Before we say anything else, we can't stress enough how disappointed we are that "The Bill" has been moved up a week and features just one game. The Bill has become a holiday tradition around these parts, but with this years changes, it just doesn't feel the same.
We have a friend who brings a different young lady to the BMC championsip game every year, but because it's been moved up a week, he's stuck in Lexington and the tradition will die. It's supposed to be shopping, festive lights, and Louisville beating up on shitty teams, but we suppose that's the world we live in now, nothing is sacred anymore.
All yearnings for the past aside, tonight's game is a huge one for the Cardinals, but amazingly no one seems to care. It's a shane that this game is being played on Kentucky week, because Massachussetts may very well be the third best team that Louisville plays before Big East play starts.
The Minutemen were picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10 (Dayton was sixth), and their only two losses have come at the hands of Boston College and Pitt.
UMass is led by a pair of big men, which doesn't bode well for a Cardinal team that has been lit up for 20-plus games by Bellarmine's Dzaflo Larkai, Arizona's Ivan Radenovic and Saint Joseph's Ahmad Nivins. Six-foot-nine-inch center Rashaun Freeman leads UMass in scoring with 17.9 points per game and pulls down 8.2 rebounds per game. Six-eight forward Stephane Lasme leads the team in rebounds (9.7) and is second in scoring (13.0). Lasme also had 11 blocks in a recent game and is closing in on Marcus Camby's school records for blocks in a season and career.
Cheer for this guy not to be doing this tonight
It will be interesting to see if Derrick Caracter gets the start at the five, or if Pitino will go back to David Padgett who played sparingly on Saturday and not at all on Sunday in an effort to rest his still ailing knee. If DC gets into foul trouble and Padgett doesn't look any more moblie, then watch out. This is a game in which we need JDP to step up, and play with the same intensity on the glass that he displayed this past weekend.
This isn't really a game in which T-Will can thrive because he's going to be outsized once he gets to the rack, and his woes from beyond the arc have been well documented. Continuing his excellent effort on the glass is where he can help us win this game. This could be another game in which Will Scott plays a large part because we should be able to generate some good looks from outside. The streaky shooting Edgar Sosa will also have to score in double figures for us to win, in our opinion.
A second loss to an Atlantic 10 will really push the Cards into a corner as far as having a shot at the NCAA tournament. If UMass prevails then Louisville should know that it will most definitely have to win 10 or more conference games, and then follow that up with a strong showing in Madison Square Garden to garner the attention of the Selection Committee.
Sophomore guard Andre McGee returned to practice yesterday and could see some game action tonight. McGee underwent surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee on Nov. 21, and the original timetable for his return was 3-to-6 weeks. We want Andre back asmuch as everyone else, but could it be that these kids aren't making incredible recoveries, but rather they're simply returning to the court too quickly? We'd rather have a 100% Andre for 16 games than a 70% Andre for 23.
If the prospects of McGee's return didn't do enough to get the proverbial optimistic juices flowing, then we've got two stats that both point towards a Cardinal victory tonight. First, Louisville's current home-court winning streak against non-conference opponents stands at 25 games, that's a school record. Second, Pitino is 15-0 all-time against former assistants or players not named Tubby Smith (He's 22-3 with Smith added to the mix).
This is a biggie boys and girls, both for our season and for the momentum heading into Saturday.