ACC Basketball

Know Your Opponent: UC Irvine Anteaters

Louisville got rolling with a 11-o start to the season, getting a couple of decent wins over Ohio State and Indiana. They even managed to not get crushed by Kentucky. In conference play, they beat the teams they were meant to beat, but couldn’t get a signature win until they took down North Carolina in the second matchup between the two…although that was at home, so they probably should have won that one.

However, in early February, the Cardinals dropped three of four, the final one was without suspended guard Chris Jones. A week later, he would be dismissed from the team. Yet, despite losing arguable their best player, Louisville still managed to finish strong, winning four of five, earning the 4-seed in their first ACC Tournament. However, they struggled in the second half against UNC, eventually falling 70-60 in the quarterfinals.

They landed in the East Region as the 4-seed and will face…

WHO: UC Irvine
CONFERENCE: Big West
RECORD: 21-12
RPI: #89
BPI: #100
KEN POM: #95

ADjO: #126
ADjD: #92

HOW THEY GOT HERE:
The Anteaters struggled out of the gate, dropping five of seven, although they certainly challenge Arizona on the road. However, the team improved and during one three-game stretch, they would eventually upset a good Green Bay team on a neutral court, lose by two in overtime to Oregon and lose by three to New Mexico State.

After dropping their first conference game, they would win six in a row and 10 of 12, but would lose the regular season title to UC Davis, when they dropped two of their final three games. However, UC Davis was upset in the semis, while the Anteaters swept through the conference tournament, defeating Hawaii in the title game. They finished 21-12 on the year, earning the 13-seed in the East Region.

STARTERS
G – Luke Nelson
G – Alex Young
G – Travis Souza
F – Will Davis
F – Mamadou Ndiaya

BENCH 
G – Jaron Martin
G – Aaron Wright
F – Mike Best
C – Ioannis Dimakopoulos

All you need to know is that UC Irving can play defense. Sticking with a 2-3 zone, the Anteaters are 23rd in the nation in eFG, 16th in 2P% and 84th in block %. They rely on their size inside, without four frontline players in the rotation who stand 6’9 or taller. In fact, sophomore Dimakopoulos is 7-2 coming off the bench and he’s not the tallest player…that’s Ndiaya. At 7-6, he’s the tallest player in college basketball.

la_mamadou_ndiaye_576

The reality is, it’s just not easy to make a ton of shots among all those trees inside. They are vulnerable to giving up threes and they struggle to force turnovers.

On offense, their seven footers can deliver a few points, but aren’t polished post players. Point guard Luke Nelson averages 10.5 points per game, but relies on the mid-range game, as he shoots just 29.8% from deep Will Davis uses his wide frame to power his way to 12.9 points and seven rebounds per contest. Overall, UC Irving will try to slow it down, protect the ball and take smart shots. They’re a balanced team, has 11 players have taken at least 90 shots on the year and they are 31st in 3P%.

FINAL THOUGHT
This is a dangerous team for Louisville. They play zone, which is something the Cardinals have struggled with. Where do their points coming from? Montrezl Harrell can dominate inside, but he’s never faced size like he face Friday. Look for the Anteaters to keep it tight, but the Cardinals find a way to win with Terry Rozier in the final seconds.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Louisville, 62-60

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