7, respectively. I think we’d be in with 12 wins and bubble consideration with 10 or 11. It’s not going to be easy by any means and like I said, it’s highly unlikely, but we’ll see, it’s why they play the games.

Looking at the Louisville Cardinals, they've beaten the conference opponents that they were supposed to (USF, Providence, SJ) while losing both toss-up games (Nova, Pitt).  In fact, tomorrow's game for the Cardinals most likely falls into the, "supposed to win" column according to most Cardinal fans.  Just as the Pirates have been underperforming, the Cardinals are right along with them.  First, there was a non-confernce loss at UNLV, which in actuality isn't that bad of a loss as the Runnin Rebels have a pretty good team.  That being said, back-to-back contests at Freedom Hall against Charlotte and Western Carolina are two highly questionable opponents that an upper echelon team in the Big East conference just doesn't lose to.  The Cardinals did just that. Sure, Louisville was a bit banged up with three injured guards against Charlotte, even so, a 22 point loss to the 49ers? Ouch. This is the same 49ers team which Duke toyed with to the sound of a 42 point defeat.  That begs the question, is U of L, in fact, an upper echelon team? 

The Cardinals certainly have holes, most glaring their rebounding.  Despite carrying a roster that includes six players 6'8 or taller, they only have two players who average greater than 4RPG. Secondly, the Cardinals turn the ball over, a lot. In fact, their assist-to-turnover ratio is nearly even at 1.1AST per 1TO. Despite their weaknesses, they're still a greatly talented and deep team that will require nothing short of the Pirates best effort in order to send them home with the L. For the Pirates, the effort will need to start on the boards and end with their defense. Top notch efforts on the glass will be needed from Pope, JRob, Stix and Garcia, while the Pirates need to turn up their defensive intensity against the Cardinals.  It might be time for a heavy dose of the full-court press, c'mon Bobby, beat Pitino at his own game.  

SHU Athletics previews the contest:

SETON HALL - LOUISVILLE SERIES:

Seton Hall and Louisville will meet for the 13th time in history on Thursday. The Cardinals own an 8-4 all-time series lead and have won five of the last six meetings. The Pirates did notch a victory over Louisville during the Bobby Gonzalez era, a 92-82 victory on Jan. 19, 2008. Seton Hall lost their only matchup with the Cardinals last year, 95-78, at Freedom Hall.

Rick Pitino and Samardo Samuels met with members of the media on Wednesday to preview their upcoming contest at Seton Hall.  The audio clips can be heard by venturing to the U of L Athletics page:

Seton Hall is fourth nationally in scoring (84.7 ppg) and is among the nation's leaders in turnover margin (+4.4, 13th in the nation) and assists-to-turnovers ratio (1.41, 13th). Junior guard Jeremy Hazell, who had 33 points in their league win over Cincinnati, is second in the BIG EAST in scoring (22.9 ppg) and steal (2.1), and leads the league in three-pointers per game (3.4, 55-of-169). Seton Hall is No. 84 in the ratings percentage index (RPI) and is No. 61 in the Sagarin Ratings through Jan. 19.

PirateCrew.com member, 'Piratz' is consistently killing it with the stats in his game previews.  Consistency is something we appreciate and would like to see more of in regards to Seton Hall Basketball. Without further ado, the Piratz SHU/LOU preview:

Overall, Louisville is shooting .436 in conference play, good for 8th in the Big East, including .534 from 2PT range, .728 from the FT line (4th), but just .299 from the arc (11th). They also lead the conference with 18.2 offensive rebounds per game, just edging out The Hall. They assist on 56% of their field goals despite the low shooting percentage, but are averaging 15 turnovers per game (+1 TO margin). Over 40% of their total shots taken are from 3PT range. So they could be a dangerous offensive team if those perimeter shooters regain their form.

Louisville is almost exactly as efficient as Syracuse writes Eamonn Brennan of ESPN:

If I told you Louisville was almost exactly as efficient a basketball team as Syracuse, would you believe me? Probably not: Syracuse has one loss and is a favorite to make the Final Four; Louisville already has two losses in the Big East and is still apparently rebuilding from last year's Earl Clark-Terrence Williams dual exodus. But it's true! Louisville has been a pretty darn efficient team so far in the Big East, tying Syracuse with a plus-.11 efficiency margin, good for fourth in the conference. Louisville plays very good offense (largely thanks to its No.5-ranked offensive rebounding percentage) and serviceable defense. Louisville's problem is fouls: The Cards give up way too many trips to the line to opposing teams, a stat that makes Pitino's style of play -- pressing, pushing, forcing teams to play fast and scattered -- much more difficult to pull off. Seton Hall, meanwhile, needs a to start a flurry of Big East wins if it wants to sniff the NCAA tournament; the Hall's weak non-conference schedule make a Big East run imperative. At 1-3 so far, it's not looking good.

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