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Big East battle

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Sportsbook.ag College Hoops Monday

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (15-1) at CONNECTICUT HUSKIES (12-3)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Louisville -6.5 & 132.5

Newly minted No. 1 Louisville will put its top ranking on the line for the first time as road favorites against Connecticut.

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The Cardinals have looked dominant lately, winning their three Big East games thus far by 19.7 points on average. The Huskies bounced back from an early conference loss to Marquette with a rout of DePaul and then an upset at then-No. 17 Notre Dame and will look to knock off their third ranked foe of the season in this one. Louisville is 5-1 (SU and ATS) in the past six meetings between these schools. Connecticut has played its best basketball all season against top teams, going 2-0 SU and ATS against ranked opponents, Notre Dame and Michigan State. And even though Louisville has been great on the road this year (3-0 SU and ATS), visiting this Huskies squad will be quite difficult due to the backcourt talent to defend and throw off the Louisville attack. And since Rick Pitino took over at Louisville, his team is 4-12 ATS (25%) on the road after three straight double-digit wins.

PG Peyton Siva (11.9 PPG, 5.8 APG) marshals the Louisville attack, expertly running the offense. He is an elite defender as well, tallying 2.3 SPG. The man he primarily finds with the ball is Russ Smith (18.7 PPG), who is extremely talented on the wing as a pure scorer with the ability to shoot or drive. He has struggled lately, though, making just 4-of-24 shots (0-for-6 threes) in the team's past two games. Chane Behanan (11.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG) is the team's third and final double-digit scorer. After missing the Seton Hall win with a sprained ankle, Behanan returned to action on Saturday with seven points and 12 rebounds in just 18 minutes versus South Florida. The other true weapon for the Cardinals is C Gorgui Dieng (9.6 PPG, 9.8 PPG) who makes up for his lack of offensive game with incredible rebounding and defensive skills. He blocks 2.2 shots per game and is key on the boards for this Cardinals squad that shoots a pithy 32.7% from deep. Dieng scored 15 points with six rebounds and six steals in Louisville's 80-59 rout of UConn last season.

The Huskies are one of the few teams in the Big East that can match the Cardinals' skill in the backcourt. Shabazz Napier (17.5 PPG) is knocking down 2.1 treys per game at a 40.3% clip, and is coming off an 8-of-13 shooting performance (3-of-5 threes) against Notre Dame. He is also a deft passer when called upon, averaging 4.0 APG. In the past two games, Napier has 11 assists and just one turnover. Fellow G Ryan Boatright (16.1 PPG, 4.5 APG) matches Napier's skills as a scorer and distributor, averaging 18.2 PPG during a nine-game streak of scoring at least a dozen points. He was also the team's lone bright spot in last year's loss to Louisville with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. At 6-foot-8, DeAndre Daniels (11.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG) will have to step up on the boards for this poor rebounding team (32.5 RPG, 277th in nation), but he has been improving in that department, averaging 8.5 RPG in the team's past two contests. Junior F Tyler Olander (5.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG) is coming off his best game of the season with 16 points and seven boards at Notre Dame. Freshman G Omar Calhoun (10.1 PPG) also adds some size on the perimeter at 6-foot-5, though he has struggled lately with just 5.7 PPG on 6-of-22 FG (27%) in Big East play.

  
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