New Mexico (28-6) vs. Louisville (27-9)
Saturday, March 17, 9:40 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rose Garden (19,980) -- Portland, Oregon. Television: TBS. NCAA Tournament Record: New Mexico 8-13, Louisville 61-39. Series Record: Louisville leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: Fifth among active coaches in career victories in the NCAA Tournament, Louisville's Rick Pitino tries to get the Cardinals to the Sweet 16 for the 18th time as the program clashes with New Mexico in the third round of the West Regional at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon tonight.
Pitino, who is 39-15 during his career in the NCAA Tournament, moved to 13-3 in initial games thanks to a 69-62 triumph over Davidson in the second round on Thursday. Since 1975 only four programs have made it to the round of 16 more often than Louisville, the fourth seed in the region this year, those teams being UNC, Kentucky, Duke and Kansas.
As for the Lobos, a fifth seed, they have never been to the Sweet 16 in the modern format of the tourney, but they have a shot at that goal thanks to a 75-68 win over Long Beach State in the second round two days ago. The good news for head coach Steve Alford and his Lobos is that they have already faced off against six ranked teams this season and are 4-2, winning the last four such outings, with Louisville set to become the seventh ranked foe in 2011-12.
In terms of experience in the NCAA Tournament, the Lobos first showed up in 1968 with a win over Santa Clara in Albuquerque, but since that triumph the program has won just seven of 20 opportunities.
The Cardinals are in the tournament for the sixth straight year and the ninth time in the last 11 campaigns. Only four other teams (Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA and Kansas) have more tournament experience. Producing a record of 61-39 overall in the event, Louisville owns a pair of national titles from 1980 and 1986.
With respect to an all-time series between these two teams, the Cardinals have taken both of the previous encounters, the most recent coming in 1997 during the second round of the NCAA Tournament's East Regional in Pittsburgh. That meeting was a slim 64-63 triumph for Louisville, eight years after is destroyed the Lobos in the first contest, 78-49 at Freedom Hall.
The winner of this meeting will take on the survivor of the Saint Louis/Michigan State matchup in the next round in Arizona.
In a game that saw eight ties and nine lead changes, the Lobos had their hands full against Long Beach State a couple days ago but managed to pull out the win thanks in part to an 18-8 scoring edge at the free-throw line. Drew Gordon led four players in double figures with 18 points, converting 7-of-10 shots from the floor while also pulling down 13 rebounds, followed by Kendall Williams with 16 points and five of the unit's 19 assists. Hugh Greenwood accounted for 12 points and Demetrius Walker another 11 off the bench, even though he shot just 2-of-7 from the field. Gordon, who was in the running for Mountain West Conference Player of the Year honors, is still averaging a double-double after all this time with his 13.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per contest, adding 38 steals and 35 blocked shots to his stat line as well. Williams checks in with 12.1 ppg and a team-best 137 assists to keep teammates like Tony Snell (10.7 ppg) productive.
In terms of shooting the ball, it was a tail of two halves for the Cardinals against Davidson in the first game of the tournament as Louisville when from shooting 51.9 percent from the floor through the first 20 minutes to connecting on a mere 7-of-25 (.280) after the break. The same went for the team at the free-throw line, although in reverse as the Cardinals connected on just 4-of-7 at the stripe in the first period and 22-of-29 in the second in order to secure the seven-point win. Before fouling out, Peyton Siva tallied 17 points and six of his team's eight assists, while Chane Behanan recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards and Kyle Kuric 13 points for a squad that made just a single three-pointer on five attempts. The defense for the Cardinals has been ramping up the pressure this season, limiting 21 of 36 opponents to 60 points or less, the 62 points tallied by Davidson being the team's second-lowest effort of the year. Foes have shot just 37.9 percent from the floor and 30.5 percent behind the three-point line, while Kuric and Russ Smith boost the offense with 13.1 and 11.2 ppg, respectively.
With major upsets being the order of the day on Friday, neither one of these teams can take the either lightly. The problem with the Cardinals is they tend to rely too much on Siva and he can be unpredictable when unleashed, so this might be where the road ends for Louisville.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Mexico 68, Louisville 63
03/17 10:34:45 ET