03/17/2012 03:25 pm ET

Louisville, New Mexico Face Off In NCAA Tournament Third Round

By Greg Mengelt, CollegeHoops.Net

(4) Louisville vs. (5) New Mexico: West Region

Louisville 27-9, 10-8 Big East (Conference Tournament Champions)
New Mexico 28-6, 10-4 MWC (Regular-season and conference tournament champions)

Time: 9:40 p.m. Saturday


Location: The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M.

First round results
Louisville def. Davidson 69-62
New Mexico def. Long Beach State 75-68

Winner will face: (1) Michigan State, (8) Memphis, (9) Saint Louis or (16) Long Island, Thursday in Phoenix

Louisville No. 17 AP; No. 18 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
New Mexico No. 21 AP; No. 22 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll

RPI Ratings
Louisville 10
New Mexico 29

Line: Louisville -2 (O/U 128)

Players to Watch

Louisville: G Peyton Siva, 6-0 Jr. (9.1 ppg, 5.5 apg, 1.8 spg); C Gorgui Dieng, 6-11 So. (9.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.2 bpg); F Chane Behanan, 6-6 Fr. (9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 49.4% FG). Siva’s one of the best points guards in the country when he’s not scoring. When he puts up 17 points, like he did in the win over Davidson, U of L is one of the best teams in the country. He made seven of his 12 shots and had six assists and a pair of steals Thursday’s triumph.

New Mexico: F Drew Gordon, 6-9 Sr. (13.4, 10.9 rpg, 53.7% FG); G Kendall Williams, 6-3 So. (12 ppg, 4.1 apg, 1.3 spg); G/F Tony Snell, 6-7 So. (11 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.4 apg).

Why Each Team Dangerous

Louisville: It seems like teams just miss shots against the Cardinals, but at some point, you have to figure Rick Pitino’s and the Cardinals’ gameplan is taking opponents out of their games. Louisville held hot-shooting Davidson to 21-of-60 overall and 4-of-19 from the 3-point line Thursday. It’s the third straight games and the fourth time in their last five that the Cardinals have held their opponents under 40 percent. For the season, opponents manage to shoot 37.9 percent from the floor and 30.5 from deep. They also average nine steals per game, which is seventh-best in the country.

New Mexico: The Lobos are on fire. They have won six straight and 13 of their last five. During the current winning streak, UNM has won by an average of 13.5 points per game. It has shot 46 percent or better from the field in five of its last six games and held opponents to 43 percent or less in five of its last six outings. New Mexico can beat you with its offense or its defense. It shoots 46.3 percent from the field, averages 73.2 points per game and forces 14.3 turnovers per game. The Lobos also out-rebound their opponents by 6.7 per game.

Why Each Team is Vulnerable

Louisville: As good as Louisville’s defense is, its offense is nearly as bad. Even in a 7-point win over the Wildcats, it shot just 21-of-52 from the floor and 1-of-5 from the 3-point line. Louisville has shot better than 40 percent from the floor just once in the last the last nine games and 44 percent or worse in 12 of its last 13 outings. The Cardinals are an average rebounding team with a plus-2 margin for the season, and their 14.5 turnovers per game will be a big concern against the Lobos.

New Mexico: The bottom line is New Mexico had to battle to beat a 12 seed without one of its best players, and the Mountain West Conference, in which the Lobos have compiled those impressive numbers, has not looked good in the tournament. UNM was out-rebounded and gave up 14 offensive boards to Long Beach and the Lobos turned the ball over 14 times. Those numbers have to be concerning heading into a game against Louisville.

The Bottom Line: New Mexico’s big wins over UNLV and San Diego State don’t look so impressive now. I like the way the Lobos are playing, but I’m starting to really believe in Pitino even though his team is nearly unwatchable.

CollegeHoops.Net Pick: Louisville 66, New Mexico 63

Greg Against the Spread This Season: 206-158-6 (Through Thursday, March 16)