The Heartbreakers: Live at the Yum Center!

imageValentine’s Day card for that someone special? ✅

Reese’s Pieces on standby? ✅

Dinner reservations? ✅

Another momentum-building home ACC win for the Cards? ❎

Wait, what? So after most Card fans had their holiday events all mapped out and in check, a nine point home loss to NC State (UofL’s first home loss to an unranked team since 2005 while being in the top 10 themselves) comes along and breaks up the party. Don’t color me shocked, but please do color me concerned.

If you play with fire over and over thinking you won’t get burnt, think again. Translation: you can only shoot below 40% collectively as a team against ACC competition before you lose. Saturday’s loss, in an essence, was a long time coming. UofL has found itself on the winning end of several tight games over the past month all while damaging rims around the country with their poor shooting. Yesterday, the hour glass ran out and Louisville lost, period.

Advantage Wolfpack

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Where do the Cards go from here? Well, for starters they travel to Syracuse on Wednesday. But in theory, UofL needs to find a route toward making better use of their resources: feeding the ball to Harrell in the post more, giving more minutes to Mahmoud, and doing a better job of rebounding.  The timing of a trip to Syracuse could not come at a worse time: The Orangemen’s match up zone and unconventional length could take Louisville’s perimeter shooting woes to a season low. That means that Montrezl Harrell must score more than two points (true story) like he did against NS State. And while on the topic from above concerning holidays, another key on Wednesday night will be Louisville’s ability to hold Rakeem Christmas below his season averages.  I won’t lie, while winning at Syracuse is anything but impossible on Wednesday, I am seeing this game as a bad match up and potentially an offensive struggle of Biblical proportions.  Right now the Divide between Louisville and a late push at a top four ACC  Tournament seed is about this wide…….

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It’s not all doom and gloom on the Cardinal front though Card Nation………

– The UofL Baseball team is off to a 2-0 start while holding a #7 national ranking by Baseball America

– The UofL women’s team continues to win and inch closer to a top 2/3 seed in the NCAA Tournament

– I had dinner at Porcini recently and never heard a Sypher joke

Enjoy the snow fall Card fans / Let’s see what happens Wed in the Carrier Dome. In closing and in the spirit of Feb 14th I leave my readers with a special Valentine’s card

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The ePITTome of Harrell

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Louisville ran it’s ACC record to 8-3 Wednesday evening following a home win over the PITT Panthers – the 6th straight win for UofL in the rugged, hard fought series. Junior Montrezl Harrell literally put the Cards on his back and carried them in both halves, and most visibly when UofL somehow managed to fall 6 behind mid way through the 2nd half.  Harrell, a sure fire 1st round NBA pick this summer, had not been playing up to his true potential for the last several weeks leading up to last night’s game.  He picked a good time to break the drought, and boy did he end it. Not only was Harrell the best, most dominant player in last night’s game but in the post game interview PITT forward Sheldon Jeter had this to say on Harrell’s performance, “I wouldn’t say it was intimidation. I would just say – scratch that. I would say it was intimidation.”

One word: RESPECT

Aside from Harrell’s monster night against PITT, three other strange things occurred that are, in my opinion, worth mentioning in this blog.

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1. After going 5 full halves of basketball, UofL’s bench produced s point. The aforementioned is NOT a misprint. In fact, in it’s previous two games UofL only got scoring from four individuals. With that, it’s almost mind boggling to think the Cards damn near played through a horrendous 1st half showing at #2 ranked Virginia to have a chance to cut the Cavs lead to only 2 inside a minute to play from the charity stripe.

2. Louisville failed to make to a 3 point basket in a non exhibition game since playing at Wyoming (I still love Fennis Dembo’s name) in 1992.  Rick, if you’re reading this (1% probability on a good day), please find a shooter or two for next season.

3. Living less than two hours from the Yum Center I was unable to view last night’s game anywhere in my universe. Even ESPN3 denied me with the infamous “blacked out in your area” message……..to which a fit followed.

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(That’s not me by the way, but a proper illustration)

The Cards now wait for NC State to roll into town on Saturday. Another home win would continue to help build momentum toward a run in March. Hopefully UofL will not wait until Harrell has to break out the Superman cape again to put it’s stamp on the game and keep the Wolfpack at bay. We shall know more in 48 hours – around the time when I probably will have polished off my 3rd bag of Valentines Day Skittles.

Go Cards

The ACC Blogosphere: February 11, 2015

Here are the five most interesting discussions going on in ACC blogs:

  • Syracuse fans over at Nunes Magician debate an opinion that Jim Boeheim should be suspended for profanity.
  • Florida State fans at Seminole Nation discuss the 2016 recruiting needs.
  • North Carolina fans at Tarheel Blog continue eulogizing the legendary Dean Smith.
  • The Duke basketball report opines–accurately, in the Confidential’s opinion–that Buzz Williams will get Virginia Tech hoops revitalized.
  • BC fans at BC Interruption ponder the specifics of the latest football recruiting class.

What do you think?  Did we miss anything interesting out there?

Also, RIP Jerry Tarkanian.  One of the guys who realized long ago that the NCAA was a terrible organization.

 

Knocked Down, But Not Out: The Virginia Debacle

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Appalling. Eye opening. Frustrating. Difficult to watch……..

All the aforementioned could be used to describe the University of Louisville’s performance last night at #3 ranked Virginia.  OK, to be fair, those adjectives would best fit the first half for Louisville.  A half that showcased a scoring drought of epic proportions: the Cards did not score from the field for the remaining 10:38 of the first half.  Taking nothing away from Virginia, the best defensive team in college basketball this season (yes, better than Kentucky), UofL reverted back to it’s porous shooting ways and blew multiple opportunities at the rim.  All that to say, it was a borderline miracle that the Cards only found themselves down 11 at the half.

On a brighter note, the second showed a UofL team that got off the mat and decided to punch back.  Problem being, you can’t get down by double digits on the road against your conference leader and sure fire NCAA #1 seed and expect to just flip the scoreboard.  The Cards did pull within a possession late before ultimately succumbing to a Virginia team that showed it’s viewing audience just why they are now 21-1 on the season.

In the spirit of not recounting individual plays and replacing the DVR play back technology, I did have a few takeaways that are worth mentioning – at least from my standpoint.

– Why, in arguably it’s toughest road game to date and all season, does Rick Pitino decide to experiment and afford minutes to guys who have recently found splinters in their butts? (See Johnson, Gill and Anas M.)

– Why did UofL show no sense of urgency by not ffouling in the last 30 secs down only 5?

– Why can UofL literally not find A POINT from it’s bench?

These are questions that may not have good answers, but ones that deserve some explanation.  I find that this UofL team consistently struggles at with general basketball IQ.  I also see a team that plays long stretches with little to no focus, playing as individuals as opposed to a team.

It is certainly NOT all doom and gloom for the Cards despite having lost last night. The Cards do not have a loss against a team outside the AP Top 15.  In the same breath, UofL could do itself a huge favor in preparation for March Madness by gathering a win against a top 15 team not named North Carolina.  While wins against Ohio State and Indiana are not to be discarded, a rematch defeat of Virginia in a month would certainly be just what the RPI Doctor ordered.

The Cards have been here before. They were knocked down last night and decided to get up – a good sign going forward. Focusing on and locking down two winnable home games vs PITT and NC State in the coming week should be enough to put a good taste back in the fans’ mouths and the players as well.

Play for March fellas…….

A Thrilla in Charlottesvilla

imageTonight the Louisville Cardinals will enter into what will surely be a defensive slug fest as they knock heads with the Virginia Cavaliers. It’s rare that a Rick Pitino coached UofL ever plays a team more defensively gifted and talented as his squad, but tonight may be an exception.  Virginia comes into tonight’s game ranked #2 in the nation in defensive proficiency. The Cavs have smothered nearly every opponent on their schedule thus far and being that UofL has struggled mightily at times at scoring on the offensive end makes the Cards a viable target for destruction.

Coming off a recent solid road win at Miami, the greatest Jeckyl & Hyde program of the ’14-’15 college hoops campaign, the Cards look to build some momentum heading into the home stretch of their first regular season in the ACC. A win over a top 5 nationally ranked Virginia team would be just the prescription. However, winning on Saturday night will take Louisville’s best effort of the season thus far.

The last time these schools played on the hardwood was in 1990 when Color Me Bad was tearing up the Billboard’s Top 20 so there is no rivalry tag to be linked to tonight’s game. Instead, it will more importantly serve as a great Litmus test for Louisville and another #1 seed resume builder for UVA. Coming off a tough home loss to the hands of Duke a week ago, one would think Coach Tony Bennett would have his team fully ready to defend home court from here on out before entering the conference tournament.  If I were a gambling man, which I am not, I would bet the farm that Virginia will not only double Montrezl Harrell every time he touches the rock but also the first team this season to double Terry Rozier, UofL’s most prolific scorer. Rozier has killed teams of late with his throw back mid-range game and will certainly be poised to do the same tonight unless UVA has a plan to stop it, which I believe they will.  As in so many other games against top competition this year, UofL will have to get something, at this point ANYTHING, from it’s post players not named Harrell. Virginia thrives on killing teams in the glass so it will be imperative that Chinanu Onuaku and Mango Mathiang do their best to establish a physical presence in the paint.

Tonight is not a must-win game for either team. However, the loser will have ground to make up in the conference standings and a bad taste in their mouth afterwards. The bell will ring later this evening, Cardinal Nation hopes the Cards will answer and come out of their corner ready to compete.

Storm Weathered

Louisville maintained it’s road warrior status on Tuesday night warding off a pesky Miami Hurricane squad to go to 19-3 overall and just a game back of second place in the ACC.  The Cards’ “Big 3″ were once again clutch, carrying the team in virtually every statistical category known to man. The win sets up an intriguing showdown with Virginia this Saturday, a game that promises to showcase two hellacious defensive teams.  The Cavaliers seem to have regained their balance after losing a home tilt to a top 5 Duke team last weekend.  All eyes will be focused on Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier, as usual, as Virginia will bring their normal blue collar balanced team persona to the forefront.

Heading in to the game with Virginia, the  average fan, especially a UofL one, should take note that UofL only place FOUR players in the scoring column against Miami.  This is a major concern for the future as the four aforementioned players are all likely to be gone next season.  But the immediate future is even more discerning as most teams who expect to play deep into March (and perhaps even early April) have developed a reliable bench that can find ways to put points on the board.  Unfortunately this Louisville team, most likely due to youth, has yet to develop a true rotation.  Mangok Mathiang, at this juncture, is the only bench player contributing anything of substance.  If UofL is going to again make a run at an inaugural league title such as their one year honeymoon in the AAC Conference, they will need more, hell anything from guys like Shaqquan Aaron, Quentin Snider and perhaps even Jaylen Johnson.

Around College Hoops

– KY continues to steamroll SEC competition as Karl Towns is showing why he is gonzo at year’s end

– If you haven’t heard by now, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor is pretty good and looking like a Wooden Award Winner

– Have heard from friends with ties in Bloomington that Tom Crean’s seat is a little warmer than some may think

Next game prediction……

Virginia 53  Louisville 56

(And I am honestly picking this without rose colored glasses on)