Louisville Cardinals (12-6 SU, 5-8 ATS) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (10-6 SU, 3-7 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Thursday, January 21, 2009, Prudential Center, Newark, N.J. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Louisville +1/Seton Hall -1
Two Big East teams desperate for a win will battle it out Thursday night at the Prudential Center, as the Seton Hall Pirates host the Louisville Cardinals.
After playing in a bunch of close games that didn’t end their way, the Seton Hall Pirates are just 1-4 in Big East play with their lone conference victory coming at home over Cincinnati. They really need to quickly rack up some wins if they want to get back into the at-large consideration for a berth in the NCAA tournament. Three of their next four games after this game against Louisville will be against three top-10 opponents – Villanova once and Pittsburgh twice.
Louisville started off 3-0 in conference play, but those three wins came over three of the weaker teams in the conference – South Florida, Providence and St. John’s. But then the Cardinals ran into two of the best teams in the conference – Villanova and Pittsburgh – and they couldn’t pull out a victory in either game despite playing well and competing until the end in both of them. The loss to Villanova at home was 92-84 but the Cardinals had a 17-point lead in the first half.
In their last game, the Cardinals lost on Saturday at Pittsburgh, 82-77 in overtime. They held a 68-63 lead with 34 seconds left in regulation before the Panthers made a furious comeback to force overtime and steal the victory. Samardo Samuels, who has been solid all season long for the Cardinals, had 25 points and six rebounds. The sophomore big man is averaging 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Senior guard Edgar Sosa, who has also shown a great deal of improvement from last season, is averaging 13.8 points and 4.0 assists per game and had 13 points and five assists against Pitt. Preston Knowles helped Sosa out in the backcourt with a monster game of 21 points, including five 3-pointers. The Cardinals shot 48 percent from the field and 9-for-25 from 3-point range. They only turned the ball over 10 times in the game while racking up 20 assists, but they were out-rebounded on the glass by 14. They also allowed Pitt to shoot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
If Louisville wants to be considered a bubble team for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, it must gain a quality road win. As it stands now, the Cardinals have only one road win all season, a 92-70 win at Providence. There aren’t many easy road games in the Big East, so this is as good a time as ever for the Cardinals to start winning some games on the road.
After winning its first Big East game, 83-76 at home over Cincinnati, Seton Hall lost at Georgetown last Thursday, 85-73, and the Pirates haven’t played since. They’ve had a full week to prepare for this game against Louisville. In the loss to Georgetown, Jeremy Hazell had 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting from the field and 3-for-9 from 3-point range. But the high-scoring guard had zero rebounds and zero assists, proving his one-dimensional nature. His team won’t win many games if their best player can’t even get a rebound or an assist. Hazell is certainly capable, though, of taking over a game, as he has five games already this season of at least 33 points. Herb Pope, who has been just as valuable as Hazell to the Pirates this season, had six points and 10 rebounds against Georgetown. The sophomore big man is averaging 12.4 points and 11.4 rebounds per game and has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in all but four games this season.
Louisville is 10-4-1 ATS in its last 15 games as a road underdog but 1-4 ATS in its last five games overall. Seton Hall is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games as a home favorite but 1-6 ATS in its last seven games overall. The over is 4-0 in the last four meetings between these teams.
Ryno’s Pick: Both of these teams really need a win in this one, but Louisville may be content at 3-2 in the conference play despite losing its last two games. At least, the Cardinals are probably more content than the Pirates. Seton Hall can’t afford to lose this game at home against a winnable opponent, especially with its upcoming schedule. At home, Seton Hall will play up to its potential and pull out a quality win. Take Seton Hall -1.