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THE BIG PREVIEW: No. 1 Virginia vs. Louisville, the ACC tournament edition

The Hoos and Cards square off for the third time this season.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Florida State vs Louisville Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last time these two teams played was way back an entire week ago. I think everybody knows how that turned out. Seriously, I think everybody in the entire country knows. Louisville certainly knows. And they’re going to want to win shut everybody up. Obviously, not a lot has changed for either team (other than Kyle Guy’s injury of course) in a week, so check out last week’s preview for more detail about the matchups.

Louisville has scored better than one point per possession in both matchups between these two teams. Only Virginia Tech, VCU, Syracuse and West Virginia did that even once this year. That is the main reason Virginia fans are sweating heading into this 3rd matchup. Still, the Hoos are 2-0 against Louisville for a reason.

The Cardinals are mostly a perimeter oriented team. Their two leading scorers are perimeter players, led by junior wing Deng Adel and senior PG Quentin Snider. Adel averages 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and three assists per game. He’s a 34% three-point shooter on over four shots per game. That’s the biggest weakness in his game. He’s too willing to shoot from outside, when he can be a devastating scorer off the bounce. He shoots over 50% from inside the arc and 78% from the FT line. In two matchups against Virginia, he shot 10-for-25 and averaged 16.5 ppg. He was 5-for-10 from downtown.

Snider, on the other hand, is just over 41% from three and takes about half of his shots from there. He’s not a particularly good finisher on the interior, largely because of his lack of size (6’1, 175). He is, though, a good distributor and averages 4 assists per game. He’s also an 89% FT shooter. In the two games this year, he averaged just nine ppg on 6-for-16 shooting. He performed much better at home (13 points on 4-for-10) than he did at JPJ (five points on 2-for-6). He also totaled just two assists between the two games.

In fact, in two games, Louisville totaled just 18 assists on 44 FGs. That’s 40%, which is far below their average of just under 50%, which ranks 235th in the nation. The Hoos are one of the best teams in the nation at keeping assists down, and opposing teams assist on over 45% of their buckets. Against the Pack Line defense, it is very difficult to score in 1-on-1 situations. There is always a help defender. That is why teams that have success against the Hoos generally shoot the ball very well from outside.

That’s the main reason Louisville broke the one ppp barrier twice. They were 15-for-33 (45%) from three in the two games. For the season, they shot just 36%. In their matchup against FSU, they made 10-for-16 (62%), which is basically ridiculous. Chances are, that won’t continue.

On the inside, Louisville has Ray Spalding, who was the best player in both contests against Virginia. He scored 16 points in each game and shot 13-for-16 between the two games. Spalding is also the leading rebounder on the team and can be a beast on the offensive glass. Spalding is also a very good interior defender, which doesn’t really impact the Hoos very much. Then again, Mamadi Diakite has averaged 7.5 ppg over the past four, up from just five ppg on the year. He’s also made 12-for-17 (71%) over that time period. If that continues, Spalding will have to play some more defense. And maybe that extra effort hurts him on the other end.

The other big man is Anas Mahmoud, a 7-foot shot blocker who doesn’t do a whole lot else. He scored six points on 3-for-8 shooting in the two games and grabbed just five rebounds in 50 minutes. At 7’0, 230, he just isn’t strong enough to bang inside with Jack Salt and company. Salt, for what it’s worth, had just three points in the two games, but did grab nine rebounds last week.

That last stat is actually very telling. The Hoos grabbed 11 offensive rebounds (33% of their misses) at the KFC Yum! Center. That was a big part of what kept them in the game early on, and helped make up for the uncharacteristic 12 TOs. They also lost the FT battle by quite a bit, something that hopefully wouldn’t happen on a neutral floor.

Last week’s game was an emotional senior night for the Cardinals. It was also a big game for Louisville that would’ve likely put them over the top for an NCAA berth. And it pretty much meant nothing to the Hoos. This game may hold the same reward for a Louisville team that is still squarely on the bubble. But now they aren’t at home, they aren’t playing on senior night, and the Hoos have something to play for as well.

The x-factor in this game is Kyle Guy’s injury. He sprained his MCL against Notre Dame, and is reportedly wearing a brace. If he’s not 100%, the Hoos could be in trouble in this game. Then again, if he’s not 100%, getting him healthy for the NCAA is far more important than winning this game.

Still, unless Louisville shoots over 40% from three again, I like the Hoos chances.