Louisville vs California
Either the Cardinals or the Golden Eagles will have their wings clipped in the first round of the NCAA Tournament when Louisville and California clash on Friday.
Louisville had an inconsistent year in the Big East this season, but the selection committee thought they did enough to earn an at-large bid. Just how inconsistent were the Cardinals this season? Well, they defeated Syracuse twice, but lost to the likes of Charlotte, Western Carolina, and St. John’s.
One of the Cardinals’ biggest weaknesses this season was their hot and cold shooting. Not surprisingly when the Cards hit their shots they won, but when they were off they lost - and sometimes lost badly. Samardo Samuels led the Cardinals in scoring, averaging 15.3 points and seven rebounds per game this season, but even he had games this season where his scoring touch just wasn’t there.
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The same can be said about Edgar Sosa, who averaged 13.3 points and 4.5 assists this season. For the Cardinals to play Rick Pitino’s style - sold defensive pressure, fast breaks, and timely three-point shooting - and win, they need to be able to hit their shots more consistently or face a possible early tournament exit.
The Golden Eagles also got in through an at-large bid after losing to Washington in the Pac-10 Tournament final. Prior to that loss Cal had won six in a row and heading into the tourney they’ve won nine of their last 11. Don’t get too carried away, though, because that winning streak came against a weak Pac-10 that is sending only two teams to the Big Dance.
Cal encountered a little controversy before the tournament even began after Omondi Amoke was suspended for breaking team rules. That leaves the Cal bench a little thinner, but Amoke wasn’t a big scorer and may not be a big loss for the Golden Eagles.
The Golden Eagles boast an experienced roster with four seniors in their starting five. All four senior average double-digit points per game, led by Jerome Randle with 18.7 points and 4.5 assists per game. Cal’s experienced roster relies on strong perimeter shooting because of a lack of size, which could hurt them in the tournament if their shooting goes cold.
Last year’s tournament was a big disappointment for the Golden Eagles. They were a No. 7 seed but failed to get beyond the first round after an early loss to Maryland. Their previous tournament appearance in 2006 also ended with a first-round upset as a No. 7 seed. The Golden Eagles are a 1-point favorite at Bovada against Louisville as they attempt to get out of the first round for the first time since 2003.