After starting off the conference season with a 2-4 record, the 25th ranked Louisville Cardinals (17-5, 5-4) will go for their 4th straight win on Saturday when they host Rutgers (12-11, 4-6). A win would go a long way in keeping the Cards in the top 8 in the Big East, or even making a push to get into the top 4. Of course, teams 1-4 earn a double-bye in the Big East Tournament, and teams 5-8 earn a single-bye. So either position is beneficial.
If there is any team that is unpredictable, it has to be Rutgers. They have been blown out twice by West Virginia, which isn’t a huge deal. Then they have also lost to South Florida, DePaul, and Providence. Their other Big East loss was just a 2 point loss on the road at Georgetown. Then you look at their wins. First off, in the non-conference, they beat Florida when they were 10th in the country; they beat UConn when they were ranked 8th; they blew out Pittsburgh 62-39; and they also beat Notre Dame and Cincinnati. Make any sense?
Rutgers only averages 66.7 points per game (204th in the country), but they do it by being balanced. They have 6 players that average at least 20 minutes and 6.5 ppg. Two freshmen, Eli Carter and Myles Mack, lead the Scarlet Knights with 13.3 and 10.6 ppg, respectively.
The Cards have 4 players that average double figures in scoring, with 2 players not far behind. The guys averaging double figures are Kyle Kuric (13.2), Russ Smith (12.4), Gorgui Dieng (10.3), and Chris Smith (10.3). Just under 10 ppg are Chane Behanan (9.1) and Peyton Siva (8.4). So that is very balanced also. Louisville clearly has more fire power, but as we said, this Rutgers team is unpredictable and can upset anyone.
Gorgui Dieng has 10 double-doubles on the season, and 3 in a row. When he has gotten a double-double, the Cards are 10-0. We say this everytime, but it can not be stressed enough: when he stays out of foul trouble and is on the floor, this is a different team. Without a proven backup center, his presence is huge. He was credited for 5 blocks against Seton Hall, but probably had another 5 shots that he altered.
The other player that is becoming a force down low is Chane Behanan. In the Cards last 4 games, he is averaging 12.8 points and 9 rebounds per game. When he and Dieng are in the game, the Cards should have a significant advantage on the glass, and both can score whenever they get the ball. It has been good to see the freshman step up in Big East play.
The game tips off at 4:00 on Saturday and can be seen on the Big East Network/WHAS. Go Cards!
Here are a couple of videos from past Louisville-Rutgers games. The first is last year’s highlights from VillenHD. The second one is a Terrence Williams dunkfest video from 2009.