A closer look at the round-of-32 matchup
Louisville reached the East Region quarterfinals with a 57-55 win over No. 13 seed UC Irvine. The Cardinals have reached the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 some 21 times and would set a program record if they reached a fourth consecutive Sweet 16. Northern Iowa, which became a Division I program in 1980, has made one Sweet 16 trip, in 2010. UNI starting guard Matt Bohannon dislocated his left index finger in Friday’s 71-54 win over Wyoming. The 6-foot-4 junior was scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery. He practiced Saturday and is questionable. Northern Iowa is a 2½-point favorite.
Both teams are defensive-oriented. Northern Iowa is the fourth-best scoring defense in the nation, yielding 54.3 points per game. Louisville allows opponents an average of 59.4 points and ranks 22nd nationally. The Cardinals are a little more aggressive defensively. They employ trapping, full-court pressure and average 8.2 steals, which ranks 16th in the country. On Friday, Northern Iowa had nine players tally at least 16 minutes while four of Louisville’s starters clocked at least 37 minutes. Sunday’s key battle features UNI 6-8 senior forward Seth Tuttle, the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, against Louisville’s 6-8 junior forward Montrezl Harrell, whom many consider a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Tuttle leads Northern Iowa in scoring (15.3), rebounds (6.9), assists (3.3) and blocks (0.6) while shooting 60.5 percent from the field. Harrell averages 15.5 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds.
Under coach Rick Pitino, who is coaching in his 20th NCAA tournament, Louisville is 6-2 in the round of 32. He has a 51-17 Big Dance record, including seven Final Four appearances and two national titles (1996, 2013). Ben Jacobson is in his ninth season as head coac at NIU. Jacobson is 3-2 in the NCAA tournament.
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 5 N. Iowa
6:40 p.m. at KeyArena
Records: Louisville (25-8), Northern Iowa (31-3)
Louisville is 2-2 in the previous four games and admittedly the Cardinals aren’t playing their best basketball. Northern Iowa is riding a four-game winning streak. If the Panthers can handle Louisville’s pressure defense, make a few perimeter shots and limit Harrell, then they should advance. UNI, 72-65.
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