The top-seeded Louisville Cardinals and eighth-seeded Colorado State Rams will meet up in third-round action of the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional at Rupp Arena on Saturday.
Rick Pitino's Cardinals came into this event after winning the Big East Tournament and as a result of their strong finish down the stretch and tournament run, picked up the No. 1 overall seed. The Cardinals proved themselves worthy of that with a 79-48 rout of North Carolina A&T in second- round action on Thursday. With the win, Louisville moved to 30-5 on the season, marking the seventh campaign in school history with 30 or more victories.
First-year coach Larry Eustachy has certainly made the most of his time in Fort Collins, as Colorado State continues to set the bar higher and higher with each victory. After disposing of a good Missouri team in second-round action on Thursday, 84-72, CSU has now tallied 26 wins on the year, three more than the previous school record.
The winner of this match will move into the Sweet 16 and take on either Oregon or Saint Louis in the regional semifinals.
Dorian Green erupted for 26 points, 17 of which came in the first half, as the Rams took out the Missouri Tigers to advance to the third round of this event. Green, who connected on 6-of-13 from the floor and 11-of-12 from the free- throw line, received plenty of offensive help, as both Greg Smith and Jon Octeus added 12 points to the cause, while Wes Eikmeier finished with 11. Colton Iverson only posted four points, but played a huge role on the boards, grabbing 13 rebounds.
A 6-foot-10 senior, Iverson has dominated for the most part this season, averaging a near double-double with team-highs of 14.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Green is both a scorer (13.2 ppg) and a facilitator (3.8 apg). Eikmeier (12.7 ppg) and Smith (11.1 ppg) add scoring depth to a team that is netting a healthy 73.4 ppg on the year. Thanks to Iverson's production on the glass, Colorado State is the top team in the nation in rebounding margin (+12.4).
The Cardinals came into the tournament red hot and certainly didn't cool off against the Aggies in the second round, as they rolled to a 31-point victory. Louisville's pressure defense was too much for NC A&T to contend with, as Pitino's squad forced 27 turnovers and set a team tournament record with 20 steals. At the offensive end, Russ Smith led the charge, going 10-of-16 from the floor and finishing with a game-high 23 points. Wayne Blackshear joined Smith in double figures with 12 points, as Louisville shot a season-high 57.4 percent from the floor overall.
Strong defense has been the norm for Louisville this season, as the team is allowing just 57.7 ppg, with foes shooting a mere .389 from the floor. In addition, the Cardinals are recording 11.0 steals per game and forcing just under 19 turnovers per outing (18.9). Despite a defense-first mentality, Louisville has a prolific scoring threat in Smith, who is netting 18.2 ppg. Balance comes in the low post in the form of 6-foot-11 junior Gorgui Dieng (10.0 ppg. 9.8 rpg). Point guard Peyton Siva (9.9 ppg) is just under double digits in the scoring column, but is a terrific distributor, doling out 5.9 assists per outing.