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Meet Louisville, the ACC's biggest defensive menace

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch or listen to the game

Tip time: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Jan. 29

TV: ACC Network (Tom Werme, Dan Bonner)

Online streamingWatchESPN

Radio: Wolfpack Sports Network (affiliates)

Louisville vitals

Record: 17-4 (5-3)
Pomeroy ranking: 6
Best win***: 73-70 over Kentucky (No. 2 in Pomeroy Ratings)
Worst loss***: 77-70 to Notre Dame (No. 26 in Pomeroy Ratings)

(***Based on opponent's Pomeroy Rating, not margin of victory/defeat.)

Adjusted tempo: 69.4 poss/40 minutes (ranks 160th)
Adjusted offensive efficiency: 114.5 (ranks 34th)
Adjusted defensive efficiency: 85.3 (ranks 2nd)

UL roster
UL schedule
UL stats 2017

The Louisville offense and starters

UL Offense -- Four Factors eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
2016-17 overall (nat'l rank) 50.3 (177) 16.4 (39) 38.1 (10) 35.9 (158)
2016-17 ACC only (ACC rank) 51.9 (10) 16.6 (3) 36.9 (2) 37.1 (6)

This year's Louisville's team is a spittin' image of the 2016 squad; the Cards did have to replace some key contributors, but Rick Pitino's deep roster had other guys ready to comfortably step into those vacated roles.

Quentin Snyder and Donovan Mitchell in for Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, and a host of very tall dudes for Chinanu Onuaku. The Cardinals are not quite shooting as well inside the arc this year, but they continue to take good care of the ball and grab a lot of offensive boards, and those two things have been the big keys for them in 2017.

Teams that leverage turnovers and rebounding at both ends of the floor end up generating a lot more attempts at the hoop than their opponents, which helps to mitigate or totally negate substandard shooting. The Cardinals are +69 in turnovers this season, +69 in offensive boards (double nice!), and have attempted 126 more shots from the field than their opponents. There's a lot less pressure on your first attempt on any given offensive possession when you know you're probably going to end up with more scoring opportunities.

It's definitely working out fine for Louisville, even if this particular approach isn't always the prettiest thing in the world.

NC State will need to be really good on the defensive boards in order to win in Louisville, and also hope that the absences of Quentin Snider and Tony Hicks--both injured--will make offensive production a bit more difficult for the Cards. Snyder is the team's second-leading scorer.

Starters

Donovan Mitchell (6-3, 195) -- Mitchell had a nice freshman campaign but took a backseat to the veteran guards on the team--that is not happening this year. He is the team's leading scorer and its highest-workload guy. His outside shooting has improved significantly, up to 35.2% in 2017, and he leads UL in three-point attempts. Strong defender, good free throw shooter.

Ryan McMahon (6-0, 170) -- The Cards have an assembly line's worth of forwards on this roster but are somewhat light on proven guards, so enter freshman Ryan McMahon, who'll probably have to eat at least some minutes in the absence of Hicks and Snider. In limited time this year, he's 13-31 (41.9%) from three. And 0-4 from two.

Deng Adel (6-7, 200) -- Cut way down on turnovers this season but remains an inconsistent scorer. Adel is at only 31.5% from three in 2017 but it seems like that should eventually turn around, based on his good free throw shooting. Might not turn around this year, mind you, but that is a positive indicator.

Jaylen Johnson (6-9, 230) -- If Johnson got more minutes, he'd probably be receiving more credit for a breakout year. He's hitting 60.5% of his twos, a career best, and he has been a monster on the glass, setting career highs in rebounding percentage at both ends. But he is often a deferential player, and he can be foul-prone, both of which serve to mask improvement because they are per-game stat suppressants.

Anas Mahmoud (7-0, 220) -- Patience is often required for big fellas and Mahmoud is case in point: his first two seasons, he played sparingly and didn't score well. Finally, in year three, he's emerging as an important part of the rotation. He's made nearly 65% of his twos--albeit as a secondary option--does a great job grabbing offensive boards and is one of the nation's top 10 shot blockers. His improvement is noticeable, but he's still plagued by turnovers and fouls, which limits his impact.

The Louisville bench and defense

Reserves: V.J. King (6-6, 190), Ray Spalding (6-10, 215), Mangok Mathiang (6-10, 220), David Levitch (6-3, 180). Tall persons everywhere, I tells ya! That's how Louisville wears folks down on the boards: they have four outstanding offensive rebounding bigs and three of them that also rebound well defensively. It's just a lot of beef to handle, man.

UL Defense -- Four Factors eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
2016-17 overall (nat'l rank) 42.2 (4) 21.1 (52) 28.8 (139) 40.6 (275)
2016-17 ACC only (ACC rank) 45.0 (1) 19.3 (3) 26.0 (3) 45.9 (15)

Louisville hasn't finished lower than fifth nationally in defensive efficiency since 2010. Doesn't look like that streak will be ending in 2017. The Cards do everything you need to in order to shut down the paint, from rebounding to blocking shots to otherwise forcing misses. They present a major challenge for everybody, and most fail.

There's just a lot that the Cardinals can do with their versatility and size, which often leads to a lot of bogged down possessions from opponents. You can often tell based on defensive average possession length which defenses are able to create a lot of confusion/hesitation, and this is definitely one area where Louisville excels.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes Louisville by 18.