Your must-read of the day comes from ESPN's Brian Bennett, who has a behind the scenes look at Louisville during the brutal four game stretch that wraps up tonight.
Something seemed off from the beginning of this game for the home team. There was far less hum in the Yum! Center as the crowd filled in the stands much later than it did the previous Wednesday night against Kentucky. The players lacked their usual intensity, too; on a couple of occasions, they simply watched as the Cavaliers sprinted for loose balls.
Virginia led by 21 after 29 minutes and held on for a 61-53 victory.
"We were so amped off that Kentucky game that we came out and gave terrible energy," Mitchell said. "It was just a sign of an immature team. We got embarrassed."
"We were too satisfied after the Kentucky win," Snider added.
Mitchell and Snider watched film of that loss together right away, and they vowed to never let it happen again. One thing Pitino has not had to worry about with this team is its dedication. So rather than punish them with physical practices after the Virginia game, he kept things lighter and fun with some fast-paced, almost pickup style workouts.
Losing the ACC opener in such fashion was humbling, but these Cardinals have been through much worse. The program self-imposed an NCAA tournament ban last February as part of the Andre McGee escorts-in-the-dorm scandal. That decision robbed graduate transfers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis of their final chance to experience the tournament.
One thing that adversity did is bond the players closer together. They've gone on several team adventures since, like a trip to see the movie "Office Christmas Party" after a recent practice.
"We all travel together all the time," Mitchell said. "Everybody says they've never seen a team like us where 15 guys are walking together at one time, even just going to class."
I really think these next three months are going to be fun.
Kansas beat Kansas State at the buzzer last night after Svi Mykhailiuk got away with one of the most blatant travels you're ever going to see.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: forget Duke, forget Kentucky, nobody gets a friendlier home whistle than Kansas does inside Allen Fieldhouse.
With one game still to go, the ACC has already wrapped up the title of being the king of college football's 2016 postseason. Louisville didn't help at all, but whatever, go ACC.
The ACC stands at 8-3, the most bowl wins in conference history. Its previous best? Five. But more importantly, the ACC leads all conferences in bowl victories, and that will not change no matter what happens in the national championship game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson on Monday.
Now consider whom the ACC beat this bowl season for further context. The ACC played only one Group of 5 team; the others came from the Power 5. The ACC was an underdog in six of its 11 contests. Four of those teams won (Boston College, Wake Forest, Florida State and Clemson). Pitt was the only favorite to lose.
The ACC had four games each against the SEC and Big Ten, the two conferences many believed to be better throughout the course of 2016. The ACC went 3-1 against both. Overall? The ACC is 9-4 against the SEC (its best mark ever) and 6-2 against the Big Ten -- including a perfect 5-0 against the Big Ten East (you know, the division considered the best in college football).
Though the ACC has spent years trying to prove itself against the SEC, the aim this postseason focused squarely on the Big Ten thanks to its two biggest matchups: Florida State vs. Michigan in the Capital One Orange Bowl and Clemson vs. Ohio State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.
What unfolded in those two games showed why both teams have won 10 games for five consecutive seasons. Florida State and Clemson went into the games with clear advantages over their opponents at quarterback and the skill positions. Indeed, the ACC has the best collection of quarterbacks in the entire country.
But both showed once again why their defenses have been so dominant -- the play of their respective defensive lines.
The old stereotype about Big Ten teams being better in the trenches no longer applies. The SEC and ACC built their championship teams with speed and athletes, but they also built their teams with strong, athletic linemen who are able to pass rush and stop the run with equal proficiency. If there was one question that loomed over both games, it was this: How would their opponents' offensive lines stop Florida State and Clemson? We got our answer early: They simply could not.
In a battle of former U of L hoopers turned high school coaches, Tony Williams' Doss Dragons took down Dejuan Wheat and Valley last night.
In other local high school news, Central football coach Ty Scroggins is stepping down after guiding the Yellow Jackets to five state championships in 10 seasons.
Will Schreefer of FanSided has Anas Mahmoud as one of his "Low-Usage All-Stars," because scoring isn't everything.
5. Anas Mahmoud - Louisville
(13.7 percent usage, BPM +14.7 points/100 possessions)
First up is Louisville's Anas Mahmoud. The center, a native Egyptian who left his home country just four years ago to pursue his basketball dreams in the US, has been a key part of Louisville's No. 1 defense so far this year.
Mahmoud developed his game as a 6-foot-4 wing; a growth spurt that began when he was about 16 left him a true 7-footer and the focus of major college attention after US coaches watched him work with Egypt's national hoops team. He ended up going with Louisville, and struggled to gain minutes (weight, too; he was about 190 pounds his freshman year) and a true role in his freshman and sophomore year. He only averaged about 8 minutes and 1.3 points per game as a frosh; his sophomore campaign didn't see much of an expansion, with bumps to 13 minutes and 3.2 points per game.
This year has been a ‘breakout' of sorts for him — while he's currently only averaging about five and a half points per game, with a 13.7 percent usage rating and about four field goal attempts per game, he's playing about half of Louisville's available minutes at center. And he has been incredibly ‘effective' per Box Plus Minus, rating as a player +14.7 points per 100 possessions better than average. So how's he getting there? Let's take a deeper look.
The most obvious is his effect around the rim — the big man is currently averaging 2.5 blocks per game, which averages out to 7.2 blocks per 100 possessions. And the block rate is not the only place his impact has been felt — check out these side-by-side shot charts, showing Louisville's defense when he's on the floor, and when he's not.
As always, look to the bottom here for an explanation of shot chart methodology. Louisville is currently missing their games with Long Beach State, Old Dominion, Grand Canyon, and Eastern Kentucky in the dataset.
The whole thing is worth taking a look at. There are other graphics.
I went on SB Nation Radio on Tuesday to talk about Coach K's leave of absence and its significance for Duke both this year and beyond. You can listen to that here, if you're feeling frisky.
Evan Daniels updates his list of the top 20 available prospects for the 2017 NBA Draft. It does not include any Cardinals.
Jeff Greer breaks down film and explains how Donovan Mitchell's breakout performance of this season came to be.
Attendance at bowl games in the state of Florida was way down nearly across the board this season, but nowhere more than the TaxSlayer Bowl, where Kentucky and Georgia Tech drew the game's lowest total attendance since 1958.
North Carolina beat Clemson in overtime last night, but the big story came afterward when a very angry Brad Brownell had some choice words for Roy Williams. The spat was reportedly over Kennedy Meeks yelling at the Tiger bench, but it seemed more like a coach on the hot seat frustrated that he'd come so close to a massive victory than anything else.
One Foot Down, SB Nation's Notre Dame site, previews tonight's game.
Slap the Sign looks at what the Irish can expect from the Cardinals.
Steve Jones takes an initial look at who's staying and who's going on the Cardinal football defense.
Unconfirmed reports are that after one season as Louisville's secondary coach, Keith Heyward is headed to Oregon to join Willie Taggart's staff.
Clemson's Ben Boulware has thoughts on people ripping Christian Wilkins for, uh, grabbing a handful in the Fiesta Bowl. pic.twitter.com/qC1DlDnHW2— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) January 4, 2017
The penultimate S&P ratings still have Louisivlle as the 13th-best football team in the country.
Starting at 5 p.m. today, Blaze pizza will donate proceeds to the family of fallen LMPD officer Jason Schweitzer.
Notre Dame students are still on winter break, so Mike Brey says his team needs the Irish fans still in South Bend to show up to the Joyce Center tonight and make up that difference.
As the Irish men's basketball team gets set to host 9th ranked Louisville Wednesday night at 9pm at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has a message for the Irish faithful.
"We need our fans," Brey says. "A 9pm late game and the students not here, is not an excuse. That's not an excuse. We played Pitt the other day on break and it was rocking in their place. We've had success here against Louisville when the place has been rocking. We don't have our students so we need our 6th man to help us out. If they help us we have a great chance of winning."
The Irish are off to 12-2 start and won their ACC opener on the road at Pitt Saturday in overtime.
Notre Dame is no stranger to overtime games with their next opponent Louisviile. From 2010-2013, ND and Louisville went to overtime in 5 of 6 games including the classic 5-overtime game won by the Irish. Notre Dame has won 3 of the last 4 OT battles with Louisville.
Overall, the win over Pitt was the 6th straight overtime win for Notre Dame which is has won 9 of 10 OT games since Steve Vasturia and VJ Beachem joined the team.