Recipes are always entertaining when you break them down into their individual parts. So is chemistry when you get that all matter is made of such harmonious combinations of otherwise unstable particles and elements. (Such a dork, but stay with me.) Within the confines of ANY championship team, there are necessary parts and pieces that must exist and I would like to offer my honest evaluation of why this might truly be the best team Louisville has put on a floor since 1986 (probably since 1980, but I have to give respect to ALL previous championship teams because, you know, they did win it). Let us break down the recipe of the National Champion.
1 - Coach with nerves of steel and willingness to never take second place
1 - Point guard who can distribute as well as score, keeps TO's to a min, and leads with his body language
1 - Shooting guard who can draw the ire and attention of a defense by punishing them for missed assignments
2 - Forwards with the ability to keep defenses honest with an inside out combo that is interchangeable
1 - Center that is needed to do three things: Clean up the glass, block shots, and score 1 on 1
3 - Bench players offering invaluable rest for the starters while maintaining the intensity/production of said players
Mix ingredients for twenty minutes, let rest, then blend for another twenty minutes and bake for five and half months and what you get is a visage of basketball pageantry seldom witnessed, and likewise rarely enjoyed.
With the 2012-13 installment of the Louisville Cardinals I see all the necessary elements listed above. Not quite sold on it? Take a look at a subjective view of the parts, as well as their sum.
Coach - Like I really need to go into detail about how we all feel about CRP. He wants it. He needs it. He breathes it like he can't sleep another wink until he gets it. So far this pre-season I see a man so giddy he can hardly contain himself at the prospect of what lays in wait for the next five or so months. That makes me happy, and you should be too. SO BE HAPPY!
PG - In Siva we have a guard who in his last three years has grown and matured into a man amongst boys on the court. I look at how last season he could have cashed in his chips when he just didn't show up at times, but then in the post-season, he really came on. If he can give us 35 mins a night (maybe less in blowouts) there is no doubt in my mind that his leadership from his assists as well as his attitude to never give up can simply will the team to victory at times this upcoming year.
SG - I am torn, but happily so in considering that we have two potential interchangeable pieces as this position. Russ and Kevin are almost equal in their passion to get the ball through the hoop in the quickest amount of time. Their aggressiveness often results in a silly turnover or awkward shot, but lets say they miss 50% of these, they still have a 1pt per possession average (or more if its a 3). That's going to be good enough if they can simply keep defenses honest by exploiting perimeter weaknesses and mismatches that occur on switches. Keep an eye out in these two as the year progresses and if they combine to shoot greater than 50% for the year, we win a LOT of games.
SF/PF - Most of you will not agree that these are tandem positions, but rather in CRP's offense its the Center and PF that work in tandem. Sorry, I disagree. With Luke/Wayne paired with Chane/Montrezl, I see this as the perfect yin/tang situation. Luke and Wayne are excellent crashers and can take the ball to the hoop, they can also shoot the three and stretch the defense out to the perimeter. Chane/Montrezl are beasts down low, but it won't be at all seldom that we see both take shots from 15-21 feet out. Chane doesn't move well with the ball outside/in but he usually doesn't have to. Point being, our forwards can single-handedly move the defense where they want them if they can convert on the opportunities they are given. It's going to be fun to see how they read each other and move as an inside out unit this year.
C - My favorite human being and quite possibly the central (no pun intended) figure of this team, Gorgs. In the past (like last year for instance) we had hopes that the Gorgster would put up ungodly scoring numbers and rebounds to match. This, in my opinion, is only half-reasonable. Last year we witnessed what a TRUE center should do. As stated previously, score 1 on 1, rebound, and block shots. Notice it doesn't say score often, just when the correct opportunity presents itself. Did you ever see Gorgui go head first into a double or triple team? Not too often. He knows his limits and I feel that CRP has made it clear that he will not "move" many people who stand between him and the goal, but rather, he can use his head and make the other guy leave his feet using some head fakes, and that's the best 1 on 1 move there is. Look forward to hearing "AND ONE" a lot more this year. As for blocking, I don't need to go there. Rebounding is sadly his weakest area as he is more of an opportunist in this regard rather than a facilitator. Chane is the beast, Gorgui is the "if its close to me I got it" type. Luckily, I think that when Montrezl spells him for a few mins a game we will see some aggressiveness that nets a few more rebounds but maybe not the same production in terms of blocks. At any rate, Gorgui does what Gorgui does, and we can never be upset with the result because of the heart he puts into it.
Bench - I have already hit on who I feel the top three to four bench players will be, but what I really want to say is that is nice knowing that we could sub out five guys at once, and I don't think that I would worry too much about the production drop off that would occur. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say it would be rather minimal. What makes this such a potentially threatening bench is that we can literally run all game long at teams, foul out three to four players, and still keep the pedal floored. Something has to give at some point and I doubt CRP would ever get to the point where he does a 5 for 5 switch, but it's just so nice to know that I think our second five could beat almost 10-12 of the other teams in the top 25 this year.
Long winded, maybe. Nothing you didn't already know, definitely. Feeling a lot better about what results this year should bring, most assuredly. See, when the sum of all the parts produce such a potentially awesome concoction, it's hard to say nothing about it, and even harder not to indulge yourself in a little bit of premature hope and dreaming. Sleep well tonight my fellow Cloids, the cake is almost in the oven, and in five and half months, we can enjoy the sweet aroma and delight in the delicacy that emerges from the oven that is this season. GO CARDS!