The college basketball season is sadly coming to an end. There are just three games left in the NCAA tournament, so to finish things off with a bang, I will provide profiles of every player on all four teams prior to tip off on Saturday. If you’d like to schedule your readings, I will write about Louisville today, Kentucky tomorrow, Kansas on Friday, and Ohio State on Saturday.
Of the four teams in the Final Four, Louisville is the most surprising and least helpful to Jousters. They rely on defense to win and do not have a go-to scorer. Like Connecticut last year, the Cardinals stormed through the Big East tournament (winning four games rather than the Huskies’ five). Three of their four wins in the NCAA tournament have been by seven points of fewer. On Saturday, they had a sweet comeback against Florida to put themselves into the Final Four. On the salary chart, Kentucky has the top six players in this game, but there will be significant values on the Cardinals.
The freshman has capped his first season in Louisville by scoring double digits in all four tournament wins, including 17 points in the win over the Gators. He has the type of power game that could cause some problems for Kentucky and has grabbed 3.5 offensive rebounds in the Big Dance. Louisville’s frontline pales in comparison to to Kentucky, but Behanan could do damage and is a significant value. He also fouled out after 15 minutes against the Wildcats on New Year’s Eve with just four points.
Smith was the catalyst for the Cardinals’ comeback against Florida. He scored 19 points and took on the lead offensive role. Throughout his sophomore season, Smith showed signs of being the Cardinals’ best offensive player. The highlight of the season was the 30 points he put on Kentucky in their game in Lexington. The six-footer has the type of quickness that can cause problems for the bigger Wildcat guards (although they had little problem with Pierre Jackson last weekend). Look for the Kentucky defense to focus on Smith, but expect him to outperform his contract anyway.
The senior swingman is the Cardinals’ leading scorer at 12.7 points. Despite playing heavy minutes in the Big Dance, he has done relatively little offensively. Through four games, Kuric has provided 9.5 points and single-digit scoring in his last two games. Over his career, Kuric has made 38.9% of his threes, but he only converted 32.8% as a senior and is just 5-for-21 (23.8%) in the last four games. He certainly is not very expensive, but you likely won’t get a huge return on your investment.
The value that the six-foot junior provides is generally not rewarded on Joust. He is a passer and ace ball hawk who scores occasionally. Siva has not scored more than nine points in his last three games. He did have 17 points in the NCAA tournament opener against Davidson to cap a run of five straight double-digit performances. The point guard was just 2-for-13 from the field against Kentucky in the earlier game and finished with eight points. Siva is a mild stay away.
The Cardinals’ other Smith is a senior who transferred from Manhattan two years ago. Unlike Russ, Chris has started all but two games and does the majority of his scoring from the perimeter. The 6-foot-2 guard has taken more than half of his shots from three-point range and hit 39.8% of them. During the tournament, he has converted 42.8% of his threes (6-for-14) and averaged 7.8 points. He had seven points on 2-for-10 shooting against Kentucky on New Year’s Eve.
Like many of the Cardinals, Dieng is not geared for offense. The 6-foot-11 sophomore mainly provides rebounding and shot blocking. That isn’t to say that he can’t put the ball in the hoop when given the opportunity. Dieng did score in double digits in 16 games this season, but has only topped ten points once in his last ten games. Other than his six blocks in the game against Kentucky, Dieng did little. He had five points and accrued four fouls. Kentucky does give up offensive rebounds, so Dieng could be the player in the right place to pick up some easy baskets.
And now we get to the reserves on the Cardinal bench. Nunez is a freshman forward who has not played in the month of March. His salary is not the minimum $40,000 because in one of his last five games played, he put in a pair of three-pointers in five minutes against Connecticut way back on Feb. 6. Nunez won’t see any playing time and there is no reason to add him to your lineup.
Unlike Nunez, Swopshire is in the rotation and gets playing time when Behanan and Dieng get into foul trouble. He scored in double figures twice this season, but both games were in November. In his last three games, he has played a combined 26 minutes and provided eight points. Swopshire played 17 minutes against Kentucky on New Year’s Even and had four points. That’s his ceiling.
Van Treese missed all but three games this season with a left knee injury. He lasted played on Nov. 25.
Henderson is a 6-foot-2 walk-on guard who has not played in a game since Feb. 6. Moving on…
The 6-foot-5 freshman was one of Rick Pitino’s top recruits. He did not play until Feb. 11 because of a shoulder injury. Blackshear played 20 minutes in his debut against West Virginia and scored 13 points. He only played more than ten minutes in one other game. He is unlikely to see double digit minutes again against Kentucky, but if things broke right (foul trouble for the rotation players), Blackshear could be a major bargain.
The third string point guard received some playing time when Siva was injured. His court time has gone to Russ Smith of late and Justice has only played 16 minutes since Feb. 18.
Price is a freshman center who gets into games one minute at a time. He has only played more than eight minutes twice this season and only scored more than two points once.
Ware is another freshman who was highly touted, but does not receive much playing time. He played four minutes against the Gators after not leaving the bench in his previous five games.