East Region: Louisville vs Minnesota Prediction
Louisville vs Minnesota Preview
The opening game of the NCAA Tournament (First Four excluded) pits the 7th-seeded Louisville Cardinals (20-13) versus the 10th-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers (21-13).
This is the seventh time that the Cardinals and Gophers have met, the most recent coming in 2014. Minnesota was defeated by Louisville, 81-68, in the ESPN Armed Forces Classic in Borinquen, Puerto Rico.
Minnesota finished the year with a flourish, winning four of its last six games including a pair of victories at the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago this week. Powering the Gophers this season has been a pair of All-Big Ten selections in senior Jordan Murphy (first team) and junior Amir Coffey (third team). Murphy, who is the program’s all-time leading rebounder and ranks third in career scoring, is second and fifth nationally in double-doubles (22) and rebounds (11.5 rpg), respectively. Coffey leads the team and ranks seventh among Big Ten players scoring 16.3 points per game.
Personally, I was slightly surprised by the 10-seed Minnesota received (I had them as an 11 or 12). But if with Murphy in the lineup, they are a dangerous team that can dominate in the paint and on the boards.
A No. 7 seed, Louisville has achieved a 20-13 record while facing the nation’s third-toughest schedule. Picked to finish 11th in the ACC, UofL attained a 10-8 conference record and earned a tie for sixth in the final ACC regular season standings. The Cardinals have beaten four Associated Press Top 25 teams this year and stand at No. 22 in the nation in the NCAA’s NET rankings. Louisville ranks among the nation’s top 30 teams in both offensive (29th) and defensive efficiency (17th).
Just like the Gophers, the Cardinals are led by a forward who can bang down low in the post. Sophomore Jordan Nwora, who I saw live in high school, is an unknown in the heavily talented ACC but is a superb player. He averages 17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and one steal per game.
The matchup between Nwora and Murphy will ultimately decide this game.
Both teams rely on the forward-heavy lineups with clutch play from their guards in order to find success.
Flying under the radar
The most intriguing part of this first round matchups really has nothing to do with the players or game itself. How about the programs:
The Game Behind The Game: Minnesota, coached by Richard Pitino, will face Louisville. Pitino’s father Rick is suing Louisville for $44 million.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 17, 2019
Louisville stumbled a bit down the stretch, but they are the more talented team with the experience against elite teams that this matchup with Minnesota should not be as close as the spread indicates.
LINE: -5 Louisville
Dan’s Bet: -5 Louisville
Bracket Pick: Louisville
Score Prediction: Louisville 66 Minnesota 55