Louisville is an elite team, we already know that. They play great defense behind the three point line and inside the arc as well. They like to play at Siena’s high tempo and will press often. Siena, coming off one of the worst offensive performances this season, will have to put that behind them and play their best game to have a chance at beating the overall top seed.
Siena will, rarely, have a decided advantage over a team at the free throw line. Siena shoots 66.4% good for 251th in the country but the Cardinals shoot 64.2% (302nd) from the charity stripe. To put that in prespective, only Syracuse and play-in game loser Alabama State are the only NCAA Tournament teams that have worst free throw percentages than the Cardinals.
This year, there is not a lot of separation between the top eight teams in the country and the next 30 teams. Louisville has proven to lay some eggs in the past this season with losses against NIT teams UNLV and Notre Dame as well as NCAA Tournament teams Minnesota and Western Kentucky.
Siena cannot rely on the three to win this ballgame, they shot 24 threes in the win over Ohio State, but they will need to convert better than 6 of 24 if they get forced into a zone again and have to settle for threes. Siena played a lot better on offense in the 2nd half and overtime periods when they were able to flash at the middle and use some hi-lo action to get the ball to Ryan Rossiter and Alex Franklin. It is clear Siena likes to score from the inside out, the more the Saints put the ball in the hands of their big men, the better shape they will be in. So expect more of that if you see more zone from the Cardinals, and expect Clarence Jackson to play more minutes and be unafraid to shoot.
Siena doesn’t have much to lose in this situation. If the Saints can keep this game as close as Morehead State was able to do in the first half, you have to wonder if the pressure of the NCAA Tournament will start to bear on the Cardinals with every free throw.
Siena is 1-0 all time against Louisville with a win in the 1953-54 season.