To be perfectly honest, I've been fairly pessimistic about the upcoming basketball season since the '08-'09 squad went down to Michigan State. Not "football program" pessimistic, just "I think we may be taking more of a step back than some people think" pessimistic. There's the loss of two lottery picks, the offseason Pitino scandal and a tough Big East from top-to-bottom to deal with. I think lowered expectations are understandable.
While reading into any November game, especially an exhibition, is foolish, Wednesday night was the biggest shot of optimism for me since that loss in Indy last March.
Louisville was never really tested by a Bellarmine team that played pretty well and will challenge for the Division-II national title. The Cards shot well, defended well and cut down on a lot of the mistakes they'd made a week earlier against Georgetown. Overall, this was the most solid exhibition performance from a U of L team in recent memory.
It's safe to say that Peyton Siva again stole the show...
It's impossible to replace the excitement that T-Will brought to the Hall, but the kid is certainly trying.
Bellarmine simply didn't have anyone who could guard him. There was a string of about three minutes where it looked like he was playing a basketball video game against the computer with the difficulty set at "Beginner." Siva would make a simple move and blow past his man, take a couple more dribbles and have an uncontested lay-up or an easy pass to make.
He's insanely quick, he's insanely athletic, he's got terrific vision and apparently an extraordinary attitude.
Again, by the time he leaves Peyton Siva will have become one of the most beloved Louisville basketball players of all-time.
On a team loaded with good shooters who lack the ability to create their own shot, Preston Knowles' ability to knock down the contested jumper with the same ease as when he's left all alone may be the single most valuable skill any player on this team possesses.
PK was advertised as a streaky shooter coming out of high school, a characteristic I thought would stick with him throughout his collegiate career. Not quite sure how it happened, but suddenly he's one of the biggest outside threats in the Big East.
He also plays defense.. and does cool re-enactments of Peyton Siva dunks for his teammates.
With all of the attention Peyton Siva has received today, it should be noted that it may have been Edgar Sosa who played the better all-around game. He hit several shots early to set the tone, finished with a team-high four assists and did a good job of covering Bellarmine's outside threats.
Solid move by Pitino to call off the press and go strictly man against the Knights. Matching up for 40 minutes against a smaller team with several terrific outside shooters was a big test for a pretty young Louisville team playing its second exhibition game. Even though Justin Benedetti and Braydon Hobbs both got several really good looks from beyond the arc, the Cards still handled a difficult task very well.
Really surprised that Kuric didn't get the start and even more surprised that he played so sparingly, but it's a safe bet that the five starters on Wednesday will be the same five being introduced before the game come late February/early March. I know Pitino's mad at Jennings, and I agree that he doesn't appear all that much improved from a year ago, but that combination may have more potential than any other quintet on the roster.
I really think Jerry likes faking defenders out and making them jump more than he likes scoring points. It's the only explanation.
"Run This Town" was a solid improvement for the pregame video. Still, the highlight choices need to be re-edited as the year goes on. I'm looking at you, unnecessary Kuric dunk at the end of the Arizona game.
This was the most impressive performance Jared Swopshire has put forth yet. He snagged some contested rebounds, made a couple of big hustle plays and also scored off some nice moves with the ball.
Here comes the putter throw...wait a minute, maybe this is a new Jared Swopshire.
He also looks like he might be trying to grow his fro back out, which, I have to tell you, I'm completely in favor of.
Reggie Delk also stepped up and had a nice game. I don't think there's a player on the roster whose '09-'10 season is more difficult to predict.
Pitino had the following to say about freshman Mike Marra's shooting struggles:
"He's a very nervous young man, he's from a prep school league where the largest crowd he's played in front of was probably 300 or 400 people. We've got to get him some exposure."
You'd think that if you had the balls to sport those tatoos in public every day not much else would phase you, but who knows. Keep shooting, Mike.
A ladybird messed up during the second routine.
I'm not going to stand for this, girls. How badly do you really want that 877th straight national title?
Rakeem Buckles is a mixture of Otis George and Juan Palacios. This, coupled with the fact that his name is Rock Buckles, has made making him my new best friend the lone goal in my life.
Stephen Van Treese has really taken Pitino's "just rebound" philosophy to heart. He snagged an offensive board right around the rim and did not even think about going up with it. His skill set might be limited, but he's a very big boy and he can be a contributor if he develops a little bit.
Chris Smith: I applaud your outfit.
Dating back to last season I've correctly picked four straight winners in the Kentucky Lottery race thing. What's up, Vegas?
Not sure why but I really, really wanted Chris Brickley to score. The three seconds after he missed that jumper were the most upset I was all night.
The Cardinal Bird jumped on the platform by the railing right behind me and it scared the absolute shit out of me.
Ready for Arkansas.