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Connecticut vs. Louisville Gambling Preview & Free CBB Picks

Huskies vs Cardinals Handicapping

Louisville’s Russ Smith and Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier have had plenty of glorified moments in their collegiate careers; Saturday presents a chance for one of them to put an exclamation point on their senior seasons as the two of conference’s elite guards get an opportunity to go head-to-head. [ad-4468020]

AAC Final: #21 Connecticut Huskies (26-7, 12-6 AAC) vs #5 Louisville Cardinals (28-5, 15-3 AAC)
Date/Time: Saturday, March 15, 2014, 6 pm EST
Venue: FedExForum, Memphis TN
Louisville -8 / OU: 135.5

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The re-branding of the American Athletic Conference (a mish-mash of what was formerly the Big East) hasn’t done anything to affect Louisville’s domination.

The Cardinals are playing in their fourth consecutive conference title game on Saturday night. Louisville have also won the last three conference crowns, so it’s getting to be an annual tradition for “the other team from Kentucky”.

This will be Louisville’s lone season in the struggling AAC, as legendary college hoops coach Rick Pitino’s club moves to the ACC next season.

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Louisville’s physical, take-no-prisoners style of play is quarterbacked by veteran guard Smith. The Brooklyn native leads the team with 18.7 PPG and also leads the Cardinals in assists. At 6-foot, 165 lbs, Smith has a diminutive frame, but he plays like an uncaged lion – an Allen Iverson-esque aggressiveness.

Smith is coming off a ridiculous 42-point performance in the conference semifinal against Houston. Pitino’s young men also thrive on the tenacity of 6″8 sophomore Montrezl Harrell, who averages double-digits scoring (13.9 PPG) and leads the team in rebounding (8.1 RPG).

In Louisville’s last game against UConn on March 8, Harrell put up an impressive double-double (20 pts, 11 boards) in a 81-48 dismantling. Even with the strong individual performances, the strength of this Louisville club is the team-wide commitment to intimidation and ferocious defense.
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It might only be a little bit of solace, but the Huskies can remember that they are the last club to knock the Cardinals out of a conference final, in the 2011 Big East title match. UConn will also surely want to avenge its miserable loss to its opponent eight days ago.

The Huskies are driven by their own senior guard in Napier, who leads the team in points, rebounds and assists per contest. Connecticut have impressive wins against Cincinnati and Memphis recently, putting forward enough impressive efforts that the only blow to its confidence must be that egg-laying that occurred versus the Cardinals earlier this month.

If UConn are to stand a chance in this weekend’s final, Napier will have to put up a game for the ages and the Huskies will also need the dead-eye shooting of 6″9 junior DeAndre Daniels. Daniels nails over 43% of his shots beyond the arc and if he can stretch the defense, Connecticut may just be able to put some points up against Louisville’s swarming defenders.

Both of these clubs are headed to March Madness, but an upset victory for the Huskies would definitely help the team’s mojo as they look to advance deep in the Tourney.

It almost goes without saying, though, that Louisville are in the driver’s seat to grab its fourth consecutive conference championship. That consistency will augur well for the Cardinals’s migration to the ACC, where they will be wading in with many of the nation’s premier college hoops programs.

The switch to the ACC will surely raise the degree of difficulty for Louisville’s in-conference schedule in 2014-15 and moving forward.

The Huskies would like nothing better than to ruin that best-case-scenario for their AAC rival headed toward the NCAA Tournament, though that may well be wishful thinking.

Louisville 71, Connecticut 66

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