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Louisville vs. NC State: The Cardinals at a glance

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville is off to a fine start to the 2016 season on paper, as the Cardinals are No. 4 in the Pomeroy Ratings. Their schedule strength ranks in the 300s, which is what makes it difficult to figure out just how good this team is. The Cardinals played Michigan State (and lost) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but the only other decent team they've seen is Kentucky (they also lost that game). No other non-conferences opponents even crack the KenPom top 100.

Still, the team rates well by the schedule-adjusted numbers--the Cards rate among the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. This is probably because they clubbed the hell out of every single one of those scrub teams on the non-conference schedule. Margin of victory is instructive, but I'm not sure Louisville is a top-five team this year.


-- Senior guards Damion Lee and Trey Lewis are having big years and handling above-average workloads with little trouble. Both are graduate transfers who left a couple of disappointed mid-major programs in the rear-view mirror. They can knock down the three, and they're both shooting better than 80% at the free throw line.

-- Louisville's offense is ranked 17th in effective field goal percentage and third in offensive rebounding rate. They have multiple forwards with excellent OR rates, led by Chinanu Oknuaku, who is 10th nationally in that category. Defensive rebounding will be key for NC State.

-- On the defensive side, Louisville has been among the best in the country at defending the interior. The Cardinals rank 4th in 2FG% defense, sixth in block percentage, and 45th in defensive rebounding percentage. That combination will make things tough on any offense, even one that's shooting at a pretty good clip from outside. State needs to avoid forcing the issue in the paint, and it needs to take care of the ball. Otherwise the Pack's playing right into Louisville's hands.