If the Cardinals develop an offense to match their smothering defense, credit Ray Allen with an assist. This off-season coach Rick Pitino had each of his players filmed shooting from various angles. On a slow-motion replay he used a split screen with a Cardinal on one side and the Miami Heat sharpshooter on the other, launching from a similar trajectory. "You can say to a guy, Look at the way you're bringing the ball back behind your head," says Pitino. "Look at the way your head is moving. Now look at Ray Allen and how perfect he is."
Two weeks later Pitino taped his players again. "Everybody was getting closer to Ray's technique," he says. That was especially true of senior point guard Peyton Siva, the catalyst of Louisville's full-court pressure D. Siva's tendency to pull the ball behind his head resulted in his shooting 40.2% last season, which helped drag the team's percentage down to 42.2%, 233rd in the country. "Peyton has made tremendous strides," says Pitino. "He's about 80% of where I want him to be."
Siva reinforced his new shooting style by making 200 to 300 shots every morning while on campus this summer. "Gaining confidence was big," he says. "When you're confident in your shot, you feel like everything is going in."
The two other starters from last year's surprising Final Four team, 6'11" junior shot blocker Gorgui Dieng and powerful 6'6" sophomore forward Chane Behanan also improved their shooting over the summer. To keep his players from living off last year's success, he has made humility the team's new magic word. But Siva doesn't think it will be a problem. "We're not going to be the best three-point-shooting team in the nation," he says, "but we'll be capable of knocking down some threes. We're going to stick to what we are known for, our defense. Our offense will come. It can't get any worse than last year, right?"
ROUND OF 32
ROUND OF 64
Projected Starting Five
COACH Rick Pitino (12th season)
2011--12 RECORD 30--10
BIG EAST 10--8 (7th)
WHAT'S BACK Minutes: 59.8% Points: 61.0% Rebounds: 69.2%
*2010--11 George Mason stats
128 BLOCKS by Gorgui Dieng in 2011--12, which shattered Louisville's single-season record by 26. Dieng led the Big East and ranked eighth nationally with 3.2 blocks per game.
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH
PEYTON SIVA In addition to playmaking and applying pressure, the senior point guard is poised to make defenders pay with his shot.