Representing the # 4 and # 8 seeds of the East bracket, the 26-8 Louisville Cardinals will face off against the 22-13 North Carolina State Wolfpack in the round of 16 Friday night. Both teams advanced to the next round with impressive wins. The Wolfpack had the upset of the tournament so far by knocking off the # 1 seeded Villanova Wildcats 71-68 while Louisville crushed a very good Northern Iowa team by 13 points. These two teams met back in February and North Carolina State beat Louisville handily by the score of 74-65 even with Louisville being 10.5 point favorites.
The Wolfpack were able to oust # 1 Villanova by sharing the basketball and playing great defense. Defensively, they held Villanova to just 31 percent shooting as the Wildcats were only able to make 19 out of their 61 field goal attempts. They did a great job rebounding all of those misses as they handily won the rebounding battle 45-32. Offensively, four different players scored in double figures led by Trevor Lacey who scored 17 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Freshman forward Abdul-Malik Abu doubled his scoring and rebounding averages to score 13 points and grab 12 rebounds establishing a dominant presence down low. North Carolina State also isn’t afraid of close games as they won their first 2 matchups by a combined 4 points making all the plays they had to down the stretch.
This is Louisville’s 4th straight trip to the Sweet Sixteen and they are coming off one of the best games they played all season. In their last victory over Northern Iowa in which they were the underdogs, 10 different players saw action and they had 4 players score in double figures. Terry Rozier played a complete game with 25 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. Montrezl Harrell also had a good game compiling 14 points 6 rebounds including 2 alley-oop dunks in the second-half, which helped Louisville put the game away. Harrell has been consistently good all season by averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds per game. Defensively, they limited the Panthers to 39 % shooting including 31% from three-point range and blocked 4 shots. When the Cardinals lost the Wolfpack in November, Rozier had one of his worst games of the season fouling out after 24 minutes and shooting 3 of 11 from the field. He will certainly be looking for redemption this time around.
This is the only game in the round of 16 in which teams from the same conference will square off. The Cardinals were a 10.5 point favorite the first time these 2 teams met, they are now only 3 point favorites which shows how even these teams are. Overall North Carolina State has had the better record against the spread going 17-11-4 while Louisville was 13-19-1. Having just beaten the # seed in the conference, the Wolfpacks confidence should be through the roof.
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