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BIg East: Louisville in Early Season test vs. Duke

The Battle 4 Atlantis for 2012 features one of the most talents fields of any tournament in college basketball to start the season. Two of the top five nationally ranked teams the Big East’s Louisville Cardinals and the Duke Blue Devils from ACC will meet in the final after winning their first two games.

Duke reached the finals by defeating Minnesota easily 89-71 in a contest that was all Duke from the beginning. Then Duke went on to defeat VCU in a closer matchup 67-58. Playing against Louisville will be no comparison to either Minnesota or VCU.

Louisville defeated a tough Northern Iowa team in their first game and then took care of Missouri, which was ranked no. 13 in the nation. Louisville did not have a great first half but once they got going in the second half they walked away with the victory 84-61.

The matchup between the Cardinals and the Blue Devils was just what the tournament organizers had hoped for. The last time Louisville and Duke played head to head was in 1986 in the championship game of the NCAA with Louisville coming out on top 72-69.

Rick Pitino, the Cardinals head coach has a great deal of respect for Mike Krzyzewski the head coach for Duke. He praised the Duke head coach by calling him a modern day version of John Wooden. In his coaching career, Pitino is 0-1 against Coach K.

Coach K. said his players played with great poise and had very few turnovers in their game against VCU.

In today’s game, the matchup that might turn the game will be Seth Curry vs. Russ Smith. The two are very explosive guards and both can score points in large numbers. Curry is averaging 18.3 points per game thus far early in the season and is shooting a very good 48% from beyond the three point stripe, while making smart passes to find open teammates.

Smith is a bit different from Curry. He tends to turn the ball over more that Curry, but plays tenacious defense to overshadow his lack of ball control at times. Smith this season is averaging 20 points per game and nearly 3 steals per game.

Things to think about watching the game

Seth Curry has scored a three point shot in 19 consecutive games. Duke is averaging over 81 points per game this season. Louisville forces nearly 22 turnovers per game. The Cardinals are 11-6 in their past 17 games versus opponents that are ranked.

Duke’s season field goal percentage is over 49% and they are giving up only 64 points per game. Louisville is averaging more than 43 rebounds per game and is only allowing their opponents to score 50 points per game.

Louisville must play tough man to man defense and shoot as high a percentage as they can on offense. The Cardinals cannot match Duke shot for shot and will have to go to whoever is hot. Bad shots will kill the Cardinals against a very disciplined Duke team. Louisville also must keep Duke from the offensive boards.

The two teams are very evenly matched with lots of talent and experience. Russ Smith will be a key player for Louisville both offensively and defensively and how he plays will determine the outcome of this.

I like the Cardinals in a close one 65-61.

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