A day after seeing the Louisville football team topple the 14th ranked squad in the country and play itself right back into the middle of the Big East title chase, Cardinal fans were able to get their first look at a U of L basketball team almost certain to begin the season ranked in the top five.
Not a bad little weekend.
You can never come into these things expecting to see the same quality of basketball that the previous season left you with, but I actually thought the play was about twice as crisp as it was a year ago, which is somewhat remarkable considering how much youth was on the floor.
The athleticism on display was pretty breathtaking, and that's with Terrence Williams on the sidelines passing out towels and cups of water. It's also remarkable the shape that these guys are in already. To play at that speed for 40 minutes with limited breaks and just a five-minute halftime is something ordinary human beings just can't do.
Great crowd (just under 12,000), pretty high level of play, Rick Pitino on the mic twice, Sean Moth in midseason form and actual U of L basketball for the first time in seven months.
To sum up: this gon' be fun.
Though nothing too great should be taken from one 40-minute scrimmage, let's go ahead and look at the individual performances from last night.
While I think Pitino was sandbagging a little bit with his "Samardo is fool's gold" comment after the game, the majority of Samuels' 36 points did come from dunks, lay-ups or put-backs, and he had a much tougher time putting the ball in the basket when he caught it in the post with Terrence Jennings on his back. Still, he's a tremendous finisher who does an outstanding job working to put himself in position to net those easy points in the lane. His free-throw shooting may have been the biggest catalyst for optimism on display, and I loved how mad he got when he finally missed one from the line. He's got a decent mid-range stroke, but has the bad habit that so many young players do of fading away when he takes jumpers with nobody guarding him. It's the same issue that plagued T-Will during his first two seasons here.
Samuels plays as hard as anyone on the floor when he's out there, and I loved how he stood up and cheered every time he got a quick breather. This is not going to be a tough kid to get behind. His first standing ovation in Freedom Hall will not be his last.
We heard about it all summer, but it was amazing to see the shape Andre McGee has played himself into. He was one of the most underrated players in the Big East a season ago, but there are things he can do now that he simply couldn't during his first three years in red and white. There was one instance where he took the inbounds pass at his end's free-throw line and the other eight players were at or around midcourt, and he still beat everyone down the floor and scored on a contested lay-up.
The shooting nights are going to continue to be hit or miss, but with this newfound athleticism and a continued commitment to being a defensive nightmare for opposing floor generals, McGee is more than capable of getting this team to Detroit.
Pitino has hyped Sosa's maturity for the last five months or so, and while those comments may have been an attempt at a psychological boost as much as anything, Edgar did look like he'd aged three or four years over the summer. He played calm, he didn't force the issue, and he took the ball to the rack when appropriate. I still don't understand why he refuses to get up to the line when he takes a three-pointer, especially since it's a foot further out than it was a year ago. Over the course of his two seasons here, he's been about twice as likely to connect from deep when he's been up at the line than when he's been a foot behind it, and I can only assume that the same will hold true in his junior year. Still, if he can keep the mindset that was on display Sunday night throughout the season, then he should be able to make all of us forget about the few ups and many downs of last year.
I told you, you're going to love this kid.
Despite facing off against a frontcourt of Earl Clark and Terrence Jennings, Swopshire showed absolutely no fear in his first public action as a collegian, and as a result he got to the stripe ten times, second only to Samuels' 12 attempts. He's extremely active, and was the biggest reason the Red team had so much success when the White went to zone. No one's ever going to write a sonnet about that stroke, but if it puts the ball in the basket as often as it did on Sunday then who cares. The fact that he's added so much muscle in so little time exemplifies why he's going to be a fantastic four year player at the University of Louisville.
This was our first look at Delk since his impressive showing in last year's scrimmage, and for a second it looked like it was going to be short-lived. After drilling a three-pointer from the corner early in the first half, Delk came down on a photographer's leg and injured his ankle. He returned to the floor about five minutes later, but was understandably tentative for the rest of the night. Still, he made a pair of athletic lay-ins going up against Earl Clark, and made several terrific entry passes into Samuels.
There might not be a player on this team with better basketball instincts. There are guys in every sport who you can watch for five minutes and automatically assign them the undefinable quality of simply being "a player." Delk is one of those guys. The drop off when T-Will comes out of the game should be significantly less extreme than it has been for the past two seasons.
We all pretty much know what we're getting with Clark, and it was out there for all to see last night. The box score says he only took 22 shots, but after the game it felt like that number was considerably closer to 40. The one-on-one stuff is OK during an October scrimmage, but let's hope Earl remembers what made him so special in last year's NCAA Tournament by the time the games that matter roll around. His final season in red has the potential to be very special
There's still nobody funnier to focus in on for 20-30 seconds.
Kid's arms are enormous. He really is the new Larry O'Bannon. It was nice to see Preston looking for his shot a little more off the dribble as opposed to camping out along the baseline and waiting for another guard to drive and kick to him. There's still a sizable drop-off from McGee and Sosa to him when it comes to ballhandling, but he made a number of impressive plays during the little time he spent running the show. I also hear he's a decent defender.
Knowles' athleticism was hard to miss when he got up to block an Earl Clark jumper and was incorrectly called for a foul. Afterward, he went over to one of the cops sitting courtside, said something to him and then gave him a high-five. George Clooney daydreams about being this cool.
The label of being a fearsome shot-blocker was not misleading. Despite being hampered by turf toe, Jennings made several stellar defensive plays and looked like a guy who will eventually be up to the task of spelling Samuels. The fact that his arms are longer than the head alien in Close Encounters is another plus.
He does have a ways to go offensively, but not as far as some were suggesting. He made a couple of nice up-and-under moves and showed some touch on a couple of baby hooks. Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Jennings was that he was consistently the first man down on the floor on both offense and defense. Perhaps the least encouraging thing about Jennings was that he showed the potential to be the worst free-throw shooter we've had since Ellis Myles.
His left elbow pad is cool.
Obviously, not Jerry's finest hour, but I'll give all of you 15 cents if he goes 0-for-10 from deep again this season. He'll be the most reliable player on the team once more.
This was another pleasant surprise. I had no idea that Kuric was as athletic as he is. There were multiple times where he got up for rebounds or put-backs and was able to get his hands on the ball even with Jennings, Samuels and Clark in the area. He was just 1-for-4 from deep, but he's got a terrific stroke, and that will be the main reason he'll see the floor, albeit briefly, right away.
Goode was frequently being traded from one team to the next, which was fairly amusing to watch. He looked bigger than he did a year ago, but the kid is still an absolute fouling machine. I really think he hit double digits. He has a decent mid-range stroke and is skilled enough to be a capable replacement if the rest of the frontcourt is riddled with foul-trouble, but Pitino's right when he says he has a long way to go. Still, the man can dress.
Played only 14 minutes because he's still recovering from a foot (ankle?) injury. Knocked down a lay-up and a three from the corner. Almost got Reggie Delk hurt again, an act Delk was none too pleased about.
Made 3-of-5 shots from the field. Welp, we'll see you here next year.
Managed to knock down one trey in eight minutes of action. Still, you're a member of one of the best college basketball teams in the country. Myself and thousands of other people know who you are and know a little bit about the way you play. Don't think for a second that you'd be better off leading North Delaware State in scoring.
T-Will looked like the 9-year-old kid who knows he's supposed to leave his stitches alone, but just can't help picking at them. He's doing air chest bumps with McGee before the game, he's dancing on the sidelines, he's shooting during breaks, he's hanging from the rim after the game. I love everything about the guy's personality, but give that knee a break, my man.
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Ten minutes of quality scrimmage video courtesy of Jerb.
Louisville basketball is here. Welcome to the backseat, everything else.