If you've been anywhere near a TV or the Internet since Monday, I don't have to tell you that this has been Rivalry Week on ESPN. If you are anything like me, it's hard to imagine topping the intensity and anticipation leading up to Thursday night's classic rivalry game with St. John's. Your older brothers, cousins and parents all probably, like mine, spent most of Wednesday and Thursday texting you a few words that you instantly knew which game they were talking about. "The Steal" "The Fake Time-Out" "The Eugene Lawrence game" By the time Thursday rolled around, all day you watched the clock, waiting for it to hit 8 PM so you could put on the same shirt you always wear to St. John's games and get your standard pre-rivalry game meal.
WELL GUESS WHAT FOLKS: rivalry week is about to go to a whole 'nother level: that's right: South Florida: in the Sun Dome: 1 PM: on a Sunday. Let's just hope the team wasn't so exhausted by Thursday night's game and didn't spend too much time looking at the Cask of Drill Bits (which has been given to the winner of the Louisville-St. John's game for decades of course) Friday that they can't regain focus for Sunday's game. I love rivalry week, but honestly I am ready for it to be over. It's just too much. And the poor people who watch ESPN (which has been showing highlights from classic tilts between Rivalry Week game participants all week) I'm sure they are sick of seeing this clip over and over again:
And I'm sure they hear it in their sleep...."Van Treese is underrated. But not anymore!" Over and over. That's Rivalry Week folks.
I don't need to tell you how big this game is and how amped up South Florida is going to be. All you have to do is look at the Big East standings: Georgetown currently sits atop the conference leaderboard. South Florida's only Big East win? Yup, Georgetown. It's true. Look it up. Wait, you don't have to, it's Rivalry Week, you know this stat already.
Last time these two teams met, Louisville put together one of the best overall games it had all season, dominating from the opening tip and coasting for a 64-38 win. I still put the t-shirt commemorating that win on once per week, even if I ultimately opt to wear something else out of the house.
Three things to watch in Sunday's game:
1) Pace Pace Pace - South Florida will look to leverage the intensity of the crowd to their advantage and burn 30 seconds off the shot clock on offense and shoot whatever shot is then remaining when the moment is forced to its crisis.
2) Van Treese Is Underrated - This is not a joke. After Gorgui logged 37 minutes Thursday night, Pitino basically came out and said that Van Treese sucks in practice so he has no confidence in him, but that he plays well in games so he should start playing him more. This late in the season it is unusual for our rotation to not be solidified but that's a product of our team this year. Gorgui is so important and Pitino has a weird SVT blindspot and always has, let's be honest. Trez and Chane are so different, and Chane can go from looking like the best player on the team to a liability half-to-half, so it's hard to predict the substitution pattern between those guys. And Wayne and Luke both are very different, too. So much of our rotation is match-up based, although against USF, it doesn't seem like Luke or Wayne bring a specific advantage over the other to the game.
3) Russ's Road Shooting Percentage - Another thing Pitino talked about last game was how Russ shoots so much worse on the road and they can't figure out why. My uneducated guess is that for a shooter, there is comfort at home and Russ is so much more a feel shooter who almost never takes shots from the same spot game to game, and not a muscle-memory, every 3 pointer looks the same shooter. I have nothing to back this up but that's the beauty of bloggin' - just making it up as we go.
I don't think we are going to beat USF as badly as we beat them at the Yum!, but they are limping into this game as losers of 7 straight, battling DePaul for last place in the Big East with a 1-11 record, although they did lead White Hot Providence at half by 11 last time out before giving up a 23-2 run and falling by 10. We beat them last time because we made some shots early and were able to establish the pace. If we are cold, USF holds onto the ball and we can't run, it could be a frustrating afternoon.
But what else do you expect during Rivalry Week?