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Preview: Rutgers vs. Louisville

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

You don't have to tell seventh-seeded Rutgers that No. 5 Louisville is playing its best basketball of the season heading into Thursday's American Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals in Memphis, Tenn. The Scarlet Knights hung with the defending national champion in January before suffering a 102-54 loss to the Cardinals last month. Louisville won nine of its final 10 games to claim a share of the AAC regular-season title but lost a coin flip with Cincinnati for the tournament's top seed.

Louisville leaned on its defense late in the season, holding nine of its last 15 opponents - including ranked foes Cincinnati and Connecticut - to less than 40 percent shooting. Rutgers hasn't beaten Louisville since 2006 and trails the series 13-1. Thursday's winner plays Houston or Southern Methodist in Friday's semifinals.

TV: 3 p.m. ET, ESPNU

ABOUT RUTGERS (12-20): Myles Mack leads the Scarlet Knights with 15.2 points and Kadeem Jack adds 14.5 points. Mack, who leads the team with 4.3 assists and 68 made 3-pointers, had team-highs of 19 and 10 points against Louisville this year. J.J. Moore, who passed the 1,000-point mark during Wednesday's 72-68 victory against South Florida, adds 11.4 points.

ABOUT LOUISVILLE (26-5): All-Conference First-Team selection Russ Smith leads four Cardinals in double figures with 17.5 points while Montrezl Harrell, also a first-team pick and the league's most improved player, adds 14 points on 61.2 percent shooting and a team-best 8.3 rebounds. Luke Hancock (11.9 points) and Chris Jones (10.3 points) add to the balanced offense, which features three more players averaging at least 7.5 points. The Cardinals started the week leading the country in scoring margin (plus-20) and turnover margin (plus-6.9) and second in steals (10), making Louisville the only team to rank among the country's top 10 in steals for each of the last three seasons.

TIP-INS

1. Louisville's 48-point win against Rutgers on Feb. 16 was second-most lopsided Division I game this season (Southern beat Grambling by 50 on Feb. 8).

2. Louisville has won seven straight conference tournament games that resulted in back-to-back Big East Conference tournament titles.

3. This AAC tournament will be the only one for Rutgers and Louisville, who will leave the conference for the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, next year.

PREDICTION: Louisville 86, Rutgers 65

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/140313/preview-rutgers-vs-louisville