Midwest Region: No. 1 Louisville (30-5) vs. No. 12 Arizona (21-13)
When: Friday, 7:07 p.m., EDT
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
1) Introducing T-Will Terrence Williams, better known as T-Will, is as exciting and athletic as any player entering the dance. He is Mr. Everything for this Cardinal team, whether it be due to his court leadership, quirky demeanor that keeps the team loose or scissor-kick windmill dunks that rile up the crowd and leave the opposition in amazement. The man is a triple-double waiting to happen (he holds two of the programs three all-time). In the Big East title game, he put up a ridiculous 11 points, 7 boards, 7 steals and 6 assists. A mid-season tweak of his shooting motion has turned a once poor stroke into a deadly weapon. T-Will is among the most complete players in the land and the Cards would be nothing without his leadership. It is very comparable to how David Padgett led the squad last year, but better in many ways. Some in Louisville think he was spited on postseason honors, but the man is not looking for high fives and handshakes from the media through awards and accolades. He's looking to finish off his senior year with a national title.
2) Defense Win Championships An overused cliche, but a perfect fit for Rick Pitino's team. Obviously making shots are a necessity in basketball, but when the Cards are hitting it allows them to throw on the most vicious, in-your-grill press in college hoops. Guards Andre McGee, Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles make life living hell for opposing guards causing frequent turnovers. They are like wild dogs—the kind Mike Vick would lay the heavy bread on. Pitino says getting 35 deflections on defense will get you the win 9/10 times. The turnovers caused by the ferocious press get the Cards easy buckets and harm the opposition's morale. The Cards have been known to go on 15-0 or 23-2 runs based solely off their press which completely cripple their opponents. If the Cards' shots are falling and the patented Pitino press is engaged the Cards will be extremely tough to beat.
The Mystery of Earl Clark Earl "E5" Clark might be the most talented player to come through Louisville in the last 25 years. How he uses that talent is a different story. Recently Clark has had a monster games and is a double-double machine. However, Earl has been known to make horrendous decisions at the most inopportune times (ie: walking, lazy passes). This is something that has to concern Pitino moving forward. Clark turned it up for the tourney last year by eating Blake Griffin's breakfast lunch and dinner then taking his girlfriend out for a steak dinner and never calling her back in the second round. That is the E5 that needs to show up for Louisville. When Clark is ready to play that way, he gets this Bruce Banner-like look in his eye and just starts grabbing board after board and dunking on people's heads. Yet you really never know when that's going to happen. His draft stock is at stake and so are the title hopes of the Fightin' Cardinals, so for the Cards' sake let's hope the good E5 shows up. — Rob Jones (The L Yes! Report)
[Ed: We didn't get a new capsule for Louisville and I'm too tired to write one. Sorry.]
1) Defense? Defense! Arizona exclusively plays a 1-1-3 zone. If you like shooting wide open threes, this defense should not scare you. Entering the tournament, Arizona's opponents shot 35.5% from behind the arc, resulting in the 244th best 3-pt defense in the country. But in their two tourney wins, opponents Utah and Cleveland State shot just a combined 11-55 from three-land. If a team is patient against the Cats, they'll always be able to get an open look (especially on the baseline).
2) The Little Engine That Could Point guard Nic Wise is a microcosm of Arizona's season ... both amazing and frustrating, often at the same time. Wise has an uncanny knack for getting the ball to the rim. But he also plays with reckless abandon, knowing there isn't anyone on the bench to replace him. Plus, this is his seventh coach in the last seven seasons. Wise had a different coach every year in high school and three new ones in college. Next year in Tucson will make it eight for eight.
3) Coach Like Every Game Is Your Last This is particularly true for Russ Pennell. Even a Steve Fisher-esque run to the Final Four won't earn him the full-time job next season. But just being in the tournament made it a successful season for the Wildcats, and probably opened the door for a head coaching job at a smaller school for Pennell. For ‘Zona fans, being able to watch at least one more game helps kill the time until they find out who's really taking over for Midnight Lute. — Brad Burnes