Louisville Cardinals (23-2) vs. Temple Owls (12-11)
7 p.m. EST
KFC Yum! Center - Louisville, KY
Yesterday, we looked a point of divergence between a pair of bracketology projections. Today, we look at a point of convergence between ESPN's Charlie Creme and Steven Bell of the S-Factor: Louisville was firmly in line for a 2-seed entering this week.
That, of course, was prior to Duke losing to UNC on Monday, which could give Louisville a boost - independent of geographical considerations - to a #1 seed. But suffice to say that as long as UConn is the primary barrier to Louisville winning out this season, the Cardinals will be in great shape.
In the meantime, Temple is next up on Louisville's schedule and it's hard not to predict a win in that one: the Cardinals already beat the Owls on the road by a 77-68 margin. Temple is a turnover prone team, which plays right into Louisville's strength of running and getting shots early in the offense. But something to watch in tonight's game for both college and pro fans is the play of Shoni Schimmel, one of the more exciting players to watch in women's basketball.
Reinforcing her position among college basketball's elite, Schimmel has been acknowledged today as part of the 2014 Naismith Award Midseason Top 30 List along with the standard four UConn representatives to give the AAC five representatives on the list. Known for her 3-point shooting, Schimmel is shooting a career-high 39.6% this season on 217 attempts to contribute to a career-high 17.6 points per game and a career-high 40.7% field goal percentage overall as well as a career-high 4.6 rebounds.
But as noted by Jim Fuller of the New Haven Register, it's a potential career-low that might be most impressive for Schimmel.
Schimmel needs 59 points to join Angel McCoughtry as the only Louisville players with 2,000 for their career. She is already the program's all-time leader with 354 3-pointers and needs two assists to move into sole possession of third place in team history in that category. She is on pace to set career highs in field goal and 3-point field goal percentage. And her turnover rate has dropped 15 percent since last season.
Fuller is referring to her 15% drop in turnovers per game from 3.34 last season to 2.84 this season, which is impressive when you think about how many risks she takes as a ball handler - even though coach Jeff Walz has her playing point guard less than she has in the past, she's still a very good ball handler. When you combine that with her ability to shoot threes off the dribble - among the most difficult skills in the game to master, despite what Stephen Curry might lead you to believe - she has become a dangerous ball handler with the ability to create shots for herself or teammates relatively efficiently.
Yet there's another more recent statistic that stands out for Schimmel: she's actually in something of a shooting slump inside the 3-point arc.
Schimmel got a lot of attention - and deservedly so - for hitting a program record nine threes against Memphis following a seven-three performance at Houston. However, that record-setting performance also began a bit of a slump from 2-point range: over the last five games, Schimmel is shooting just 9-for-29 (31.03%) from inside the arc. Perhaps she can be excused for her 3-for-10 2-point performance in Sunday's loss at UConn when the Huskies had Moriah Jefferson just face-guarding her for most of the game to deny her the ball and frustrate her into taking tough shots when she got it. But the numbers fit within a longer rough patch inside the arc: after shooting about 45% from 2-point range in non-conference play, Schimmel is shooting just 38.5% from there in conference play.
For those looking ahead to Schimmel's stock in the 2014 WNBA Draft, a senior season 2-point percentage below 45% tends to be a red flag for struggles to make it at the next level - few college volume 3-point shooters make it as 3-point specialists in the 11-player roster era so their ability to score efficiently in other ways is magnified at the pro level. Schimmel's improved ball handling efficiency is definitely a good sign, but it will be interesting to watch how her shooting numbers fluctuate over the remainder of conference play and into the NCAA tournament.
For more on the draft, check out our 2014 WNBA Draft prospect watch storystream.