NCAA Basketball Louisville Cardinals (18-10, 8-15 ATS) vs. Connecticut Huskies (17-11, 12-14 ATS), Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Sunday, Feb. 28th, 2 PM Eastern, CBS
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Huskies -4/Cardinals +4
Over/under: 142 1/2
A couple of Big East teams in need of victories for better seeding in the upcoming conference tournament, and for NCAA tournament gravitas, meet when the Connecticut Huskies host the Louisville Cardinals Sunday afternoon in Storrs.
Some online sportsbooks opened this game with UConn favored by five points, with a total of 142 . But the line was quickly lowered to 4 in early betting action.
The Cardinals are ranked 29th at 85.0 on Sagarin’s PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com, while the Huskies come in 38th at 84.2. But with Sagarin’s CBB home-court advantage of 3.8, UConn is a three-point favorite for Sunday’s game over Louisville on the Sagarin line.
Louisville only returned two starters this season from the outfit that won 31 games last year. And yet they were expected to compete for a top-three finish in the Big East. But they’ve stumbled through parts of this season. Early on they lost back-to-back games at home to Charlotte and Western Carolina as 16- and 15-point favorites. The Cardinals later lost at Kentucky, and suffered three straight defeats early in their Big East schedule. They recently won five of six to boost their NCAA tournament credentials, but with a chance to pick up a quality win at home Tuesday night vs. Georgetown, Louisville allowed the Hoyas to shoot 8/16 from 3-point land and got outscored 41-25 in the second half in losing 70-60.
UConn also returned just two starters from a team that won 31 games last year, and went to the Final Four. And yet they were expected to fight for a top-four-or-so finish in the Big East this season. The Huskies started off fairly well, at 11-3, with those three losses coming vs. Duke, Kentucky and Cincinnati. Connecticut then struggled through a 3-8 stretch, with four of those losses coming by five points or less. But with the return of Coach Calhoun the Huskies have won three straight after beating West Virginia Monday 73-62. Suddenly, UConn is considered a dangerous team again.
So going into the weekend Louisville, at 9-6 in conference play, sat in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Big East, just a game back of Pitt and West Virginia, who were tied for third place. So basically there exists about a five-team scrum for two of the four byes into the quarterfinals of the upcoming Big East Conference tournament.
Connecticut, meanwhile, at 7-8, entered the weekend tied for eighth place in the Big East.
The Cardinals’ best win this season is probably their Feb. 1 victory over Connecticut. And they’ve lost at least three games they easily could have won.
Connecticut’s best wins this season have probably come over Texas, at Villanova and Monday over the Mountaineers, while their worst defeat came at Providence Jan. 27.
Louisville is shooting 45% from the field this season, 33% from long range and 71% from the line. On the other end, the Cardinals are limiting opponents to 43% FG shooting, and they rank 72nd in D1 ball in rebounding at +3.5 per game.
The Huskies are shooting 46% from the floor this season, 33% from 3-point land and 69% from the free-throw line. Defensively UConn ranks in the top 15 in D1 ball by holding opponents to 38.5% FG shooting, and they rank 81st in the country in rebounding at +3.1 per game.
The ‘Ville is 3-4 both straight up and against the pointspreads in Big East road games this season.
UConn is 5-3 SU and 4-4 ATS in Big East home games this season.
Through Friday night’s CBB action Connecticut and Louisville were basically tied at the 40 spot in the RPI rankings at .599. For context, Kansas ranked No. 1 at .678, and St. Mary’s ranked 50th at .583.
Sophomore F Samardo Samuels leads the Cardinals in scoring and rebounding this season at 16 and 7 per game. And senior PG Edgar Sosa leads the team in assists at 4.4 per game, although his 1.6 A/TO ratio could use help. Beyond that, Louisville spreads it around, among 11 guys averaging 10 minutes or more of floor time per game.
Senior G Jerome Dyson leads the Huskies in scoring at almost 19 PPG, and is chipping in with 4.5 rebounds and assists per game. Senior F Stanley Robinson leads the team in rebounding at 7.7 PG and ranks second in scoring at 15.5 PPG. And while UConn has two other guys scoring in double figures, they only have seven guys who are seeing 10 minutes or more of floor time per game.
In the first meeting this season between these two teams, the Cardinals jumped out to a 48-34 halftime lead and beat UConn 82-69 at Freedom Hall Feb. 1. The Redbirds covered the spread that night as 6 1/2-point favorites, and the game went over its posted total of 145. Louisville held the Huskies to 37.5% FG shooting, and forced 17 Connecticut turnovers, while committing just 10 themselves.
The ‘Ville is 13-9 on the totals this season, as Cardinals games have averaged 147 points. Connecticut is 11-14 on the totals, as Huskies games have averaged 138 points.
Z-Man’s Pick: I LOVE Uconn to win big.