Not unfamiliar with each other in NCAA Tournament play, the 13th- seeded Morehead State Eagles and the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals meet today for Southwest Regional second-round action from the Pepsi Center.
Today's game marks the fourth time that Louisville and Morehead State have met in the tourney, with the last meeting coming in the form of a 74-54 Eagles' setback on March 20, 2009, in a first-round matchup. In all, Morehead State has posted a 5-7 NCAA Tournament record in six previous appearances. This season, the Eagles compiled a 24-9 overall record and captured their second Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title in three years. Led by fifth-year coach Donnie Tyndall, Morehead State has posted a school-record three consecutive 20-win seasons.
In 36 previous NCAA Tournament appearances, Louisville has tallied a 60-38 record and taken home two championships (1980, 86). This season, the Cardinals compiled a 25-9 overall record and burned through the daunting Big East Conference Tournament, before suffering a 69-66 loss to Connecticut in the title game.
Louisville has won its last 13 meetings with Morehead State and currently leads the all-time series 31-11.
Understanding the key to Morehead State's success involves taking a close look at senior center Kenneth Faried, who has quietly built a resume comparable to that of the all-time greats. This season, Faried established the NCAA modern- era (post-1973) career rebounding record and enters the tournament with 1,643 career boards, good for 11th on the NCAA career list for all players. He recently earned his second consecutive OVC Player of the Year Award and his third consecutive OVC Defensive Player of the Year Award. His current average of 14.5 rpg leads the nation, while his 17.6 ppg and 2.4 blocks per game led the OVC. Faried is aided by Demonte Harper, who ranks second on the team in scoring (16 ppg) and first in assists (113). Terrance Hill adds 10.4 ppg, as he and Harper have knocked down 57 and 55 three-pointers, respectively. In all, the Eagles score 69.8 ppg. Led by Faried, they post a plus 9.2 rebounding margin and rank 30th in the nation in scoring defense (61.7 ppg).
Louisville relies on an opportunistic defense and potent perimeter attack to survive and thrive in the harsh Big East. The Cardinals, led by Big East Honorable Mention selection Peyton Siva, rank seventh in the nation in steals per game (9.2 spg). Siva, a sophomore guard, ranks second in the Big East at 2 steals per game. He has handed out a team-high 179 assists and is also the team's third leading scorer (10.1 ppg). Preston Knowles, and All-Big East Second Team honoree, leads the offense and the assault from downtown. The senior guard has hit a team-high 97 three-pointers and paces the squad at 14.8 ppg. Kyle Kuric ranks second on the team in three-pointers made (68) and scoring (10.8 ppg), while shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc. In all, Louisville ranks in the top-15 in the country in three-pointers per game (8.8), leading to a 75.4 ppg scoring clip. Defensively, the Cardinals allow 64.6 ppg.
Expect Louisville to earn another win over Morehead State today. Even the superior skills of Faried will not be enough to propel the Eagles past the deeper, battle-hardened Cardinals.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 76, Morehead State 65