LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (15-3)
at CONNECTICUT HUSKIES (14-3)
Harry A. Gampel Pavilion - Storrs, CT
Tip-off: Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Louisville -1.5
Connecticut will look to build off its momentum from Thursday's win against No. 17 Memphis when it returns to the Gampel Pavilion for a matchup against No. 18 Louisville for the final year of conference play between these two schools.
After a rough stretch losing two in a row at Houston and SMU, the Huskies have rebounded with victories against Harvard, UCF and most recently at Memphis, prevailing 83-73 on Thursday. They have covered in three straight, moving to 7-8 ATS on the season and 5-2 ATS at home. Louisville lost to Memphis just over a week ago, but has since beaten SMU and Houston (the two teams that beat UConn) by a combined 47 points. The Cardinals have beaten all the teams they are supposed to beat, but have lost to every ranked opponent they have faced (North Carolina, Kentucky and Memphis), struggling against better competition. They are 8-8 ATS this season but just 2-4 ATS in non-home games. Louisville has dominated the series between these two programs in recent memory, going 6-1 SU and ATS in the past seven contests. The lone exception was when the Huskies prevailed in the 2011 Big East Tournament championship game, a 69-66 win and cover as three-point underdogs.
Which school will pick up the key American Conference victory on Saturday night? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 60% ATS (154-104-5) mark, including a stellar 64% ATS (122-70) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Zach is leading the way at 61% ATS (31-20-1) on Best Bets this season, including 66% ATS (25-13) since Nov. 22. StatFox Brian is at 60% ATS (32-21-1) for the season and 64% ATS (25-14) since Nov. 26, while StatFox Scott is also 60% ATS (32-21) for the season and 65% ATS (22-12) since Dec. 2. StatFox Gary is 60% ATS (30-20-2) for the season too, and 69% ATS (22-10) since Dec. 3, while StatFox Dave is 57% ATS (29-22-1) for the season and 63% ATS (12-7) since Dec. 18.
Rick Pitinoís Louisville squad has a high-octane offense that averages 83.4 PPG (16th in Div. I) on 47.1% shooting (61st in nation) with 15.6 APG (39th in Div. I). The teamís calling card is on the defensive end, however, where it ranks fourth nationally with 10.1 SPG, forcing a whopping 17.5 turnovers per game (6th in Div. I). Senior G Russ Smith (18.1 PPG, 4.9 APG) leads the team on both ends of the floor, nabbing a team-high 2.1 SPG in addition to his team-high averages in points and assists. Last year against Connecticut he scored a game-high 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting as the Cardinals ran past the Huskies in the second half en route to a 73-58 road win. Down low, the teamís biggest threat is sophomore PF Montrezl Harrell (11.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG), who has two double-doubles in the teamís past three games. Harrell, Luke Hancock (10.5 PPG), and Wayne Blackshear (9.9 PPG) will all have to pick up the slack with Chane Behanan having been kicked off the team for violations. The team could be even thinner without SG Chris Jones (11.3 PPG), the teamís other threat in the backcourt with Smith, who missed the last contest against Houston with a wrist injury.
Connecticut survives as one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation, hitting 41% of its attempts from long distance (8th in Div. I). Defensively, the Huskies may not force as many turnovers (12.7 per game) as Louisville, but they allow a meager 38.8% FG (25th in Div. I) thanks in part to blocking 7.0 shots per game, good for third in the nation. PG Shabazz Napier (16.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 6.2 APG) leads the team in almost every major statistical category, also swiping a team-high 2.1 SPG. He is coming off a monster 17-point, 10-assist night on Thursday in Memphis, but struggled last year against Louisvilleís pressure defense, going 4-for-13 from the field, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range. He and SG Ryan Boatright (12.4 PPG, 3.6 APG) each had six assists in the contest, however. Boatright and SG Omar Calhoun (6.7 PPG) need to take better care of the ball this time, combining for 11 turnovers in that game. Junior F DeAndre Daniels (13.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG) is the teamís primary threat down low, though he may be able to stretch the Cardinal defense and bring Harrell out to the perimeter with his shooting skills, hitting 1.5 threes per game on a 48% clip. Daniels had an enormous game on Thursday, lighting up the Tigers for 23 points (4-of-5 threes), 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.