The NCAA Tournament West Regional will close out its trip to Phoenix with a very intriguing match up on Saturday between the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals and the Florida Gators, a seven seed. The Elite Eight contest is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. PT / 4:30 p.m. ET with the TV broadcast on CBS.
There's an obvious and much discussed connection between these two teams with Florida coach Billy Donovan who played for Louisville coach Rick Pitino in Providence. Together, they reached the Final Four in 1987.
Both coaches insist that while they have tremendous love and respect for each other, this game is about their current teams and not their past relationship. Needless to say, both want to win and neither would expect anything less from the other.
"Not at all," Rick Pitino said when asked if he dreads having to play against one of his many coaching proteges. "It's the opposite for me because if we were playing school X tomorrow and we lost, I'd be devastated not going to a Final Four. I'll be professionally very down about not going to a Final Four, but personally I'll be very happy for Billy Donovan."
On the court, the Cardinals and Gators present an interesting match up.
Louisville is known for their pressure defense but with point guard Peyton Silva are dangerous offensively as well.
Florida is known for being the best three-point shooting team in the nation this year, but they are proud of the emphasis and effectiveness of their defense and have relied on getting stops through three tournament games where they shot well below their norm from range.
Louisville players insist that they aren't worried about Florida's ability to spread the floor. They feel like they've played against that style enough that they can handle the Gators.
Chris Smith, younger brother of Knicks guard J.R. Smith explained, "We're going to pretty much extend our zone so that we don't give them long shots. We just want to try to keep the ball from being driving into Gorgui (Dieng) so we can keep him out of foul trouble."
On the other side, the Gators want to involve Dieng in a lot of ball screen situations away from the rim to try and wear him down which might make him lose discipline and commit fouls.
"With shot blockers, you can't shy away from them, you have to go at them. Maybe we can get him in some foul trouble or just finish over him by going into his body," Gator forward Erik Murphy said.
Dieng, a sophomore, is the second-best NBA prospect in this game. He said he intends to finish his time at Louisville and graduate so we won't see him on the big stage for a few more years.
Bradley Beal, a freshman shooting guard from Florida listed at 6-3 but according to him is closer to 6-5 after a recent growth spurt, is slated to go in the top 10 of the 2012 NBA Draft should he decide to leave school.
Beal was dazzling in Florida's win over Marquette in the Sweet 16. If he can break down his defender and drive against the extended pressure zone from Gators, Florida should be able to win this game.
"We had to just keep making smart decisions in the back‑court and just try to fight off their pressure. We know Louisville is a pretty good pressing team," Beal said about the Cardinals full court press.