It doesn't excuse what took place a week earlier, but I thought Saturday was an enormous step forward for this team from an effort and excitement level. The five Cardinals on the floor played as hard as they have all season, and the guys on the bench were more into the game than they had been at any point over the last six weeks.
It should have been like this from day one, but I suppose after the apathy displayed during the neutral court fiascoes we should be thankful whatever was plaguing this team appears to have at least been partially remedied.
If the last month of the '07-'08 season and the first six weeks of the current Cardinal campaign have taught us anything, it's that Andre McGee seeing the bulk of the minutes at the point guard position gives U of L the best opportunity to make a run at a national championship. We can all talk extensively about why this shouldn't be the case, but the fact remains that it is.
McGee is never going to be Ty Lawson or A.J. Price, but he's a tenacious defender, a capable enough ball-handler, and you're never going to have to wonder if he's more worried about his game than picking up a victory when he's on the floor.
I thought this quote from Pitino was extremely telling:
"You know, Edgar Sosa is a good basketball player, and I have a lot of respect for his game," Pitino said. "But at this point I've got to win basketball games. I can't worry about every little thing."
Pitino has seemingly been trying to build Sosa up since the final horn of Louisville's season sounded in Charlotte last March, but it certainly sounds like his patience is on empty. The player who appeared poised for greatness after a pair of stellar NCAA Tournament games as a freshman has consistently done more harm than good since he stepped to the line in the final minute against Texas A&M, and the time has almost come to stop asking why and move on.
The Jerry Smith playing Taquan Dean thing was cute against a team that wasn't going to force the issue defensively, but I doubt anyone associated with the program views this as a legitimate solution. If Sosa can stay positive and contribute quality minutes when McGee needs a breather or gets himself into foul trouble, then we may have found our best case scenario. But if his attitude remains unaltered - as leaving the locker room before the press arrived after Saturday's game would indicate - then it's time to saddle up with No. 33 and hope the point guard by committee can hack it when he's on the bench.
I think it goes without saying that when T-Will shoots the way he did on Saturday this team becomes about 50 times more dangerous. Still, I think it'd be foolish for anyone to buy too much into the form change hype. People who are born average shooters can work their way into becoming good shooters, but all the practice in the world won't get them to great.
And all the jumping practice in the world won't get 99% of people to this.
Preston Knowles is apparently playing with an injured ankle, which would explain why he's been beaten off the dribble more times (3) in his last two games than he has in his first 30 plus.
And yet he's still awesome.
Loved seeing Earl Clark clapping and shouting words of encouragement during his unexpectedly long stint on the bench, but I suppose the comfort of knowing you'll be making more money than god in less than a calendar year makes it that much easier to stomach not starting against UAB.
With the exception of leaving him all alone in the corner one time during the game's first three minutes, I thought our guards did a fantastic job on Robert Vaden. It looked early on like we could be headed for a Jeremy Hazell afternoon, so to limit him to 22 and just one trey in the second half was a major achievement.
It was good to see Samardo at least thinking about kicking the ball out of the post and playing stronger once he got it in a position to score, although the Blazer frontcourt isn't exactly what we in the business (of life) would call "intimidating." Baby steps. Huge, Jamaican, man-child freshman baby steps.
Yelling "Swop!" after Jared Swopshire does something good is one of life's pure, unadulterated joys.
UAB is small, depleted and probably not headed for the NCAA Tournament, but the two unexpected neutral court losses made these last three non-con tilts infinitely more crucial, so to win the first by 20 is something we should all be feeling pretty good about. This team continues to prove itself to be impossible to gauge, but these next two games and the first couple of weeks of Big East play should give us all our first real glimpse into just how legitimate these guys can be.