You like that? If I was better with computers and could make a graphic where the letters were jagged and dripping with blood, I could probably land a gig at a national news network.
I think there has been more discussion about the Seton Hall game than any other this season, and there are a couple of explanations for this: 1) The loss was a shock to the majority of the fan base, and surprise is almost always a lethal accent to disappointment. And 2) Louisville doesn't take on another inspiring opponent until a week from today when they go to Storrs.
Since there has been so much chatter about what exactly went wrong Saturday night, let's hone in on the main points of contention.
The biggest complaint I've heard in the last two days is that Pitino should have shifted to a man defense after it became apparent that Seton Hall's 22-year-old freshman was going to hit from any legal spot in the gym.
While I think that the situation did necessitate adjustments, I don't think moving into a straight man was the solution for a few reasons. The first is that this delayed zone that we're playing already involves the back three players switching to man at certain times. When Seton Hall would get the ball into the middle to Brian Laing, Padgett or Caracter would take him and the other two back guys would man up on Hazell, Garcia, Nutter or whoever was in their general vicinity. A handful of the open looks that Hazell got came when he was being defended man-to-man, and my guess is that he would have likely gotten more had all five guys been playing straight up man.
The second reason why going straight man would have been a bad switch for us is that Seton Hall has Eugene Harvey, a player I would take in a one-on-one game against just about anybody under 6-foot-7 in the league. There's no way that Sosa could hang with Harvey on defense, and while Andre McGee - God love him - would certainly put forth the effort, nature would prevail on more possessions than not.
The most appropriate action I've heard proposed is to have turned Terrence Williams into Buddy from Hoosiers and had him find out what type of gum - or in this case, brand of mouthpiece - Hazell was chomping on. Since T-Will has Hazell covered athletically, I think this definitely would have solved one problem, but it definitely would have created more. Obviously there would have been more space for Harvey to operate, and that could have created more open looks for Jamar Nutter - who was 2-of-4 from three himself in the game - and Brian Laing, who was already having his way in the lane by the end of the game.
And let's not forget that had the five guys on the floor been more aware of Hazell in the first place, a defensive switch wouldn't have been necessary. It was obvious that the scouting report said to back off Harvey and extend on the other wings. Well, Smith, Sosa and McGee did that for the first 15 minutes or so, and then got excited and started jumping Harvey when he had the ball at the top of the key. This gave more room to the guy receiving the first pass, and gave the guys in the back of the zone no chance to jump out and contest the shot. Part of that is obviously on the players, and part of that is on the coaches for not continuing to remind them after No. 21 just hit his 27th trey.
Basically, the worst thing that could have happened for us happened. A 32% three-point shooter went unconscious and it completely screwed up our defensive gameplan. Could he have been handled better? Probably. Do I think something should have been done? Yes. Do I think that would have changed the result of the game? I have no idea.
I've been stunned by some of the T-Will criticisms over the past three years, but ripping on the guy after he just produced the fourth triple-double in school history is taking things to another level.
Not only did the kid put up 10, 10 and 10, he played 39 minutes and turned the ball over ONCE. But since the turnovers weren't there, it's back to the three-point shooting and him being 2-of-8. I did think that he took two ill-advised treys, and a bad jump shot on a break early in the second half, but he definitely didn't do anything to warrant any sort of extended criticism. Nevermind that three of those eight threes came in the game's waning moments when he just happened to be the guy with the ball in his hands, nevermind that he's hitting just under 39% of his tries from beyond the arc, and nevermind that he came into the game as Louisville's best (statistically) three-point shooter.
This is like Billy Packer latching onto a talking point and refusing to let it go for two hours. This isn't last year anymore, T-Will has finally stopped fading away on his jump shot (with rare exception) and if he has an open, in-rhythm opportunity from deep, it's best for the team if he takes it.
They say that a poker player will always remember a really bad beat, but the same player will quickly forget a huge break from the cards that they benefited from. Because of his dynamic nature, I think this phenomenon relates to T-Will as well. Williams can make eight or nine tremendous passes that result in baskets in one night, but the unnecessary failed full-court pass when we were in the process of making a run is what is always going to stick out in people's minds.
Terrence Williams is not the problem.
T-Will has taken a few hits, but for the umteenth game in a row Edgar Sosa has bared the brunt of Cardinal fan complaints. While I think much of the criticism is warranted - you didn't need a keen eye to recognize Bad Edgar out there in the last 10 minutes - I'm surprised by how little heat Earl Clark has taken.
Again, even when things were going well, Clark seemed to be the only guy on the floor not letting the game come to him. I'm convinced that a lot of it was playing in front of his parents and other folks from back home, but that's certainly not an excuse for someone who has played college basketball now for the better part of two years.
One really interesting thing I noticed was how after Seton Hall scored, Clark would immediately look to take in the in-bounds pass like he was still playing point guard in high school. The pace and lack of defensive pressure had to have made him feel like it was a high school game, and he reacted very poorly. He wasn't aware of where the defenders were when he had the ball, he didn't get back quickly on defense, and he was extremely lazy when the Pirates had the ball, almost like he was back playing the McDonald's All-American game. A number of the open shots that Hazell got late in the first half came when Clark was the closest man to him.
It was his second straight game with five turnovers, and for a guy playing the four that's simply unacceptable. Against a team that plays such a soft zone, we really needed either Clark or Palacios to step up on the offensive end, and neither one did.
If you missed Spanarkel's postgame interview with Bobby Gonzalez, you missed one of the better announcer flubs of the season. I'm confident it will be appearing on YouTube soon.
I don't expect you to feel comforted by this, but I'm not horribly concerned by this loss. I hate that it happened, but I don't think it's at all indicative of the direction this team is headed.
Again, hang in there.