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Two of the greatest programs in college basketball history will meet in Madison Square Garden for a Sunday matinee, with the no. 19 Texas Longhorns facing the Louisville Cardinals. The Longhorns are trying to prove that they deserve a top-20 ranking, while the Cards are out to prove that last year’s 4-28 season is all in the past. That should make for a compelling game in the second half of Sunday’s Empire Classic.
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The Longhorns enter this game as the clear favorite. Texas is a perfect 3-0 on the season despite not being challenged much by the likes of Incarnate Word, Delaware State, and Rice. On the other side, Louisville has already suffered a loss at the hands of Chattanooga and is coming off a disastrous season. That leaves the Cardinals with far more to prove as the underdogs in a high-profile game.
Here are the odds DraftKings has for Texas for Louisville:
|Texas Longhorns||-17.5 (-110)||-2100||Over 144.5 (-112)|
|Louisville Cardinals||+17.5 (-110)||+1100||Under 144.5 (-108)|
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The Longhorns undoubtedly lost some key players from last year’s team, although Ithiel Horton, Max Abmas, and Tyrese Hunter have been quick to take the reins early this season. Horton transferred from UCF and has quickly become the leading scorer at Texas while Abmas is another veteran transfer who was part of the Cinderella Oral Roberts team a couple of years ago. All three guards are averaging at least 14 points per game early in the season while Hunter and Abmas are both averaging at least four assists per game, so the chemistry in the new-look Texas backcourt has been good.
Kadin Shedrick, a transfer from Virginia, has been another key addition for Texas. He has teamed up with Brock Cunningham and Dillon Mitchell to replicate the type of depth and athleticism the Longhorns enjoyed in their backcourt last season despite losing Christian Bishop and Timmy Allen. Mitchell, in particular, could be in the midst of a breakout season, already averaging 9.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. Of course, given the competition that Texas has faced early in the season, those numbers could be a little inflated. Nevertheless, the Longhorns feature quality guards and a surprising amount of frontcourt depth.
As for the Cardinals, there are already concerns after Louisville barely escaped with a one-point win over UMBC in the team’s season opener and then lost to Chattanooga. A 20-point win on Wednesday over Coppin State gave the Cardinals a chance to reset and gain some confidence. But there are serious questions regarding how much improvement the Cardinals can expect after going just 4-28 last season.
Fortunately, Mike James has stepped up to replace some of the scoring provided by El Ellis last season. Tre White and Skyy Clark, transfers from USC and Illinois, respectively, are also averaging double figures, so the Cards have a few capable guards. With JJ Traynor and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, Louisville also has a pair of upperclassmen in the frontcourt.
However, there are still glaring weaknesses for the Cards. After three games, they are shooting just 26.4% from the perimeter. Louisville is also averaging just nine assists per game with Clark leading that category at just 2.3 assists per game. In other words, they aren’t sharing the ball, creating opportunities for others, or knocking down shots. With regard to both talent and depth, the Cardinals leave much to be desired compared to Texas, which is why the Longhorns could be poised to blow out Louisville at MSG on Sunday.
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Bryan Zarpentine is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 2010. During that time, he has contributed to countless sites while covering baseball, soccer, the NFL, college football, and college basketball.More info on Bryan Zarpentine
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