Thursday Evening Cardinal News And Notes

John Deis and friend really pulled out all the stops at last night's game. It worked.

So apparently a huge U of L fan raised enough money to have this billboard put up off I-65:

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I'm told that Charlie Strong has seen this, and that he approves wholeheartedly.

5,000 Chron bucks to anyone and everyone who was involved with this.

Seth Greenberg of ESPN ranks Russ Smith as the No. 1 "matchup nightmare" in college basketball.

Smith might be the best one-on-one player in college basketball. A high-volume shooter who changes speed and direction, Smith can get a shot off any time he wants. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino allows him to probe the defense and gives him the green light to attack the basket and create plays on his own. Smith can play off Peyton Siva's penetration or take the reins as the team's primary ball handler. He explodes off screens and can finish with an array of different layups.

On defense, he is relentless both off the ball and as an aggressive, on-ball defender in the Louisville press. Smith averages three steals per game, which often are live-ball turnovers that lead to transition layups.

Game plan: You need to defend Smith with a bigger defender, if possible. Keep him in front and stay down on his change-of-direction, change-of-pace game. Defenders need to use size to their advantage and close with their hands above the ball. Use help defenders to shrink the court so he doesn't have gaps through which to drive. Defenders must go over all side ball screens, and on flat and shake ball screens, the help defender must stay with the ball and make Smith a passer. With Smith, as is the case with all the players on this list, all five defenders need to be alert when he has the ball. One player may have the primary responsibility, but everyone else has a secondary responsibility. It needs to be five versus one.

Just like we all predicted.

A quick note on Russ' Sports Illustrated feature, SI no longer releases their magazine stories online until the week after they hit newsstands. I guess it's time to see if that Barnes and Noble I used to frequent in the early 2000s is still around.

And one final Russ item, I'm talking to Ben Cohen of The Wall Street Journal tomorrow for a story he's doing on the junior guard.

That previous sentence was 100% serious, by the way. The Wall Street Journal is doing a story on Russ Smith, and they've been utilizing previous Card Chronicle posts for reference.

This could be what saves the economy.

The Cards are about to wrap up "phase one" of their Sugar Bowl practice prep.

"We are one day away from ending phase one of our practices on Friday," said head coach Charlie Strong. "We come back on Dec. 26. I wanted to give these guys some time to get home and get some rest. They have been practicing very hard. I've been very pleased with how they have been practicing. I'm very happy with the position we are in going to a BCS bowl game."

The month off has given the Cardinals a chance to heal and get some key players back. Louisville suffered multiple injuries toward the end of the season, including sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and was missing a key number of players on the defensive line.

"This is like the first game of the season," said Strong. "We played the last game on Nov. 29 and now you don't play again until Jan. 2 so we have had a month off. We have guys who were banged up a little bit, so now you have a chance to get a lot of them back in the lineup."

Strong added that Teddy Bridgewater's health is improving, that everyone is academically eligible for the game, and that he expects everyone outside of Senorise Perry to be healthy enough to play.

After intercepting three passes, new U of L commit Richard Benjamin was named MVP for the South team at last night's FACA (Florida Athletic Coaches Association) All-Star Football Classic. The MVP for the North team? That would be fellow U of L commit Terrance Ross.

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Benjamin is actually wearing a U of L cap, which you can see a little bit better in this pic:

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Two MVPs from a Florida high school all-star game? I don't hate it.

Air Louie gets a creepy shoutout in my latest First 68 feature for SB Nation.

Marquette lost to 3-7 Green Bay last night and stopped the Big East's incredible winning streak at 42 games. The current head coach of Green Bay? Brian Effing Wardle.

The social media sensation known as Elle Raiser is giving away some free Sugar Bowl posters tonight. Either retweet him on Twitter or like his page on Facebook to enter.

Here's a cool shot from last night of Gorgui posing with "Flat Jake," the stateside persona of Jake Kerger, who is currently serving his country in Afghanistan.

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This team, man.

New Duke commit Jabari Parker has his own Wikipedia biographer. His page is just slightly shorter than Michael Jordan's.

Louisville is the second most exciting team in college football this season, according to this website.

Louisville was another team with a ton of close games, 6 to be exact, including two overtime thrillers. They did not play one team that was ranked in the top 25 during their run through the Big East. Their triple overtime 23-20 overtime loss to UCONN was their most exciting game of the year. Despite their excitement, they almost ruined their season with late losses.

Just thinking about it, I'm not sure our big "holiday season" games could have fallen on better dates this year.

You get Christmas, and then you have a few days to regroup, travel or what have you, and then it's time for U of L/UK, which thankfully falls on the 29th since it's basically it's own holiday. Then right when you think the fun is over, New Year's Eve pops up and smacks you in the face. Then a full day to rest and casually watch great football before the Cards go for perhaps the biggest win in program history on Jan. 2.

It's going to be an awesome, awesome nine-day stretch.

David Akers was forced to delete his Twitter after receiving a death threat. People are f---ing maniacs.

My favorite Brandon Pry shot from last night's game:

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It looks like Rick is telling Richard he needs to be in bed. Also....those shoes.

Big shoutout to our man Crum's Revenge. Apparently Charlie Strong caught his hype video from today and asked him to make another one specifically for the team. The man has the touch.

Congratulations to Paolo "Salt" DelPiccolo, who has been invited for a trial with a professional club in Germany.

Louisville gets a brief mention in the AP's story about steroids in college football.

The Cards hold steady at No. 2 in the latest SI power rankings, but the bigger story here is that Luke Winn includes yet another glorious Russ shot from Waffle House.



First thing: My Russ Smith feature ran in this week's Sports Illustrated. Go get it, and be sure to sugar your grits.

Second thing: I didn't get this in the story, because stats are not its focus, but Smith has made an incredible leap in free-throw production over the Cardinals' past four games, averaging an amazing 14.5 attempts from the stripe per 40 minutes:



The U of L baseball team checks in at No. 22 in the first set of rankings for the 2013 season.

The Big East gives its preview of the Sugar Bowl.

Santa Waynie (God, that's bad).

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Four-star small forward Daniel Hamilton will visit Louisville during the weekend of the Kentucky game.

Pour one out for "Jersey Shore," America. I can't imagine what Jeremy Ito's going through right now.

Even if the rest of the world is, Florida's players say they aren't taking the Cardinals lightly.

"I remember playing for him a couple of years ago," senior safety Josh Evans said. "Man, he's a great coach. He's a guy who knows his stuff. I'm pretty sure it's going to be a great game. He's a great coach. He's got a good defense coming into this game and a good offense, so it will be very competitive."

Evans is among a handful of seniors and fifth-year seniors who played for Strong when he was the defensive coordinator at Florida - a position Strong held for seven seasons under Ron Zook and Urban Meyer before he was hired as the head coach at Louisville after the 2009 season.

Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter played under Strong for two seasons (2008-09) on two of the strongest defenses in UF history, including one that helped the Gators win the national championship in 2008.

Hunter knows Strong will have his defense ready to play at a high level in the Sugar Bowl.

"Oh, they'll be very prepared," Hunter said. "A Charlie Strong defense, you know, those defenses my freshman and sophomore year ... we had great teams and great defenses. He was a main part of that, getting guys ready and prepared for games.

And finally, if this truly is the last day before the end of the world, I spent my final afternoon preparing stories for an 18-year-old's college decision and combing through old Russ Smith photoshops. I regret nothing.

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