Savor the blessings when they come.
Opening conference play at home against a woeful Pitt team starting five freshmen was a godsend. To its credit, U of L did not look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth. The Cards played hard, if not with distinction.
Cardinals 77, Panthers 51.
Now the gauntlet.
U of L dives into the deep end of the game in game out grind of ACC competition with legitimate questions to be answered. Not the least of which is: Will Louisville be able to defend the Yum! and steal one or more wins on the road before they visit the Steel City in February?
We'll find out soon enough. Visits to kenpom.com #19 Clemson and #25 Florida State are dead ahead.
There are puzzles to be solved:
Will Malik Williams, who started because of Anas Mahmoud's stomach bug and his own practice intensity, become a significant contributing factor? He played with an edge last night, scoring 6 points along with 3 rebounds in only six minutes of first half action. He finished with 8 and 5.
Will Deng Adel, averaging 3.6 rebounds, raise his average to six a contest, the number he snared last night? Will he improve on his assist/ turnover ratio, which was 2/4 against Pittsburgh?
Is VJ King really just as tentative a player as he appears? Will he ever be able to match the 24 he tallied against UVa last season, if not regularly at least every once in awhile?
Will Darius Perry, who went 0/5 last night and frankly didn't come close on any of his attempts, escape his offensive funk? If not, will it affect his intensity at the defensive end? He was obviously frustrated last evening. (I'll refrain from an analogy to the Fahrenheit. I'm tired of plaints about the weather. It' winter. It's cold. We'll survive.)
Will the Cards continue their slide at the charity stripe? They're still draining 74.2% for the campaign, but were only 16/26 (61.5%) in the ACC opener.
Will catalyst Ryan McMahon, who just seems to make things happen, get increased PT? Last night, he saw only 13 minutes of action, hitting all four of his shots and pilfering the rock twice.
Was the +5 offensive rebounding stat a harbinger of better times to come, or simply due to how bad the Panthers are?
Will U of L look more stable and less scrambled at the defensive end? The Cards didn't lack for effort most of last night, but sometimes looked harum-scarum.like five year olds at recess. It didn't matter against Pitt, but will at Clemson and beyond.
As for Q, well, I have no questions. He's far from a perfect point guard, but he's dogged, more intense than his impassive demeanor would indicate. He hit from outside. He took it to the hoop. Four assists, no giveaways. I doubt he'll be able to give the Cards 19 every night, but his effort won't falter.
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Reality: Here's the science that must be regarded the rest of this season.
To co-opt Rhymin' Simon, and paraphrase: "Where stand you now, Joe Lunardi, Card nation turns its lonely eyes to you?"
As a loathed 8 seed in Joey Brackets latest projections.
Ken Pomeroy has U of L rated #39. Which is better than ESPN's Basketball Power Index, where the Cards reside at #44.
That's the brutal truth. If this team wants to dance, there is no margin for error.
Because Pitt is so awful, last night's win, invigorating as it might have been, doesn't prove a lot. Louisville has beaten every team it's supposed to. Now they need to start beating the ones who have so far shown to be their betters.
-- Seedy K