LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (19-4)
at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (18-5)
Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center – South Bend, IN
Tip-off: Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Louisville -5, Total: 128
Following a 16-point whooping at the hand of Syracuse on Monday, No. 25 Notre Dame will look to get back on track in the Big East as it returns home and plays host to No. 11 Louisville on Saturday night.
The Fighting Irish have struggled on the offensive end lately, breaking 70 points just once in their past eight regulation games while recording less than 50 points twice. They do, however, boast one of the nation’s best passing offenses, recording 17.8 APG (fourth in D-I). Meanwhile, Louisville has won three in a row (2-1 ATS), breaking a nasty skid of three losses that shot them down from No. 1 in the rankings. The last time these two teams met was in the 2012 Big East Tournament semifinals when Louisville led by 16 points at halftime and cruised to a 64-50 victory (SU and ATS).
Can Louisville extend its win streak in a tough environment Saturday night? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts are a profitable 22-18-2 ATS (55%) in the past five days of college basketball Best Bets. StatFox Gary is a perfect 7-0-1 ATS over this stretch, improving to an impressive 58% ATS (77-56-2) mark for the season. StatFox Dave is 20-14-1 ATS (59%) in the past 12 days to improve to 53.4% ATS (119-104-4) for the season.
Although it’s difficult to imagine when watching the Cardinals this season, SG Russ Smith (18.2 PPG) was a non-factor in the Notre Dame games last season, combining to shoot 2-of-15 from the floor for six points and five turnovers. This season, Smith is not only a scoring machine, but a defensive monster, averaging 2.2 SPG. PG Peyton Siva (10.6 PPG, 6.1 APG) is the same way, averaging 2.1 SPG and forming a dangerous duo defensively on the perimeter. Siva also has 8.0 APG during his team's three-game win streak. PF Chane Behanan (10.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG) is Louisville’s last double-digit scorer, but has struggled lately with just one double-digit effort in his past five games. Wayne Blackshear (9.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG) has picked up some of the slack and is coming off a huge performance in Wednesday's win at Rutgers with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting in just 14 minutes of action. The cog on the inside for Rick Pitino is C Gorgui Dieng (8.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG) who isn’t the biggest offensive threat, but at 6-foot-11, is a top-notch rebounder and elite defender with 2.7 BPG and 1.1 SPG. He’s posted 14 blocks over his past three games, and has even had success offensively against the Fighting Irish. Last season in Lousville’s win, he scored a game-high 16 points on a perfect 8-for-8 shooting.
Notre Dame upset Louisville on the road in the first of their two meetings last season, as PF Jack Cooley (14.8 PPG, 11.3 RPG) recorded 10 rebounds and a game-high 18 points to lead the Fighting Irish to a 67-65 victory in double overtime. Cooley also had a double-double (11 pts, 11 reb) in last season's loss to Louisville, and has been outstanding in his past three games this season with 17.7 PPG and 14.3 RPG. The Fighting Irish have two primary ball distributors in guards Jerian Grant (12.7 PPG, 5.6 APG) and Eric Atkins (11.7 PPG, 6.1 APG). Grant struggled against Louisville last season, combining to make just 6-of-22 field goals while Atkins wasn’t much better, going 7-for-23. They will need to figure out Smith and Siva to have a better chance at winning this season. The burden on those guys only gets heavier as the Fighting Irish continue to play without sharpshooter Scott Martin (knee). Martin has made 46.3% (31-for-67) of his three-point attempts this season. Freshman F Cameron Biedscheid (7.5 PPG) has struggled in his past two games (6-for-20 FG, 2-of-12 threes), but scored 18 points (5-of-7 threes) in his last game in South Bend, a 65-60 win over Villanova on Jan. 30.