The Louisville Cardinals gun for their fifth Elite Eight appearance under Rick Pitino when they face the Oregon Ducks Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
The only No. 1 seed to truly play like one in both of its tournament victories, Louisville is line to make its second straight Final Four, but must first meet an under-rated Ducks squad riding a five-game winning streak.
Oregon has bested opponents by an average of 12.2 points during their run, with upsets over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis to reach its third Sweet 16 since 2002.
Against Saint Louis, the Ducks started off with a blistering 35-19 first half and never looked back. Damyean Dotson scored 23 points, and Carlos Emory and E.J. Singler each totaled 14 points.
Arsalan Kazemi continued to dominate the glass with 16 rebounds and and two blocks, along with eight points. The senior forward pulled 17 rebounds against Oklahoma State and 12 versus UCLA in the Pac-12 title game.
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Oregon will need Kazemi’s prowess on the boards against the Cardinals Gorgui Dieng,
Louisville has won 12 straight thanks to Dieng’s 11 points and nine rebounds per game during the run, and junior guard Russ Smith exploding for 20-plus points in four of the past five games.
In the 82-56 blowout against Colorado State, Smith totaled 28 points, getting to the line to hit 9-of-10 free throw attempts, and Peyton Siva dropped 10 points and five assists.
The winner faces either No. 2 Duke or No. 3 Michigan state in the Midwest Region Final Sunday.
The game tips-off at 7:15 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by CBS, or watch a free live online stream at the NCAA March Madness official site here.
Betting Odds: Louisville is favored by 10.5 points
Over/Under: 130 points
Prediction: Louisville is far more balanced, and has guards that play the passing lanes very well. The Ducks will have to smother Smith, forcing him to shoot jump shots, and keeping him away from the free throw line. Dotson and Emory will again have to carry the offense. Look for the Cardinals to break away late in the second half for their first test of the tournament.
Predicted Score: Louisville 75, Oregon 68