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Saturday, February 2, 2019

A Collision Course with a National Title? -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

A Look Ahead for the Cards

Thursday night Louisville surpassed one of the two remaining hurdles that Jeff Walz has faced at Louisville. UConn was unbeatable for years to everyone in the country; they were unbeatable to the Cards for decades. After finally claiming victory over Geno and the Huskies, Asia Durr wasted no time at all telling us what that second hurdle was: a national championship. Excited as she was after dropping 24 on the Goliath of women's college basketball, Durr was quick to note that the game wasn't the championship, it's only January.

So could this be the year? Could Louisville finally get over the hump and be the last team standing in March Madness? It would certainly appear that WBB this season is set up for it. The top 6 teams, the usual suspects if you will, have been cannibalizing each other a bit more than normal. Baylor beat UConn who beat Notre Dame who beat Louisville who beat UConn. Baylor lost to Stanford who has stumbled twice and Mississippi State lost to Oregon who fell at Michigan State earlier this season. The only undefeated team remaining is North Carolina State, who has yet to play Louisville or Notre Dame. The Cards get the Wolfpack at the end of this month on Senior Night in the Yum! Center. Women's college basketball is more wide open this season than it has been since I can remember. 

The Cards currently sit at third in the polls, though they'll certainly move up to at least second, as long as they can take care of business on the road at Clemson this afternoon (can you say 'potential letdown game'?). We know they've looked dominant at times, but how good has Louisville really stacked up statistically (for the record, they earned a C-A-_-e in the CASE Report for Thursday night's game)? A quick look at how the Cards rank nationally in the categories Paulie and I rank for games would give a good view of Louisville's chances this season.

As long as they can take care of business on the road at Clemson this afternoon (can you say 'potential letdown game'?). We know they've looked dominant at times, but how good has Louisville really stacked up statistically (for the record, they earned a

The Cards rank 40th overall in free throw percentage. They're 8th among power five teams and, of the current upper echelon, only Oregon shoots better (by 2.9%). The Cards are tied for 82nd in free throw attempts, so they're also getting to the line effectively, and taking advantage of those chances. Free throws are huge in March. Rebounding could be something that gets Louisville in trouble. Jeff Walz squad ranks only 132nd in rebounding margin, at 2.2 per game.

While the numbers for second chance points aren't readily available, the two are directly related, so you'd like to see Louisville get more consistent down low. It nearly bit them against the Huskies and could do so later. Effort isn't really rankable, so let's look at defense. The Cards are 65th in FGd, allowing only 37% per game and are 75th in scoring defense, holding opponents just under 60 points per game. Louisville is just outside the top 50 in turnovers forced, with their opponents coughing it up 19.15 times per game (good for 54th). Keep in mind that Louisville has these defensive numbers after having already played two top 5 matchups this season.

Angel not the only Card to successfully contain Geno
So Louisville is at least in the top half of all our stats so far, while well inside the top 100 in all but rebounds. Things are looking good. The best teams don't just look good, numbers back them up. So now let's look at a few more. The Cards are 47th in the country, with only 13.8 turnovers per game. That margin puts Louisville in 17th in the country in TO margin. Like rebounding, turnover margin can relate directly to points differentials.

Of the top teams we've discussed, only Mississippi State is ahead of Louisville in this stat. The Cards are currently 30th in the country in assists per game, behind Baylor, Oregon, ND, and UConn, and they are 23rd in ATO Ratio. You guys like to give me flak for my stringent ATO requirements, but the top teams pass the ball well and don't turn it over. Louisville is 23rd with 1.21 assists per turnover. Top 3 in the category are Oregon, Baylor, and UConn with 1.81, 1.72, and 1.66, respectively. When your passes lead to points for your team instead of the other team, you win games. Louisville's ATO is near the top, but it could clearly be better.

The only defensive stat I left out earlier was steals. The Cards rank tied for 75th (with MSST) in steals per game with 9.4. Admittedly, most of the teams ahead in this category are from non-power 5 conferences. Louisville's defense has been strong, but it would be nice to see them snag more steals from the better offensive teams (only 2 against UConn).

Finally, Louisville's bread and butter this season, offensive efficiency. Here is where the Cards, while spectacular, don't have an edge over the other top teams. The current top 6 teams all rank in the top 10 in field goal percentage, with Louisville ranking tied for 9th. The difference between Oregon at 2 and Louisville at 9 is only 3.4%. The Cards do rank ahead of all but Oregon (of the top teams) in 3FG%. Louisville is 16th with 37.9%, 4.1% behind Oregon, who is again in the two spot. 

What does this all mean? All I've done is throw numbers out. They seem abstract in a vacuum, but when applied to the context of what kind of teams make the tournament, and what kind of teams can make a deep run, Louisville is in a very good position. As could be expected, the Cards saw the same teams around them in most statistical categories.

The difference I noticed in checking out these stats, though, is balance. Sure, all of the top teams in women's basketball are good at offense; that's generally how it works. Louisville stands out, though, because they also have a very powerful defense. Many defensive teams score points because their defense turns to offense. Louisville has this ability as well, but they can also run a half court offense. Louisville has shown themselves to be both extremely dangerous and pretty dang consistent. If the Cards can get to March continuing to play this way, stay healthy, and put together 6 straight good games, this may finally be the year that Walz and Co break through. Wouldn't it be exciting to win the two biggest games in program history in the same year?

The run continues today at 2 P.M.. Clemson. The Cards can't afford to look past anyone, not now that their two "big" games (ND and UConn) are behind them. There is still an undefeated (though potentially untested) team in their path, and the ACC can be dangerous if you let your guard down (just ask the Irish). Beating UConn not only gives the Cards confidence, but it also makes the target on their back even larger. Teams already want to beat a top 5 Louisville team, but a top 5 Louisville team with a win over the Huskies? That's a trophy hunt. The Cards will see if they can maintain their strong performances in Littlejohn Coliseum against the Clemson Tigers at 2 on the ACCNetwork Extra.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour

Jeff is off gallivanting around on the other side of the world, but that doesn't mean we can't still fill, the WCHQ App, and on Facebook Live.
the studio.

I'm back this week to join Paulie, Jared, and Daryl, as Monk steps in to take back over the controls. I'll give you three guesses to figure out what we'll talk about this week. If it takes you more than one, we're going to have to ask you to stay after class and clean the erasers. Tune in at 11AM to WCHQ FM at 100.9 FM in the Louisville area. The show is also available at 

Until next time, Go Cards!


  1. Great analysis. It takes a lot of time to put together the comparisons so thanks for the effort.
    I do believe that our rebounding has improved tremendously in the last 3 games or so as we are finally out rebounding the recent teams we have played.

  2. Should have beat UConn last year, and went on to win the title.
    The only variable is time.
    This could very well be the year.

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