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North Carolina A&T (20-16) vs. Louisville (29-5)



Thursday, March 21, 6:50 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor

FACTS & STATS: Site: Rupp Arena (23,500) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: TBS. NCAA Tournament Record: North Carolina A&T 1-9, Louisville 64-40. Series Record: Louisville leads, 1-0.

GAME NOTES: The top-seeded Louisville Cardinals begin their quest back to the Final Four on Thursday as they take on the North Carolina A&T Aggies in a NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional second-round matchup at Rupp Arena.

NC A&T overcame the odds and won the MEAC Championship for the first time despite entering the postseason as the seventh-seed. It then took care of business in a thrilling first-four matchup versus Liberty to escape with a 73-72 win, the first NCAA Tournament victory in school history. Jeremy Underwood led the way with 19 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field, while Bruce Beckford chipped in 16 points on 8-of-10 efficiency from the floor. The Aggies stopped a driving layup by Liberty's John Caleb Sanders as time expired to clinch the decision.

NC A&T is usually much more modest on the offensive end of the court, scoring just 62.4 ppg, but the team makes up for it with strong defense (61.4 ppg allowed). The Aggies are a poor outside shooting squad with only 30 percent efficiency from beyond the arc, but they force their opposition into 18.3 turnovers per game to make up for it. Adrian Powell (12.5 ppg) and Lamont Middleton (12.4 ppg) have been neck-and-neck for the scoring lead all year long. Austin Witter is the Aggies' best rebounder with 7.1 per contest which he accompanies with 3.0 rejections per tilt. Beckford and Underwood both chip in under nine ppg regularly.

This will be just the second head-to-head between NC A&T and Louisville in history. The Cardinals won the first meeting and will advance to play the winner of the Colorado State-Missouri matchup if they avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed to be upset in its first game.

Rick Pitino's Cardinals have reeled off 10 wins in a row entering the Big Dance, with the most recent being a 78-61 rout of Syracuse in the Big East Tournament title game. Louisville's last six victories have come over teams in this year's field. The team is very deep in terms of talent in both the backcourt and frontcourt.

Creating havoc for opposing teams has been the key to the squad's success this season. The Cardinals led the Big East and are in second in the nation in steals (10.7 spg). The Cardinals' opposition is scoring just 58.0 points per game and shooting 38.8 percent from the field. Russ Smith (18.1 ppg) has no limitations as a scorer. He should be able to bounce back after being limited to only 10 points by the Orange in the Big East Tournament title game. Gorgui Dieng is one of the best big men in the nation with his ability to crash the boards and protect the rim. The speedy Peyton Siva (10 ppg, 5.9 apg) runs the point for the Cardinals, while Chane Behanan (9.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Wayne Blackshear (8.0 ppg) and Luke Hancock (7.5 ppg) add even more options.

A Louisville loss is highly unlikely due to its clear advantage at every position. The Cardinals did not earn a No. 1 seed by accident and they could very well be the eventual champions if they continue to play at the same high level that they have over the past few weeks.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 81, North Carolina A&T 61

03/21 10:34:42 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
7:05pm Thursday
DUR 0
ROC 1
 
7:05pm Tonight
DUR
TOL
 
Final
TOR 8
BOS 0
Final
PHI 2
SFG 1
Final
NYY 4
TEX 2
Final
OAK 13
HOU 1
Final
ATL 2
MIA 3
Final
CHC 3
SDP 13
Final
MIN 2
CWS 5
Final
KAN 2
CLE 1
Final
MIL 9
NYM 1
Final
ANA 4
DET 6
Final
SEA 0
BAL 4
4:05pm Today
CHC
STL
 
7:05pm Tonight
PHI
ARI
 
7:05pm Tonight
NYY
TOR
 
7:10pm Tonight
TAM
BOS
 
7:10pm Tonight
CIN
WAS
 
7:35pm Tonight
ATL
SDP
 
8:05pm Tonight
TEX
OAK
 
8:10pm Tonight
MIN
CWS
 
8:10pm Tonight
KAN
CLE
 
8:10pm Tonight
HOU
MIA
 
8:10pm Tonight
MIL
NYM
 
8:40pm Tonight
COL
PIT
 
10:05pm Tonight
ANA
DET
 
10:10pm Tonight
SEA
BAL
 
10:15pm Tonight
SFG
LOS
 
7:05pm Thursday
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ROC 1
 
7:05pm Tonight
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TOL