Saturday, March 30, 2013
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Gwinnett Daily Post
Louisville is the final No. 1 seed remaining in the NCAA Tournament and looked unbeatable behind Russ Smith in the first three games. Making the Final Four is never easy, however, and the Cardinals will need to get through No. 2 seed Duke in the Midwest Regional Final today. The Blue Devils have not had much trouble in their trip to the Elite Eight, either, and like Louisville have plenty of experience going deep in the Tournament.
The Cardinals have won 13 straight games going back to the regular season and have lived up to the hype as the No. 1 overall seed thanks in part to a total of 81 points in three NCAA Tournament games by Smith. Duke can match Smith and Louisville shot for shot with Seth Curry, who went for 29 points in the Sweet 16 victory over Michigan State and is 10-for-20 from 3-point range in the Tournament. After being bounced by a No. 15 seed last season, the Blue Devils are trying to make their first Final Four appearance since winning the National Championship in 2010.
Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski has not faced Louisville coach Rick Pitino in the NCAA Tournament since Christian Laettner's historic shot against Kentucky in the 1992 Elite Eight ended one of the greatest college basketball games ever. Krzyzewski's 2012-13 team is not quite the same, but it does have a plethora of scoring options. Curry was just the latest to take over for Duke after sharing the scoring load with Mason Plumlee in the opening game of the Tournament and letting freshman Rasheed Sulaimon take over in the third-round victory over Creighton. Sulaimon attacking the paint helped open things up for Curry to hit six 3-pointers in the 71-61 victory over the Spartans on Friday. All five starters scored at least 14 points the last time the Blue Devils faced the Cardinals, with Plumlee's 16 points leading the way in a 76-71 victory in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Nov. 24.
The Cardinals were without center Gorgui Dieng in the November meeting with Duke, but Peyton Siva collected 19 points and six steals and Smith scored 17 to keep things close. Dieng is shooting 87.5 percent in the Tournament and should make things more difficult for Plumlee this time around. Louisville has won its 13 straight games by an average of 17.3 points but was sluggish in the Sweet 16 win over Oregon because of a cold virus making its way through the squad. Smith had the worst of it Friday but still managed 31 points in the 77-69 victory. Siva spent most of the game in foul trouble but backup point guard Kevin Ware went 5-for-7 off the bench in his place. The Cardinals are largely the same team that reached the Final Four last season, though Smith has taken on a greater role.