What a turn this is.
I have spared no barbs toward Dick Vitale through the decades, bemoaning his hyperbole, his lack of focus, and his self indulgent rants having nothing to do with the particular game he might be calling.
But now I have come to thank him for the good deed he's done for U of L hoops.
For the presence in red & black of Ryan McMahon, who but for the tip to The Rick from The Mouth That Roared would never have become a Cardinal.
Do not misunderstand. I have perspective on the Floridian redshirt freshman. His eye opening debut stint came in the second half of an exhi against an overmatched, seriously weary bunch of Panthers.
I do not think he'll become part of the Cards guard rotation this year. (Though it's not such a far fetched consideration.) But what I do observe is this. The kid -- and I can't believe I'm actually going to type these words -- "can flat out shoot the rock."
What I do know. There are going to be games of importance during the four year stay of young Mr. McMahon, when the Cards will need points. When they'll need that Hancockian four long ball fusillade to regain some ballast. When they'll need some Hendersonian whodabelieve'dit string music off the bench.
Ryan McMahon shall be here to provide it. Write it down.
And that's my bit of fawning Cardinal fandom coming out, after observing McMahon play nine garbage time minutes in a game that doesn't even count.
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Some other random observations from U of L's 109-71 plunder of the Panthers from Kentucky Wesleyan:
Rick Pitino has been known to prevaricate, say one thing and do something totally different.
But he was telling the truth when he advised that the Cards will be running a totally different motion offense, and a totally different high pressure, full court pressing man to man defense.
Both are still flawed, in their development stages. But it will be enthralling watching these new exhilarating processes develop.
The O is so fast-paced it takes one's breath away just sitting and observing. When the passing, positioning and rotationing (Yeah, I made it up.) become instinctual and evolve, it's going to be beauteous, and most difficult to defend.
When the Cards led 13-3 at the first timeout, all five starters had tallied. A good sign.
Given how it appears to work, having pivot men who can pass is key. Which is why I project significant minutes from Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding at the 5. They're Louisville's best passers among the bigs. Mangok Mathiang will of course get minutes. He'll be needed to bang the boards. But his passing skills, much needed in the new scheme, don't match that of his cohorts.
Matz Stockman will be an afterthought. This O and D simply aren't made for his skill set, such as it is.
I'm fascinated that the offense features so much freelancing and down on the block post ups. There are the occasional high ball screens, but nothing like we've been watching for the last decade.
The defense is truly a work in progress. Seems like the Panthers were able to get the ball to the hoop against the switching man to man far more often than they should have.
Despite Louisville 13 rebound advantage, I'll be interested to see if working the boards becomes an issue as the season progresses. Louisville is long, but lean. Mangok and Jaylen Johnson are the only real bangers. Board numbers will likely be up for the 1s, 2s and 3s.
* * * * *
Are we grateful yet again that Quentin Snider didn't matriculate in Champagne-Urbana?
He is the court leader. And it's obvious that he's now a serious outside threat. Which makes him even harder to check.
We, of course, believed that Deng Adel's frosh season was in many regards a throwaway. Due to his injury, he was simply never himself. That was confirmed last evening with his 16 point, 7 rebound, 3 assist, relentless defensive performance. He's also the Cards best FT marksman.
Tony Hicks is still a question mark. Makes sense since he's new to the program, to playing in the Yum! instead of the Palestra. He still led the Cards with 5 assists.
Donovan Mitchell shall do whatever needs to be done. And do it well. At both ends of the court.
V.J. King made his first shot as a Cardinal, has great FT form, crafted a nifty unselfish return pass to Spalding on a fast break, and most important, didn't force things.
JJ is in better shape, and made all six of his FG attempts.
Heartening was that the Cards didn't run Sosa play at end of first half. Q didn't stand at top of key tom toming the ball, waiting for the clock to run out. He simply got the offense started.
* * * * *
Seems like there are more members and bigger hair than ever for 172 time and reigning national champion Ladybirds.
Can't help but be bemused at The Rick's dire warnings about early schedule. Sure there are no Savannah States to be played -- Thank you very much -- but Evansville is ranked #144 by Ken Pomeroy, weekday afternoon foe Long Beach State is #118 and William & Mary (One of the forlorn five schools that have been around since the beginning of the NCAA tourney, but never made it, along with Army, The Citadel, St. Francis Brooklyn and Northwestern.) is #92.
One more exhibition before stats start to matter.
Bellarmine. Monday, November 7 at 7:00.
-- Seedy K