Ohio vs. Louisville
Spread: LOU -15.5
Total: Not Released At Time of Issue
Tip off: 7 PM EST
Betting Odds taken from Bookmaker
Last season Ohio finished 19-16 with a 9-7 record in the MAC. They lost 82-73 to East Tennessee State in the CIT quarterfinal round. They had the best in conference offense at 1.09 points per possession, but their defense was below average and ranked 10th in the MAC, allowing 1.05 points per possession. All things considered, it produces a team that is slightly above .500 but rarely a threat to knock off upper tier programs.
D.J. Cooper is probably the second best player in the MAC. He takes a lot of shots, many of them questionable, but he gets his teammates good looks and makes them better. His percent assist rate was 45% last season and he’s also a savvy defender. He forces more turnovers (by far) than he committs, even as a high usage player on offense.
What’s more is that he is off to a blazing start in 2011. Through 3 games, all wins, Cooper has averaged 15.3 points per game, 4.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.0 steals, and a poor 3.0 turnovers. Despite leading the team in scoring, he is shooting a very inefficient 33% from the floor, but that can’t continue forever, can it? Last game, against Arkansas State, Cooper shot 3 of 10 from the floor, but was 0 of 3 from two point range and only hit 4 of 8 free throws, where he shot 74.9% last season and 76.6% as a freshman. All signs point to him continuing to improve, but he’s just going to have to play a lot more efficiently to give this Ohio team their best chance.
Other than Cooper, there are 3 other Bobcats in double figures. Walter Offutt is having the best season of those three. Playing the same amount of minutes as Cooper (32.7), Offutt is putting up nearly as many points at 14.0 per game, not to mention grabbing a team high 7.3 rebounds per game. Like Cooper, he has not been good from the field and is at 40.6% FG on the season. He has been consistent and played almost the entire game in the 85-78 win over Lamar on the 15th. He also has had 9 rebounds in each of the last two games, which speaks to his ability to possibly increase his rebounding average to at least the realm of the 8.0’s.
Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic are the other double digit scorers. Keely, a 6’8″ junior forward, had an impressive opening game against Tennessee Martin, putting up 16 points and going an impresive 7 of 11 from the floor, while also picking up a steal and a block. He’s capable of those kind of well rounded performances and is a pretty good shot blocker, which he proved last season. Thus far through 3 games, he already has 5 blocks. Baltic is a rail thin 214 pound 6’8″ forward as well. He put up 11.4 points per game last season while shooting 53.5% from the floor. He had 9 rebounds in each of the first two Bobcats games but failed to grab a single board in the blowout win over Arkansas State. Thus, his average per game is 6, instead of a more reasonable 9. Baltic will need to add bulk though before he can take the next step as a player, and he is already a junior, so that may be unlikely.
Louisville is now ranked #7 in the nation and they have backed up their hype so far by going 4-0, but they haven’t faced any other ranked teams yet, and have won every game by at least 16 points and as many as 35. Ohio probably won’t be much of a challenge either, for a Cardinals team that went 25-10 last season while losing to Morehead State by a single point in the opening round in March. They had the second best defense in the Big East, allowing only 0.98 points per possession. Rick Pitino, of course, has a lot to do with teams playing superior defense and he has put a top five in the nation defense on the floor four times in his tenure at Louisville.
The problem actually ended up being that they were giving up too many offensive rebounds and not rotating quickly enough to shooters on the perimeter. It was an odd change from how things had been all season, and Morehead State was able to exploit it in the opening round and upset the Cardinals. Of all the power houses in the Big East, only UCONN faired well in March. Louisville was just one of the disappointments.
Turnovers also proved to be a huge problem for the Cardinals, and now that Preston Knowles and Terrence Jennings are gone, things might get worse. Jennings left school early but failed in his endeavor to attract attention from pro teams and for someone who relies so heavily on dunks, 53% FG doesn’t exactly scream “offensive stud.” Despite losing those two players, everyone else is back and they brought in some top tier recruits in their freshman class in Chane Behanen (top 25 recruit) and Wayne Blackshear, who has been compared to the likes of now-Raptor DeMar DeRozan, due to his immense physical gifts and athleticism.
6’0″ junior piont guard Peyton Siva is the key to the Cardinals’ attack. He’s very skilled with the ball, but gets out of control a lot, and has averaged 3.5 turnovers through the first four games. In addition to that, he takes bad shots. He has missed the last two games for Louisville due to a nagging ankle injury. In addition to missing Siva, Mike Marra is out for the season with a knee injury and both Rakeem Buckles and aforementioned Blackshear are out indefinitely with knee injuries, as well.
Louisville is 4-1 SU in their last 5 games and 13-2-1 SU in their last 16 a home.
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