The following column appears in this week's issue of The Voice Tribune
The December holidays are cool, and everybody knows how Kentuckians feel about March Madness, but as of Sunday afternoon, we have officially entered into one of the best times of the year in this great city. I'm speaking, of course, about that glorious two month or so period when Louisville basketball and football coexist.
From the middle of October through some time in late December or early January, Cardinal sports fans are perpetually flooded with one of the things they most desire in life: something to talk about. From the games to the new faces to the smack talk with rival fans, it's all a beautifully relentless flood of UofL chatter.
Of course sometimes it's almost a little bit too much to handle.
Take this past weekend for instance. Less than 24 hours after Bobby Petrino's football team had scored a 30-18 Homecoming victory over North Carolina State, the basketball team was taking the floor inside the KFC Yum! Center for the first Red-White scrimmage of the new season. With six fresh faces on the hoops roster and a lot of returnees looking to step into larger roles, the volume of new knowledge that fans who had just attended the football game were being forced to absorb had the potential to shock their systems.
The best thing to do in situations like this and the ones we'll be faced with until the football Cards walk off the field after their bowl game is to find some communal "checkpoints" of interest to help remember it all. I'm here to help you get started.
That's the number of 3-pointers that preseason All-American Montrezl Harrell attempted during Sunday's scrimmage, two more than he attempted in his freshman and sophomore seasons at UofL combined. The wild thing? Harrell's outside stroke actually looked pretty smooth, an assertion backed up by the fact that three of those attempts went in.
Rick Pitino discussed the amount of time Harrell has put into improving his outside shot on multiple occasions this past offseason, but hearing about it and actually witnessing it are two totally different things. My guess is that Trez will have the green light from the outside at the beginning of the season, and it won't turn red until Pitino determines that the attempts are hurting the rest of the team. At that point, the junior forward will go back to doing what he's always done best: dunking on fools.
Five is also the jersey number of senior running back Michael Dyer, the much ballyhooed transfer from Auburn who was the Most Valuable Player of the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. Dyer arrived in Louisville with a level of hype appropriate enough to accompany his past achievements, but through 20 games as a Cardinal, he hadn't done anything to let the rest of the college football world know that he was back. Game 21 was a different story.
After a big week of practice, Dyer was rewarded by getting the start at running back against NC State. He responded by carrying the ball 24 times for 173 yards, a number nearly three times as large as the yardage he had amassed in the seven games prior this season. No one has ever questioned Dyer's potential, but seeing it finally start to get realized could be a game-changer for a Cardinal team heading into a loaded final stretch of the season.
No. 9 was back on the field inside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium for the first time this season on Saturday, and he was an absolute difference maker for the Cardinal offense. DeVante Parker's senior season hasn't gone the way he likely dreamed it would, but he certainly showed the potential to end it on a much higher note. In his first game back since suffering a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot in August, a still less than 100 percent Parker caught nine passes for a game-high 132 yards. The Louisville offense was still a ways away from being perfect, but having their best player back in the fold allowed them to look lightyears ahead of where they'd been.
Nine is also reportedly the number of pounds UofL point guard Chris Jones dropped over the summer. His new frame has resulted in a "Mighty Mouse" nickname from his head coach, and a buzz coming out of the Yum Center practice facility that Jones has been the team's top performer through the first few weeks of practice. The senior certainly looked the part on Sunday, scoring 18 points, dishing out eight assists, recording five steals and hitting the game-winning winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
Playing with Russ Smith was a boon in a lot of ways for his teammates the last four years, but for Jones, it was an admittedly difficult transition from a lifelong role of score-first point guard. Playing alongside a more natural two guard like Terry Rozier should make things much easier on Jones, who appears on the road towards having a monster senior season.
The number of games David Levitch has played in and won this season, improving his career-long undefeated streak at Louisville.
Some facts don't need a football counterpart.