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Friday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

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My man both braving the cold and doing his best Chris Mack impression on this Friday.

—The 8-1 Kent State Golden Flashes are headed to Louisville with a six-game winning streak in tow. Here’s a preview of tomorrow’s game from their side.

—It’s a doubleheader tomorrow morning/afternoon at the KFC Yum Center.

—Saturday will also be a special day at the Yum Center as the 2009 national runner-up squad will be honored during the women’s game.

—U of L is going to be paid a visit by a couple of quarterbacks who could both be on the Cardinals’ 2019 roster. Evan Conley is a three-star prospect from the class of 2019 who is still currently an Appalachian State commit, and Riley Neal is a grad transfer who will leave Ball State as the school’s third all-time leading passer.

Injuries plagued Neal’s last two seasons with Ball State. He was out for the final nine games in 2017 and got a redshirt season. Then he was injured against Ohio this season and sat out the final three games. He is expected to be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer if he ends up at another FBS school.

Neal, a 2015 Yorktown graduate, finishes his Cardinals career with 32 starts at quarterback. He operated as the starter in every game he dressed for since the fourth game of his freshman season.

His name is all over Ball State’s record book. He is third all-time in passing yards with 7,393, as he passed up Neu earlier this season. Had he stayed at Ball State, he likely would have passed Nate Davis (9,233) and finished second all-time behind Keith Wenning (11,402). He also finishes with the third-most career touchdown passes with 46, behind Wenning and Davis.

The staff has made it clear this week that they want to bring in both a freshman QB (at least one) and a grad transfer or Juco transfer who can compete for the starting spot right away.

Regardless of who winds up coming here, this is guaranteed to be one of the most intriguing quarterback battles we’ve ever seen at Louisville.

—The slow-mo Darius Perry layup at the end is beautiful.

—Former Cardinals Jaire Alexander, Sheldon Rankins, Brandon Dunn, DeVante Parker, Jamon Brown and John Miller are all on the ballot for the 2019 Pro Bowl.

—If I had a second option for Rutherford family Christmas card after the Ryan McMahon tweet, it would be a printed out version of Chris Mack’s ode to Dwayne Sutton.

—Louisville swimmers set two American records and a world record this week. Not bad.

—Five Thirty Eight says that Zion Williamson is the best college basketball player in at least a decade, which is a very strange conclusion to draw about a player who is a fourth of the way through his first and only college basketball season.

—A cool story on Eric Berry and Pete Nochta from Eric Wood.

—The Courier Journal has released its All-Metro high school football team.

—I thoroughly enjoyed this oral history of the “Dinner Party” episode of The Office.

—Easy holiday winner here for anyone on your list.

—Kentucky recruiter Vince Marrow paid a visit to Manual High School on Thursday to check in with Louisville commit Aidan Robbins.

—Danielle Lerner lists the three things Louisville needs to do in order to beat Kent State on Saturday.

—You have to love seeing stuff like this.

Jeff Walz is the best.

—”Worst season ever” seems extreme, but it’s just an honor to be nominated.

—We’ve still got two weeks to go until the annual hatred on the hardwood game, but at the moment, computers are giving a very slight edge to Louisville over Kentucky.

—College Basketball Today says Malik Williams may be on the verge of breaking out.

—Couldn’t be more proud.

It’s weird.

—The Tenneessean gives its take on Lipscomb putting a scare into Louisville.

—According to reports, Donovan Mitchell’s first signature Adidas shoe will launch in the third quarter of 2019.

—Ray Spalding continues to put up big numbers in the G League.

—Appalachian State has named its replacement for Scott Satterfield.

—With the Mountaineers playing in the New Orleans Bowl tomorrow, I would expect a few more members of ASU’s current staff to be announced as U of L staff members in the first part of next week.

—Dana O’Neil tells the story ($$ link) of how Dick Vitale — have you guys seen this, have you heard about this? — helped bring Ryan McMahon to Louisville.

McMahon wondered if he’d have to prove himself all over again after Chris Mack was hired, worried that perhaps Mack would only view this year’s roster as a stopgap until the players he really wanted and actively recruited arrived. Mack immediately put those fears to rest, meeting individually with McMahon and everyone else on the team, assuring them that not only were they “his guys,’’ but he believed they were better than people expected. Like everyone else, Mack appreciated McMahon’s stroke and was impressed with both his quick release and his ability to savvily read screens. He encouraged him to work more on his ballhandling so he could become more of a playmaker instead of just a spot-up shooter, and to concentrate on his defense even more. The work has paid off, McMahon earning a spot on the floor and not just shoved there out of necessity. “Sometimes teams go out of their way to pick on him and that can be a bad thing,’’ Mack says. “That can lead to teams trying to overdo some things, and his efficiency level doesn’t justify that. He’s not our stopper by any means, but I absolutely do not feel uncomfortable with him on the floor.’’

McMahon’s regular contributions have helped spark what in the eyes of many has been a surprisingly good start for Louisville. After all of the upheaval, plenty of people counted the Cardinals out, unsure if they had the talent or the focus to succeed. Instead, Louisville is a more than respectable 7-3, losing to Tennessee, Marquette and Indiana — the last two by a combined five points. “I honestly don’t know why people weren’t anticipating us to be a good team,’’ McMahon says. “That kind of surprised me. I understand the whole new coach thing, but he’s an established, successful coach and yeah, we lost a lot of players but we returned guys too. The whole thing put a little chip on our shoulder, and I think you’re seeing that on the court.’’

That chip on the shoulder, being underestimated, it’s something McMahon understands quite well. He knows more than a few people continue to view him as that novelty act, still surprised that the kid “discovered” by Dick Vitale is playing a key role on an ACC team. He shrugs it off, happy to let his play do the talking.

Vitale, not surprisingly, isn’t so easily silenced. “Too many coaches and recruiters live off of these rating systems,’’ he says. “That’s why there are loads of kids at places like Buffalo and Loyola who can play. Nobody looks for them anymore. There are loads of Ryan McMahons out there. He may not be a star, but he can play.’’

The most significant part of the story to me is that McMahon grew up with a Dick Vitale alarm clock, which sounds like the absolute worst thing in the world.

—The LEO gives us five things to do in Louisville this weekend.

—U of L signee David Johnson was the best player on the floor in Trinity’s 67-37 win over Bardstown earlier this week.

—Trinity’s student newspaper, The Echo, recently wrote about what went into Johnson’s decision to ultimately sign with Louisville.

—I did not see this coming.

Jeff Eisenberg has some good background on the story of the girl in the video.

—Cardinal hockey is up to No. 13 in the latest poll.

—Friday Irrelevance:

—New research says starting school days later is better for everyone. Looking back at it, having to get up at 6 a.m. every day as a 15-year-old was insane.

—This should be outlawed by the constitution.

—Bovada has released a handful of prop bets for bowl season, which kicks off tomorrow.

—Jeff Greer looks at ($$ link) some of the most notable numbers from Louisville’s first 10 games.

Close games — get used to them

Please read that section header in the voice of the guy in the “Opulence, I has it” DirecTV commercial. Now that you are done laughing, think about this: Louisville’s schedule, with the exception of Robert Morris (sorry, Colonials) doesn’t have much left on it as far as obvious, should-be-comfortable wins go. Kent State will be a challenge on Saturday, and while Wake Forest clear and away looks like the worst team in the ACC, Louisville plays the Demon Deacons only once … in Winston-Salem. If you scroll through KenPom.com, the algorithm on the site projects 17(!) more games decided by single digits on Louisville’s schedule, and that even includes Wake Forest. Mack knows that, and he said Wednesday that it seems like his players know that, too. They follow the sport enough to know that, for example, Lipscomb beat a ranked TCU in Texas, or that Kent State beat Vanderbilt in Nashville.

“Our guys are a mature group in the sense that I think they really respect our opinions as coaches,” Mack said, “and I also think that we have some guys who know college basketball. They see the scores.”

So far this season, Louisville is 5-2 in games when the teams were within 10 points of each other in the final four minutes. Mack deserves credit for some of that, not only because of his ability to draw up plays to get his best shooters in spots to knock down shots, but also because he seems to have a keen understanding of his players and how they fit in certain situations, and his late-game substitution pattern reflects that. His players deserve credit, too. There were lapses against Indiana and Marquette, but there were also winning moments against Lipscomb, Michigan State, Nicholls State, Seton Hall and Vermont.

It doesn’t hurt that Louisville is 33-of-43 from the free-throw line, or 76.7 percent, in the final two minutes and overtime of close games. The inbounds passes when opponents are likely going to foul continue to be a work in progress, but at least Louisville knows its players can make foul shots in key moments. Usually.

This story on a Rwandan genocide survivor who found a home in Louisville and who’s now set to graduate from U of L today is beyond cool.

—If the Phoenix Suns elect to move, Dan Issel is ready to make Louisville’s case.

—Again, shoutout to the Cardinal fans.

—Business First wonders if Junior Bridgeman is the right person to take control of Sports Illustrated.

—Scott Satterfield joined The David Glenn Show to talk about his first days on the job at Louisville.

—And finally, I’m back on the radio from 3-6 this afternoon saying ridiculous things. Listen here.