Rams pose 'major' problems for Louisville

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Louisville men's basketball team hopes to take another step towards a national championship on Saturday night. But the Cardinals will have to clear a major hurdle – Colorado State – in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in Rupp Arena. Cardinal Authority has a preview of the game.

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino has used the same starting lineup for 16 games this season and isn't one who likes to tinker at this stage.

But when the Cardinals collide with Colorado State on Saturday night in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, Pitino could send his team on the floor with a different starting lineup than he's used all season.

Pitino said Colorado State, a team that ranks No. 1 in the nation in rebounding margin at plus-12.4, gives him "a lot of concerns," and poses a lot of problems for the Cardinals, especially on the backboards.

So, Pitino might used a different lineup. He talked about getting more rebounding in the lineup early and said Stephan Van Treese was the "teams best rebounder," meaning he could likely be inserted into the four spot.

"Not that starting lineups matter," Pitino said. "But I probably got to get a little more rebounding into my team starting out the game to make sure we don't get too far behind. I may make a change tomorrow.

"I'm going to sleep on it, watch a little more film before I decide. But execution is really important, especially in the beginning of this game so that we don't get killed on the backboards."

The game is slated for 5:15 p.m. Louisville (30-5) has won 11 games in a row and is the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while No. 8 seed Colorado State (26-8) beat Missouri in its opener.

Colorado State dominated the rebounding advantage 42-19 against Missouri. The Rams ranked No. 2 nationally in defensive rebounding and fourth in offensive rebounding and have been outrebounded just twice all season.

"Everybody has to contribute this game on the boards," sophomore forward Chane Behanan said. "It's all of us. It's not just Gorgui (Dieng) or VT (Stephan Van Treese), we all have to hit the boards and rebound."

Added guard Russ Smith: "It's not like I have to go get 12 rebounds, but we all have to do our parts and make sure we take care of the boards."

But that is easier said than done.

Colton Iverson, a 6-foot-10 senior, averages 9.9 rebounds a game, while 6-5 senior Pierce Hornung averages 9.1 rebounds a game.

The Rams have five seniors in the starting lineup and run a motion offense that Pitino said it "tough to defend."

"Five seniors, No. 1 rebounding margin team in the country and I know Larry (Eustachy) is just a terrific coach," Pitino said. "They have all the ingredients to be a great basketball team, and they are. I always look at talent and experience coming together, and Colorado State has them both."

Louisville will not only need to do a better job on the boards – the Cardinals are plus-3.8 on the boards this season – but will need to play defense. The Cardinals had an NCAA Tournament single-game record 20 steals and a team record 67 deflections in the win over North Carolina A&T on Thursday.

"We try to get as many deflections as we can, slow down the movement of passing," U of L point guard Peyton Siva said. "That's really been our key for this year, and we just continue to keep our pressure up. Colorado State, they're a good passing and moving team. We've got to continue to play our game."

The Rams only turn the ball over an average of 10.9 times a game, while the Cardinals force 18.9 turnovers a game on average.

The Cardinals are trying to make it to a second straight Final Four and are one win away from making the Sweet 16 for the 19th time in school history.

But it's not going to be an easy victory.

"I have a lot of concerns," Pitino said about the game. "They have great experience, outstanding talent and are extremely well coached.

"They can do it all. They pass, they shoot, they do everything fundamentally almost perfect in the way they penetrate the interior bounce pass. We're going to have to play awfully well to come away with a victory."

Cardinal Authority Top Stories