Louisville Cardinals: 19-12, 9-9 in the ACC
Head coach: David Padgett (1st season)
Players to watch: Deng Adel (15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG); Quentin Snider (12.2 PPG, 4.0 APG, 41.3 3PT%); Ray Spalding (12.0 PPG, 8.8 RPG)
Season recap: Little has gone right for the Cardinals in a year that started with the dismissal of Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino and included the removal of the program’s 2013 championship banner. Although Louisville has remained an elite defensive team, the Cardinals have struggled to score late in games. Six of the team’s 12 losses came by five points or fewer, highlighted by an excruciating 67-66 loss to No. 1 Virginia.
Point guard Quentin Snider runs the show for Louisville and gives the team a heady ball-handler with the ability to control the pace of the game. The duo of Deng Adel and Ray Spalding on the wings also provides the team with versatility on both ends of the floor. Despite struggling from beyond the arc, Adel was the team’s leading scorer in the regular season and serves as one of the Cardinals’ go-to options late in games. 7-footer Anas Mahmoud serves as an intimidating presence down low on defense, but struggled to make the strides many Louisville fans hoped for on the other end of the floor.
After starting conference play 6-2, the Cardinals enter the ACC tournament on a sour note with losses in four of their last five games. Louisville will be the No. 8 seed and take on Florida State Wednesday with a chance to likely clinch an NCAA tournament bid if they can knock off the Seminoles.
How they make a run: The experience of Snider and Deng pushes the Cardinals through their first-round matchup and Louisville’s pressure defense forces enough turnovers to spring an upset or two in Brooklyn.