Louisville comes into tomorrow’s ACC opener with a 5-2 record with losses to Furman and #22 Michigan State. Their best win so far was a 63-55 win over Maryland. So what should we expect when they head to Raleigh to take on the Pack?
Well, first off, this Louisville team really doesn’t have a super-star. They are well-balanced. Their leading scorer is SG Noah Locke at 11 points per game. After that, it’s guard Dre Davis at 9 points and senior forward Malik Williams at 8.
Locke is a Senior guard who has averaged 10 points over his sophomore and junior seasons. He can get hot, and when he does, he’s hard to handle. He’s 6’3 and can score off the dribble, but he’s also a good catch and shoot guy. He’s shooting just 33% from 3 and 35% from the field, but over the past two seasons, he’s been over 40% from long range and over 42% from the floor. Now, Locke is talented, but it’s not like State can’t match up with him. All of the Pack’s most-used guards are over 6’3 (and quick), so there won’t be a mismatch in this situation.
The big problem for State may be senior forward Malik Williams. The 6’11 big is mobile, long, and a rebounding machine. Ebe Dowuona has been making some huge strides over the past 3 games, but he’s going to be giving up 25 pounds to Williams, and it’s likley Louisville will try to spread the floor and attack him. This matchup will be interesting, and likely play a big role in which team comes out on top.
The matchup, size-wise looks like this…
West (5’11) vs. Hayes (6’3)
Locke (6’3) vs Morsell (6’3) or Smith (6’4)
Davis (6’5) vs Seabron (6’7)
Withers (6’8) vs. Hellems (6’7)
Williams (6’11) vs Dowuona (6’11)
While you’d assume NC State has the advantage at PG with Hayes having 4 inches on West, the Pack has struggled over the years against smaller, quicker guards, Power-5 guards. Their ability to get in the lane and cause havoc has been an Achilles heel for Keatts’ squads. West is shifty and really isn’t looking to score when he gets in the paint. He’s looking to set up his teammates, and that’s going to lead to some open 3s.
The good news, for State, is that Louisville isn’t shooting the ball that well from outside. As a team, they’re shooting just 29% from beyond the arc (after shooting just 30% last year).
Looking further into the stats, State has a few advantages. While they too aren’t shooting it well from deep (30%), they are tied in per game rebounds at 41, scoring 10 more points per game than Louisville and turning it over just 10 times per game, while the Cardinals have been pretty careless at 15 TOs per game.
Both teams are shooting 42% from the field and both are getting about 8 steals per game.
Louisville is averaging 12 assists per game, while State averages 10. However, State averages 5 blocks per game, and Louisville hasn’t been protecting the rim that well (just 2.9 blocks per game.)
You can get a feel for how the Cardinals play by watching the highlights above, but in our opinion, this is a winnable game for the Pack. The keys will be getting Seabron off, having Dowuona hold Williams in check, and having Morsell available coming off his ankle injury.