Monson’s Midwest Region Analysis: Defensive-minded Louisville earns tourney’s top seed (video)
Cardinals’ frenetic defense earns them tourney’s top seed.

By Gordon Monson

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: March 18, 2013 11:06AM
Updated: March 18, 2013 11:38AM
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FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2013, file photo, Louisville guard Peyton Siva drives to the basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Seton Hall in Louisville, Ky. The Cardinals have shown that they are comfortable being front-runners in their season-long quest to go farther than last year's Final Four appearance. Now, they enter the NCAA tournament as the overall No 1 seed. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

Louisville is an absolute gas to watch. The Cardinals play all kinds of defense, and the cool thing about that is this: Even when they don’t shoot straight or don’t take good care of the ball, it doesn’t automatically kill them. When they do shoot straight, when they don’t chuck the ball around like it’s a toaster, their opponents get crushed.

Heading into the tournament, Rick Pitino’s team won 29 games, including 10 straight. It shared the Big East regular-season title and then blew away Syracuse in the league tourney final. And the impressive part of that was Louisville’s comeback in the second half. The Cardinals trailed the Orange by 16 points ... and, yet, they won by 17.

That’s the reason Louisville is the top seed in this region and the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Watch for Cardinals guard Russ Smith, the team’s leading scorer, to light it up, and for center Gorgui Dieng to own the boards and block paths through the paint at the defensive end.

It’s possible, I guess, that the Cardinals could blow it, but only if they bury their brains so far between the cracks in the hardwood that defeat is put upon them by their own sorry selves.

Duke, the region’s second seed, looked as though it could make a strong run through the madness of March after it gained Ryan Kelly back from injury. It played some strong games before the ACC tourney and then ... lost in an uninspired performance against Maryland. The Blue Devils chucked shots up from all over creation in that loss and, even worse, looked disinterested, disorganized and unmotivated.

Despite a 27-5 record, if Duke repeats that mistake, it is gonzo. If the Devils beat Albany in their first game, they’ll play the winner of Creighton-Cincy. Neither of those possibilities is much of a party. And if they got past that, they likely will face Michigan State.

Lock City

Louisville, the tournament’s overall No. 1 can’t lose in this thing — that’s right, cannot lose — until the Final Four, and even then, it’ll keep winning.

Why Louisville

is No. 1

Defense, defense, defense, now mixed with some offense, too. The Cardinals can play some stoooopid ball, but as long as they D up, they’re OK.

Out on a limb

It would be a nice ride for Saint Louis to make it to the Sweet 16, and it will. Then, the Billikens face L’Ville.

No faith in

Oregon. As a No. 12, faith in the Ducks is in short supply everywhere. Even if they should have been higher, they lose early.