Observations: Donovan Mitchell is the wild card for Louisville

Donovan Mitchell hasn’t gotten the same amount of ink as Damion Lee, Trey Lewis, or even Chinanu Onauku, but the 6-foot-3 freshman will have a big hand in determining the Cardinals’ ceiling from now until Selection Sunday.

Mitchell came off the bench to score 10 points and grab five rebounds in Monday night’s upset win over North Carolina and his progression will be a major thing to watch over the next five to six weeks.

Rick Pitino’s teams are always going to defend at a high level, but the biggest question regarding this particular group was whether or not Louisville’s offense would be able to sustain a high level of consistency.

If Mitchell can play the way he did against North Carolina the rest of the season, then the Cards are going to have a major weapon is reserve.

A freak athlete with tremendous bounce, Mitchell is a factor on the offensive glass and does many things that don’t show up in a box score.

Louisville is 9-0 in games this season when Mitchell reaches double figures.

Prince Ibeh is shining for Texas

Many people including myself would wonder how the Longhorns were going to do in the middle when Cameron Ridley (12.7 points, 10.0 rebounds) was lost with a foot injury.

Enter Ibeh.

The 6-10 senior had been somewhat of a disappointment in his college career, but has recently gone on an absolute tear.

Ibeh had nine points, six rebounds, and five blocks in the Longhorns’ 67-59 win at Baylor on Monday night is averaging 11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks in his last four games.

Pat Riley once said that “injury is opportunity.”

He must have been talking about people like Ibeh.

Seton Hall’s time is now

The Pirates haven’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and that 10-year drought can end this season if Kevin Willard’s squad handles its business over the next two weeks.

Seton Hall (15-6, 5-4 in the Big East) displayed tremendous promise and maturity in a 10-point win at Creighton on Saturday, but now it needs to start separating itself from the other Big East teams who are currently on the bubble.

The Pirates’ next three games against Marquette, Georgetown, and Butler are all at home and that’s three opportunities for Seton Hall to gain separation as the Big East’s fourth best team behind Villanova, Xavier, and Providence.

Half of the battle when you’re trying to have a breakthrough season is working to get things to the point where you have destiny in your own hands.

That’s exactly what the Pirates have over the next three games.

We’ll see what they do with it.

Donovan Mitchell will be the key for Louisville down the backstretch of the season. (USATSI)

This and That

  • Kansas point guard Frank Mason has a combined 10 assists and 10 turnovers in his last three games. This guy does a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score, but if you’re going to be the starting floor general on a team that has aspirations of going to the Final Four, then you need to be more efficient handling the ball.
  • The most underrated thing about Xavier? Its depth. The Musketeers currently have 10 different players averaging 8.3 minutes or more. The Musketeers are deeper than the cast in A Few Good Men.
  • Khadeem Lattin is the unsung presence on Oklahoma. The 6-9 sophomore has blocked a combined 12 shots in his last three games, including one on the final possession in Saturday’s win at LSU. Lattin is currently averaging 6.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks for the Sooners.
  • The second half of the Big Ten is weaker than its been in years. The bottom seven teams in this league have a combined conference record of 16-49. Don’t expect this conference to earn more than six bids to the NCAA Tournament.
  • Oregon’s Elgin Cook made a combined seven three-point shots during his first two seasons with the Ducks. This year he’s already made 14 shots from long distance. Cook is averaging 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds for Oregon, who has separated itself as the best team in the Pac-12.
  • Wichita State has won 11 straight games by an average of 21.1 points. The Shockers are clearly rounding into form, but shouldn’t these guys break a sweat before they reach the NCAA Tournament? Gregg Marshall’s squad is 16-5 overall and 10-0 in MVC play.
  • South Carolina’s balance has been arguably its biggest key to a 19-2 start. All five of the Gamecocks’ starters are averaging in double-figures and no one is averaging more than 14.0 points or less than 10.2 points. This is a true team.
  • Don’t be surprised to see Jim Boeheim extend Franklin Howard’s minutes moving forward. The 6-4 freshman came off the bench and had six assists in 14 minutes in Syracuse’s win over Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Orange are 15-8 overall and will host Virginia Tech tonight at the Carrier Dome.
  • It’s going to get harder for UCLA before it gets easier. The Bruins are currently 13-9 overall and their next three games are on the road at USC, Arizona, and Arizona State. Steve Alford’s club is just 4-5 in Pac-12 play following this weekend’s win over Washington State.
  • Keep your eyes on UConn now that Amida Brimah has returned to the Huskies’ lineup. The Huskies held Central Florida to 41 points in a 26-point win on Sunday. Kevin Ollie never gets enough credit for how good of a coach he is defensively, but UConn’s strength on that side of the floor should be augmented now that Brimah is back in tow.

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