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Thursday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

Eat it, Utah. Sure why not?

—Bye week spread check: Terrible jokes from rival fans by 17.5.

—Sports Illustrated tackles the seven biggest “what ifs” of the 2017-18 college basketball season. As you might expect, one of these hypotheticals involves Louisville and Rick Pitino.

What If the FBI Hadn't Taken Rick Pitino and Brian Bowen out of the Picture for Louisville?

One of the biggest news items to come out of the revelation of the FBI’s investigation into corruption into college basketball involved Louisville recruit Brian Bowen. An Adidas executive allegedly agreed to route a $100,000 payment to the family of the five-star wing shortly before he issued a verbal commitment to the Cardinals last June. Bowen was suspended from team activities indefinitely, although he has reportedly retained an attorney in an attempt to be reinstated.

Louisville presumably won’t have him available at any point this season. Although our model projects its offense to take a hit without Bowen—who averaged 22 points and three assists per game as a senior at La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind., en route to being named a McDonald’s All-American and Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2017—his absence isn’t expected to detract from Louisville’s defense. Not having Bowen around isn’t a deal-breaker for the Cardinals in terms of their ACC and national championship prospects.

Instead, another factor is causing our model to project Louisville’s D to slip: The firing of head coach Rick Pitino, whose recent defensive coaching history is unimpeachable. Louisville has not finished lower than eighth in KenPom’s adjusted points allowed per possession over the last seven seasons, and it finished first or second three times during that span. The Cardinals will be a chore to score against even with assistant David Padgett taking over for Pitino on an interim basis, though, thanks in part to stout paint defender Anas Mahmoud, who ranked fourth in Division I in block rate in 2016–17.

Taking all of this into account, Louisville would have ranked fourth in our projections with Pitino as head coach and Bowen eligible. Cut only Bowen out of the picture, and the Cardinals drop to sixth. IRL, Louisville ranks ninth, although our model still has it checking in at 13th in the country on the defensive end.

—The latest fallout from the FBI probe into college basketball came today with Auburn announcing that both Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy are out indefinitely. I would expect at least a couple more announcements like this over the next 10 days, and even more players in street clothes for unexplained reasons on opening night.

—Louisville is taking over the Jimmy Kimmel show tonight. Jennifer Lawrence will host the show and Linkin’ Bridge will be the musical guest. Here’s hoping Earl Clark will be playing with the house band.

—Per usual, Spencer gets to the bottom of the real story.

—The 2018 Louisville baseball schedule is here.

—Congrats to Emina Ekic of the Louisville women’s soccer team, who was named the ACC’s Co-Freshman of the Year on Thursday.

—Sports Illustrated calling this three years ago is pretty unreal.

—Grant Brisbee is a tremendous writer and his thoughts on the Astros’ triumph are worthy of your time.

There are limits to what the Astros can do for the city. The damage from Harvey has an easily identifiable toll when it comes to lives and homes, but that’s leaving out some of the larger stresses that accompany a tragedy of this scale. You need a car to get around Houston, and tens of thousands of cars were taken off the road. The people who can’t afford to replace a 1989 Fiero might not be the people who can afford to take a load off and watch the ol’ stickball. It is just sports, after all.

It felt like more to the people screaming before Game 1, though, especially when Springer — Connecticut-born to a Panamanian dad and Puerto Rican mother — grabbed a Texas flag and waved it wildly. Baseball isn’t something that’s necessary after a tragedy like Harvey, but as long as it’s here, at least it’s the best possible kind, both on and off the field.

The city is being forced to take a deep breath, say fuck it, and try again. They get to watch the fuck-it-try-again Astros, a team that was built from the ashes of one of baseball’s greatest debacles. They get to see a bunch of disparate souls from all over the world who were put there because of years-old roster machinations making the most of it.

And there’s a chance that, when this is all over, they’ll have built what they were trying to build in the first place, and everyone will get to dance like a bunch of idiots. They’ll just have to earn it.

If it doesn’t work, you’ll never believe the four words they’ll tell themselves ...

—It’ll be a top 15 showdown in the pool this weekend when the U of L swimming and diving team hosts Tennessee.

—LJ Nesbitt over at The Crunch Zone reacts to the debacle against Wake Forest.

—UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma was asked by Pardon My Take on Wednesday if he would hire Rick Pitino, and he did not hesitate with his answer.

"If I had a job opening? Yes," Auriemma said on Barstool Sports' Pardon My Take podcast. "Well, I mean, everybody's got baggage. You know, what are you going to do? You know, he did his time. He's serving his sentence. He lost a great, great job. And you know what? So what. That's a life sentence? I don't know, I don't think so."

—Duke will begin a college basketball season as the No. 1 team in the country for the ninth time. Only once in those previous eight instances have they finished the same season No. 1.

—It’s an Insider story, but Ray Spalding gets a mention in this ESPN feature on the most intriguing power forward draft prospects in college basketball.

—Cincinnati defeated Bellarmine 89-61 last night at Freedom Hall, and after the game UC head coach Mick Cronin opened up about his current thoughts on Rick Pitino.

—Was very bummed yesterday to hear of the passing of Minor League baseball legend Myron Noodleman. I also had no idea his nephew was Bill Hader.

—Seedy K’s pigskin picks for the week are here.

—The free Braxton Beverly movement continues to spread in North Carolina.

—Speaking of Braxton Beverly and ridiculous NCAA decisions, Gary Parrish highlights two more outrageous cases.

I'll start with Hayes -- the 6-foot-7 senior who averaged 15.9 points and 8.0 rebounds for an Oakland team that won 25 games last season. He's a human resources development major who is on track to graduate in December. And yet the NCAA ruled him academically ineligible for the fall semester because, according to NCAA rules, he "failed to make satisfactory progress toward a degree." Again, Hayes is on track to graduate in December of his senior season. But the NCAA's rules, as written, insist he's not making "satisfactory progress toward a degree."

(Think about that for a second.)

The issue is that Hayes received a 2.5 grade in a class in the spring, which led to Oakland not giving him credit for the class because Oakland requires students to have at least a 2.8 in Hayes' major. And when Hayes failed to earn that credit, he dropped below the 18 hours the NCAA requires student-athletes to complete between the start of fall classes and spring commencement. So the NCAA ruled him ineligible -- essentially because Oakland, unlike some universities, actually holds its student-athletes to real standards.

Naturally, Oakland appealed to the NCAA. Its argument was simple and basically that it's ridiculous to rule Hayes ineligible for "failing to make satisfactory progress toward a degree" when he is actually progressing so well he's on track to graduate in December of his senior season with a 2.9 GPA. The NCAA heard the appeal and dropped the suspension to four games, which is better. But what sense does it make to punish a player at all, for any games, who chose to pursue a real major, and is about to graduate, simply because he got caught by a technicality that obviously shouldn't apply to him?

Answer: It makes no sense whatsoever.

Raise that banner though, UNC.

—U of L landed a commitment from class of 2019 QB Jaden Johnson on Wednesday.

—The ACC field hockey tournament at Trager Stadium begins today. Here’s the full schedule.

—Good story from Andrea Adelson about the NC State kicker and how he’s bounced back from receiving death threats after missing the potential game-winner against Clemson last year.

—Reminder that I’m signing books at the Barnes & Noble on Hursbourne from 1-3 on Sunday. It’s got five-star reviews from both Justin and Mr. Bovada.

—Peyton Siva was named a Co-MVP for Round 4 of the EuroCup regular season. Don’t ask me to explain it I’m just typing what I see.

—The Minnesota Vikings are prepared to activate Teddy Bridgewater.

—Jeff Greer looks at the draft prospects of Louisville’s current crop of basketballers.

—The U of L women are No. 9 in the preseason poll from the AP. They were No. 10 in the coaches poll.

—The first Inupiaq (Eskimo) to play Division I hoops will do so for Texas.

—Could the New England Patriots be looking to draft Tom Brady’s heir apparent in 2018 and could that heir apparent be Lamar Jackson?

—Evan Daniels looks at the top 20 NBA draft prospects for 2018.

—And finally, R&R will have Tom Jurich in studio at 4 p.m. to do his first radio interview since being fired at U of L. You can listen here.