Lights, camera, action…CUT!
If yesterday’s quarterfinal matchup against North Carolina in Louisville’s first ever ACC Tournament was scored primarily on impressive dunks by Montrezl Harrell, then Louisville would be preparing to play a revenge seeking Virginia team in tonight’s semifinals. Better yet, if conference tournament games could be shortened to only one half of play, the Cards survive and advance. Well, unfortunately, the obvious truth is that in order to win a team must piece together 40 minutes of basketball good enough to win out on the scoreboard.
Louisville 60 North Carolina 70
After playing a very solid 20 minutes of basketball against the Tar Heels, the poison in the water that has constricted UofL’s success all season reared it’s ugly head again – perimeter shooting. The Cards had looked to be getting on track a few weeks ago when they traveled to Tallahassee and shot lights out in an easy win over Florida State. But perhaps that outing was a fluke, because yesterday’s second half shooting display was bad enough to go blind from viewing. It had to remind UofL fans of two games in particular from earlier in the year: Kentucky & Duke.
Make no mistake, the Cards did have their chances yesterday. The play of Louisville’s “Big 3” being Harrell, Rozier & Blackshear was overall superb. The rest of the squad? Not so much. Nevertheless, UofL managed to take a 5 point lead into halftime where Roy Williams evidently dropped enough “dadgums” to put UNC over the hump. The play of Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige and the depth of UNC’s bench proved to be too much and the Cards were sent packing to await their NCAA seeding announcement on Sunday.
As has been discussed a million times this season, Louisville’s production from the 5 spot was virtually non-existent yet again on Thursday. Outside of some active play early in the first half from Mangok Mathiang, the stat sheet for Louisville’s centers, as Rick Pitino so eloquently described, was filled with doughnuts. An alarming statistic that tells the story would be as follows…..
Louisville gets 9.4% of it’s total team points from it’s centers which ranks them 350th in the nation out of 351 teams (only Florida A & M is more porous)
Pitino has stated that he plans to make a change at the 5 spot before play begins in the Big Dance next week. Problem is, his options are extremely limited. The popular contention is to give more minutes to 7-footer Anas Mahmoud. Mahmoud has shown flashes of scoring and proficient passing at times this season, but his inability to body up other post players due to his skinny frame has been an ongoing issue. Mathiang has the most overall experience but his play has been at best inconsistent. Onuaku, the current starter, almost never looks to score and does have a tendency of getting beat on defense – even in a 2-3 matchup zone. Whatever final decision Coach Pitino decides I am confident in saying that UofL fans will want it to be someone who will play hard but also be aggressive on the offensive end.
As a side note, I wanted to comment on the location of the ACC Tournament. First off, it’s a great stage for college basketball. But the location definitely favors the state (NC) based teams, specifically North Carolina and Duke. As a fan of both Louisville and college basketball in general, I like seeing teams battle it out in post season play on a neutral floor. If one team’s fan base travels better to create an advantage then so be it. But count me in the group that is very happy to know that the tournament will be moved to Brooklyn in The Barclay Center in 2017 – which actually might then give Syracuse an added advantage and shoot my theory all to hell!
I’m looking forward to watching the ACC semi-finals later this evening. Although the loss to UNC still stings, it’s an encouraging feeling knowing that your team’s conference features such quality squads. I’m going out on a limb and picking Virginia and Duke to advance to the finals. As for the Sunday Selection portion of the weekend, I’m guessing that Louisville lands either a low 4 or high 5 seed. Time will tell, don’t forget to print your bracket(s)!