If top-seeded Louisville is to avoid becoming a March Madness upset victim Saturday, the Cardinals would be well advised to crash the glass.
Colorado State, seeded eighth in the Midwest Regional, leads the nation with an average rebound advantage of 12.4 a game.
But can the Rams (26-8) possibly handle a tenacious Louisville defense that, Thursday against North Carolina A&T, produced a tournament-record 20 steals?
The Cardinals' pressure creates turnovers and, even when teams beat the press, can take an opponent out of its comfort zone.
With each possession, fatigue becomes a factor.
"Usually in games there's like kind of a point, usually in the second half, where we kind of wear teams down," U of L's Luke Hancock said after Friday's practice in Rupp Arena. "But a lot of great teams are here, and sometimes it doesn't happen. Sometimes we just try to continue our pressure the entire game and hope we get steals and deflections."
The Cards (30-5), who have won their last 11 games, set a season high Thursday with 67 deflections. Even Coach Rick Pitino was amazed by that total, noting that guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith had 16 each.
To read the rest of the article, please scroll past these links to related stories on games in Rupp Arena.
"Coach P's philosophy is we get a certain amount of deflections, we feel that we're in a capable place of winning the game," Siva said. "We try to get as many deflections as we can, slow down the movement of passing. That's really been our key for this year, and we just continue to keep our pressure up.
"Colorado State, they're a good passing and moving team. We've got to continue to play our game, continue slowing down the ball and focus on that."
The Cardinals are one win away from reaching the Sweet 16 for the 19th time and second year in a row.
Smith tied a tourney record by getting eight steals Thursday. As a team, Louisville posted its 24th double-digit steal total of the season.
"We pressure. We practice it," Smith said. "You've got to get in the right place at the right time. Just put amazing heat on the basketball, and I think we do a great job of that. Communicating is key."
Much of that comes from knowing where to be.
"We watch a lot of film and we try to make the right reads," Siva said. "Coach kept telling us yesterday we need to get off-the-ball steals."
Being in the right place at the right time, by design.
How are the Cards able to keep up the hectic pace?
"I would say we're in shape," Smith said. "So if they're gassed and they're on Jell-O, then we may be on 60 percent. ... We're still going. I feel like I'm never tired a lot, and I could pressure the basketball all game. It's just the simple fact that we have to communicate and talk. That's what's going to lead us to victory."
With "media timeouts" about every four minutes, plus team timeouts, "it's impossible to be tired" in a tournament game, Pitino said.
But Siva says the Cards also worked during the off-season, and continue to grind in practice.
"We think a game's much easier than practice for us because of how hard we go in practice," Siva said. "For the most part, we just pride ourself on conditioning, pride ourself on defense. That's what Coach P stresses — he stresses defense. He's not worried about the offense; he wants us to play good defense. As long as we play good defense, the rest will come."
Pitino says he developed his defensive philosophy in "my own laboratory" as a 24-year-old head coach of a low-profile Boston University team.
"So I could basically make all the mistakes I wanted and nobody noticed," he said. "I was continuing tinkering with the full-court press, changing it, working at it. For the five years I was at BU, I came up with a style of play that I stuck with from that point on."
U of L forces an average of 18.9 turnovers a game, which has led to 31 percent of their points.
Both teams average a fraction over 73 points a game, and both shoot 44.9 percent.
Rebounds and turnovers. That's where these teams figure to part ways.
"We can't turn the ball over and give them easy opportunities," Rams guard Dorian Green said. "It comes down to just all five guys being sharp in our press-breaking and run it with perfections, and being really crisp every single time."
Louisville vs. Colorado State
What: NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional third-round game
Where: Rupp Arena
When: 5:15 p.m. TV: CBS-27
Records: Louisville 30-5, CSU 26-8
Seeds: Louisville No. 1, CSU No. 8
Series: First meeting
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229 Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com