The long week before the final four is finally almost over; the game between Louisville and Wichita State will commence the final four tomorrow night at 6:09. This should be an incredibly entertaining and hard-fought game. Here are three things that I will be watching closely over the course of the contest:
1. How well will Louisville get to the line?
In the NCAAs, and against Duke in particular, the Cardinals have made a living at the free throw line. In their elite eight matchup with Duke, the Cards shot 36 freebies (Smith had 12). The result was twofold; Louisville wound up scoring 25 points at the line and Duke had two players foul out (Tyler Thornton and Rasheed Sulaimon) in addition to Ryan Kelly and Quinn Cook getting into foul trouble. Wichita State is a deep team but is not deep enough to get into foul trouble and still have a chance at beating a team the caliber of Louisville. I suspect that Russ Smith will continue to attack the basket aggressively (he has attempted ten or more free throws in ‘Ville’s last three games) and Louisville will try to get to the charity stripe early and often.
2. Will Malcolm Armstead play like a star?
Malcolm Armstead, a former Oregon Duck, has been huge for Wichita State during their NCAA tournament run. Armstead has been delivering in every statistical category. He has gotten three or more assists and three or more rebounds in every game while averaging almost 16 points per game. Armstead will need to continue his tear for Wichita State to pull an upset.
3. Who will win the battle on the boards?
Louisville and Wichita State are both excellent rebounding teams, but they get their rebounds in different ways. Louisville relies heavily on big men Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan. Wichita State, however, which is not a huge team, relies more on team rebounding. Guards such as Armstead and Tekele Cotton play big parts in getting boards as do bigger fellas such as Cleanthony Early (great name!) and Carl Hall for Wichita State. It will be interesting to see if either team can get an advantage in the rebound category in this game.