Teams: Syracuse Orange (14-11, 7-7) vs. Louisville Cardinals (21-5, 12-3)
Date & Time: Wednesday, February 19 at 7 pm ET
Location: KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, Kentucky. Has it really come to naming arenas after awful fast food chains?
Odds: ESPN’s matchup predictor says Syracuse has a 14.5% chance to beat Louisville. So you’re telling me there’s a chance...
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3
Rivalry: 10-18, Louisville
Current Streak: 2, Syracuse
First Meeting: Back in 1964, the Orange and Cardinals met for the first time. The Orange lost on the road, 67-62 in a game in which Dave Bing and Chuck Richards each scored 23 points. It wasn’t enough to overcome the stifling defense of coach Pete Hickman’s team. It was a tough start for the Orange in ‘64, as they were ranked 7th to start the season but lost six of their first seven games.
Last Meeting: The Syracuse defense stifled Louisville all game, holding the Cardinals to a season-low 49 points. The Orange scored 69 themselves for one of their most impressive victories of the season. The timing of the win was perfect, as the Orange had lost two of their previous three games and were teetering back towards the bubble.
Head Coaches: Syracuse - Jim Boeheim (44th year; 1,061-389 at SU) | Louisville - Chris Mack (2nd year; 41-19 at Louisville)
Coach Bio: Chris Mack is in just his second season with the Cardinals, and despite numerous NCAA violations under previous coach Rick Pitino, it seems that Louisville is near impervious to the sanctions, as they are currently ranked 5th in the country. Even last year, in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Cardinals, Mack led the team to the NCAA tournament.
Prior to Louisville, Mack coached at Xavier for nine seasons, making the NCAA tournament all but one season. He made it to four Sweet Sixteens and an Elite Eight, and is considered one of the most successful up and coming coaches in college basketball. So far, Mack has had just one season where his team didn’t win 20+ games, and he has never had a losing season.
Last Year: Louisville went 20-14 and made it to the NCAA Tournament as a seven seed, where they lost in the first round to 10th seed Minnesota. Last year’s team was led by sophomore sensation Jordan Nwora, who burst onto the scene to average 17 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, good for All-ACC third team honors and most improved player in the conference.
Last Game: The Cardinals were blitzed by Clemson on the road, getting pummeled 77-62 behind 23 points from John Newman III. Jordan Nwora scored just five points in the game and was bottled up throughout. Louisville got 18 points from Dwayne Sutton and 12 off the bench from David Johnson in just their fifth loss of the season.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: I think at this point, everyone and their mother knows who the go-to guy is at Louisville: Jordan Nwora. Nwora has had an outstanding junior year, averaging 18.2 points (2nd in the ACC behind Elijah Hughes) and 7.3 rebounds (10th in the ACC) per game while shooting a ridiculous 42.1 percent from distance.
Nwora has cooled off lately, scoring just seven points over his last two games as defenses have made him the primary focus, but he is still an incredibly dangerous weapon on both ends of the floor for the Cardinals, and will give the Orange fits. Last year Nwora scored 11 points to lead the Cardinals and chipped in six rebounds.
If Syracuse Wins: A top-10 road win is good. It doesn’t put us on the right side of the bubble, but it helps. If we want any shot of an at large birth in the tournament, this game is an absolute must-win.
If Syracuse Loses: Unsurprising, especially given how this team has fared against good competition. The Orange have struggled mightily against the upper echelon of teams they’ve faced this year, and the incredibly porous defense doesn’t help the situation. A loss here, while fairly devastating to Syracuse’s NCAA chances, shouldn’t be all that shocking to fans who have watched the team all year.
Fun Fact 1: Former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was the first assistant coach that Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim ever hired, way back in 1976.
Fun Fact 2: The Orange were 0-4 against the Cardinals before Jim Boeheim became the head coach. In the first matchup once he was at the helm, the Orange came from behind for a 76-75 win on the road.