Date: March 7
Time: 6:30 ET
For the 2nd consecutive season, the Hoos final regular season game has no meaning. At least, not for the Hoos. Last year, the Hoos played Maryland in College Parking after having clinched the ACC Regular Season Title. They fell 75-69 in OT. This time they head to Louisville for their first ever game at the KFC Yum! Center. (Yep, it's really called that.)
Exactly one month ago, the Hoos hosted Louisville and hung on for a 52-47 win. The game was not that close for most of it, as the Hoos head by double digits at halftime and for parts of the 2nd half before a furious Louisville comeback fell short. The Hoos also played the 2nd half of that game without Justin Anderson. Anderson may well be back for this game, which would be a sight for sore eyes to Wahoo fans. (Note: Anderson will not be returning, due to the appendectomy that he had on Thursday.)
That last game was ugly, as the two teams combined to score .9 points per possession. The Hoos won largely by not turning the ball over. Louisville is a team that thrives on forcing turnovers and generating points off turnovers, and by turning the ball over just twice all game, the Hoos forced Louisville into a half-court game that was not to their liking. The Hoos will need to do that again, especially now that Louisville is playing without third leading scorer Chris Jones. Jones wasn't the most efficient player, but his ability to get penetration against the defense and kick out to shooters was an important part of Louisville's half-court game. And, of course, Jones was a big part of Louisville's pressure defense, as his quick feet and quick hands had him among the conference leaders in steals.
Most of Jones' minutes have gone to freshman Quentin Snider, who is a similar player to Jones, but simply not ready to be an impact player. Snider is actually bigger than Jones, but isn't a very good shooter. Given more playing time, Snider may end up a better player than Jones, but with only about 15 minutes per game, he hasn't spent enough time on the court to be ready for prime time.
In the first matchup, Terry Rozier led Louisville with 16 points and 5 assists, but shot just 5-16 from the field, including 0-3 from 3. If Louisville is going to have success in the rematch, Rozier will need to be more efficient. Montrezl Harrell had 12 points and 6 rebounds, but had just 2 points in the first half, when the Hoos opened up their big lead.
This game will be senior night for Wayne Blackshear, which always adds a big of emotion to the proceedings. Harrell, though not a senior, is also likely playing his last home at Louisville, so he will get a a lot of support from the crowd as well.
Obviously, the Hoos want to keep winning. A win would give them 17 ACC wins, a number nobody has ever reached (up until just a couple of years ago, there were only 16 ACC games per season). That would be a fun stat, but nothing more. The more important thing for the Hoos is to ensure that nobody gets hurt, try to get Justin Anderson back into the rotation (hopefully) and get ready for the ACC Tournament. With 5 days off following this game, there is no reason to rest the starters, but we may still see a few extra minutes for Devon Hall, Marial Shayock and Isaiah Wilkins, as those guys will be needed come tournament play, and the extra minutes now will help them prepare.
A win here means nothing for the Hoos. but it could be meaningful for Louisville, who could move up to the 4 seed, and a double-bye with a win.