Just behind being a professional athlete and well behind finding out I was Oprah's long-lost illegitimate child, a career as a columnist of some sort was once a primary goal of mine. For all the benefits such a gig in the sports department offers (great seats, the occasional drink with Drew Deener), there are nights like Wednesday when you can see where the task the job presents can sometimes be unenviable.
Louisville just keeps finding ways to win. Louisville is vastly overrated. Louisville is playing with fire heading into a key stretch of the season. Peyton Siva fights through some turmoil and comes away with his signature moment as a Cardinal. Louisville has not figured out how to score against good man-to-man defense. Bob Huggins temporarily reverts to the Huggy Cardinal fans knew and loathed at Cincinnati.
The six potential angles listed above could all easily be flushed out into a 600-word column, but not one of them alone could come close to fully encompassing the story of "Louisville 55, West Virginia 54."
I suppose this been a long-winded way of saying that Wednesday night's game was very weird, and I'm not sure what the best way to approach it as an objective observer would have been.
My job (big bucks) is much easier: we won, I'm happy, now everyone take your pants off.
We didn't play well, but I won't go so far as to say we didn't deserve to win, because West Virginia didn't play well either. It wasn't a "gritty" Big East basketball game, it wasn't a great defensive basketball game, it was a bad basketball game.
Both teams played very hard and should be commended, but there are few other major conference teams that either Louisville or West Virginia would have beaten on Wednesday night.
Most. Adorable. Game-Winner. Ever.
My sincerest apologies to the female readers, but all of you are now pregnant. Don't worry, it's going to be part-Samoan and it's going to be the cutest thing ever. Your friends will all secretly stalk your Facebook photo albums and be insanely jealous. You'll win life.
At this point in the season if your team has the capability to play at least slightly below average man-to-man defense and you still elect to zone Louisville, you are an awful basketball coach (unless you're Jim Boeheim...and even then it's up for debate). We just don't have the playmakers or the offensive scheme to consistently get decent looks against a tough man defense.
A couple of high screens, a lot of solo dribbling, one attempted Peyton drive to the basket, and then a contested three-point shot. That's our half-court offense about 85% of the time against a man-to-man.
I want to strangle every fan who shouts "slow it down!" when we come up out with a defensive rebound or loose ball.
Speaking of strangling fans...
After a Siva turnover fairly late in the second half, a gentleman in the section immediately to my right felt the need to stand up and shout as loud as he could: "I THOUGHT SOSA GRADUATED LAST YEAR! GET HIM OUT OF THE GAME! SIVA YOU ARE AWFUL!"
I'm not an acoustics expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm willing to bet that on-court audibility does not stretch all the way up to row Q of section 304. So basically, this grown man (who was not in the best of shape I'd like to add) was simply feeling the need to let all of the people in his general area know that he vehemently disapproved of the play of a Louisville Cardinal basketball player. Totally necessary.
Anyway, Siva promptly buries a three and creates a turnover. Dude has no reaction. A couple of minutes later Siva makes another errant pass and the guy jumps back into action with a couple of slightly less enthusiastic insults that I can't remember off-hand.
You know how the game ends.
So after about 15-20 seconds of going crazy and high-fiving, I look over and this guy is still sitting in his seat, he's staring at the ground, and he's shaking his head in apparent disgust. I understand that you have some sort of bias against our starting point guard, I understand that you just made yourself look like a complete ass in front of about 75-100 people, but you're here at a Louisville game wearing Louisville clothes, and you're sulking about a Louisville victory?
I'm willing to defend some fan behavior that goes beyond anything I would ever do, but this guy is just a straight up loser and I'd be completely fine with trading him to another team for a box of Krispy Kremes.
You get the feeling Huggins comes into games at Louisville wanting to put on a show. He'd never admit that, but I really think he does. If he would have gotten tossed that might have turned into one of the all-time great college basketball tirades.
I want to say that Preston(!) is expending way too much energy working to get the ball on offense, but there are long stretches of time where nothing happens for us when he doesn't have the ball in his hands. He's definitely looking a bit more exhausted than he has at any other time in his career here, and while he's still playing terrific defense, he's not able to bring that old "junkyard dog" mentality like we saw a little of from Russ Smith on Wednesday night. He just doesn't have that kind of energy saved up in the tank anymore.
Also, he's friggin' awesome.
Chris Smith vs Earl Clark in a cool-off: choose a side.
Two very different - albeit equally undeniable - kinds of cool. Chris' is a little bit more thought out with his clothes, style, the way he carries himself, etc., whereas Earl's was the product of his naturally laid back demeanor.
These are the kinds of issues that we simply have to get our nation's youth talking about in school.
Speaking of CS5, where in the hell would we be without him right now?
He's the additional outside threat we desperately needed, he's our best offensive player in transition, and he's one of the better rebounding guards (especially on the offensive end) that we've had over the past decade or so.
The kid has worked himself into being a Big East-caliber player, and he's going to have a great deal to do with any success we have from here on out.
Hated to see Gorgui go down, although in real time it didn't look like he hit his head. It was an awkward play, and it was very scary to see him holding his head and staying on the floor like that.
In the span of three days Louisville has to play at Connecticut and at Georgetown. Those guys don't like to bang at all. Perfect timing for our two main bigs to be hampered by injuries.
And grow up, people who feel awkward reading a sentence that includes "guys" and "bang." And for those of you who didn't feel awkward and are now looking for an apology from me for - in your eyes - immaturely feeling the need to point that out, well, I'm sorry.
What the hell were we talking about?
Things I did to win this game:
--Went with the black shirt/black-and-white hat combo for the first time this year.
--Posted the Swop pic.
--Snuck a box of sour patch kids into the game.
I loved Pitino's spiel after the game about Russ Smith thinking that he was being sent in to have his LeBron moment and single-handedly take the game over by scoring 30 second half points.
Say what you will about Russ' decision-making (Ok I'll say it, it's not very good), he brought an energy into the game that we desperately needed at that point. The one three he made was enormous, and the pressure he was able to put on both Mazzulla and Bryant did two things: 1) It frustrated their guards and disrupted their offense. 2) It took at least some of the pressure off of the other four Cardinals on the floor, who all looked like they were about ready to pass out.
He had a pretty sweet cross-over too, which ended up leading to a wide-open Chris Smith three.
Around Christmas, I bought a pair of early-to-mid-'90's white U of L basketball shorts with the dunking Cardinal bird. I can only imagine that the way I feel about this pair of shorts is the way women feel about engagement rings.
I'm so glad I was born with a penis...and no other female reproductive organs...although it worked out all right for Gaga...still, I'm glad.
Kevin Jones had hit us up for 17 and 19 in our last two games against the 'Eers, but he scored just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting Wednesday night. Our wings did a great job covering the corners in the second half.
Another solid job by J-Dubb in relief of The Bone.
He did a solid job with Brian Brohm, whose new thing is apparently not showering before going out in public. I kid because I love. But seriously, complaints about your body odor made it to the upper bowl before halftime.
Terrence Jennings really picked things up in the energy department, especially once Dieng left the game. For the third time in six games though, he was forced to leave near the end of the second half with an injury. This time it was a right knee sprain which Pitino said is not a major deal.
Still, we need a George Goode training montage at some point in the next 24 hours.
Ms. CC was on a plane to Vegas for work during the game, so when George came in with 12 seconds to play, I was about 96% sure he was going to drill the game-winner.
Also, why is Pitino screaming at him during the celebration? He didn't yell at Taquan for not running the play he drew up against Notre Dame in '06. The man has a tremendous smile, let him share it until he gets back into the locker room.
Sweet reverse lay-up, too.
Jim Burr sucks. He sucks. He sucks. He sucks.
You simply should not be allowed to call major college basketball games if you're that out of shape...and incompetent.
We could play West Virginia 20 times and I don't think Kyle Kuric would hit double-figures in any of those games. Just not a good match for him. The Mountaineers' three and four spot guys are always going to be long and athletic, and Kyle simply can't create his own shot against defenders like that.
He did all he could and he actually played pretty well, it just wasn't a night where he was going to be able to play a starring role in a victory.
I really don't get the extensive Marra bashing. I mean I get it, but I'm surprised that people are still so solely focused on one aspect of his game.
Here's the fact of the matter: Mike Marra is not a great shooter. We were misled. It's time to move on.
I do think Rick Pitino calling Mike Marra "the greatest high school shooter I've ever seen" was a bad move, but I don't think it's had this tremendous psychological effect on him like some people claim. Despite Pitino's statement, Marra didn't shoot above 40% from three in high school. There are some very average college shooters who hit far closer to 50% than Marra did in high school.
He might have games where he gets hot, he might improve significantly during this offseason or the next, but as of right now Mike Marra is simply not a great shooter, and it's time for all of us (including Mike and the coaching staff) to accept that. Great shooters miss, but they don't miss by that much that consistently.
All this said, there are things that Marra does very well, and there have been many times this season where he's been shooting poorly but we've still been a better basketball team with him on the floor. He's a good defender, he's a great passer, he's a long body, and he's one of the few players we have who's capable of creating on offense.
We've got to stop waiting for him to have this night where he hits 11-of-13 from beyond the arc and magically morphs into the Steve Novak we thought we were getting. And I really wish the coaching staff would stop telling him to let it fly because it's painfully apparent that they haven't. It's disappointing that he isn't the shooter we thought he was going to be, but he still has a role to play on this team, and I really do think that this Louisville squad needs him in order to be successful.
Someone needed to tell John Flowers that this was a late-January conference game and not the Final Four. I like the emotion, but jeez dude, you've got a lot more games to play.
Get off the floor and do your dance. I'll clap and then do it with you.
I still have no idea why West Virginia stopped looking inside. Teams that don't shoot the ball well generally shouldn't keep launching from the perimeter with a double-digit lead in the second half.
It's a good thing they don't shoot it well, because that first half was as poor a defensive 20 minutes as we've put together all season. We're sticking with that defense where we play man for the first pass or two of a possession before settling into a zone, and it always seems like it takes us about half the game to get used to it. We've got forwards playing at the top of the key, guards scrambling to cover the middle; recently it's just seemed like opponents have consistently had guys wide open throughout the first half.
We have the worst out-of-bounds plays in America and it finally bit us in the ass Wednesday night.
Can we pay Denny Crum like $1,000 a week to do nothing but draw up out-of-bounds plays and set plays coming out of timeouts? Let him install that fake swinging gate play we ran with DeJuan Wheat for four years. It couldn't take any longer than two minutes to teach and it was a guaranteed wide-open three-pointer every single time we ran it.
Loved the intro with the clip of the '05 Elite Eight win at the very end. Well done, powers that be.
Once I got home I quickly changed clothes and settled in for the Jimmer show. At halftime I was treated to two consecutive Bryce Cotton highlights leading into the Louisville/WVU highlights.
If it doesn't get any better than that this year, I won't be able to complain.
We played poorly, we might not be that good, but we won a game that we absolutely had to win and at the moment we're tied with Villanova and Connecticut for second place in the Big East.
All things considered, it's been a highly successful season up to this point. It can become an extremely successful season if these guys can find away to play .500 ball from here on out.