Northern Kentucky Norse (22-9 SU, 16-11-1 ATS, 11-17 O/U) vs. Louisville Cardinals (20-13 SU, 16-14-1 ATS, 17-12-2 O/U)
NCAAB: Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. EST
The Louisville Cardinals’ season will continue in unceremonious fashion when they entertain the Northern Kentucky Norse at the KFC Yum! Center during NIT first-round action on Tuesday night. Louisville saw its NCAA Tournament bubble burst on Selection Sunday. The Norse had their hopes expire when they were upset right away in the Horizon League Tournament.
Where’s the motivation?
The NIT is a tournament that neither the Cardinals nor the Norse wanted to find themselves in. Northern Kentucky. won the Horizon League regular-season title before being upset by Cleveland State in the opening round of the league tournament. NKU now makes its first NIT appearance and plays Louisville for the first time in school history. It is the first team to win a league regular-season title, a conference tournament title, and play in both the NCAA Tournament and the NIT in its first two seasons of eligibility at the Division I level. Northern Kentucky faces an in-state program in the postseason for the second straight year, after losing to Kentucky 79-70 in the first round of last season’s NCAA Tournament.
Forward Drew McDonald has recorded 15 double-doubles in his past 21 games, while the all-conference honoree leads the Norse in scoring (16.9 ppg) and rebounding (9.5 rpg). Forward Carson Williams is shooting 61 percent from the field in averaging 12.3 points, helping Northern Kentucky rank 17th nationally in two-point field-goal percentage (56.6 percent). Tyler Sharpe, the Norse’s fourth-leading scorer at 6.8 points per game, is a former Louisville walk-on.
Reluctantly NIT bound
One of the most difficult seasons in Louisville’s history continues Tuesday when the Cardinals host Northern Kentucky in the opening round of the NIT, an event in which the players did not want to participate according to published reports Monday. School administrators accepted the bid Sunday after Louisville was left out of the NCAA Tournament, but the Cardinals players reportedly had voted against an NIT trip before the ACC Tournament–where they lost to eventual champion Virginia in the quarterfinals. Interim coach David Padgett, who took the job when the school fired Rick Pitino in the wake of an FBI pay-for-play investigation just before the season, believed his team was worthy of an NCAA bid despite losing five of its last seven games.
“Without a doubt, if you look at our overall body of work, we haven’t done anything wrong,” Padgett said following last Thursday’s 75-58 defeat at the hands of the ‘Hoos.
Guard/forward Deng Adel leads the Cardinals in scoring at 15.4 points per game, reaching double-figures in 24 consecutive games. Forward Ray Spalding finished sixth in the ACC in rebounding per game (8.6 rpg) and needs 25 points to reach 800 for his career. Louisville is fourth in the nation in blocked shots at 6.2 per game, led by 7’0” forward Anas Mahmoud and his three rejections per contest. The Cardinals ranked sixth in the ACC in three-point shooting at 37 percent.
The Northern Kentucky Norse are:
- 14-6-1 ATS in their last 21 road games
- 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 road games against teams with home winning percentages over .600
- 14-3 ATS in their last 17 non-conference games
The Louisville Cardinals are:
- 4-9 ATS in their last 13 non-conference games
- 2-6 ATS in their last eight home games against teams with winning road records
- 2-5 ATS in their last seven home games against teams with road winning percentages over .600
In a game that Louisville does not really want to play, seven points should be enough for the NKU to cover. The Norse are 14-3 ATS in their last 17 non-conference contests, 14-6-1 ATS in their last 21 on the road, and 10-4-1 ATS in their 15 on the road against opponents with home winning percentages over .600. Louisville is 4-9 ATS in its last 13 non-conference contests, 2-6 ATS in its last eight at home against opponents with winning road records, and 2-5 ATS in its last seven at home against opponents with road winning percentages over .600. Look for those trends to continue.