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Wednesday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

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The kids are fired up for day one of the Chris Mack era.

—Chris Mack will be introduced as Louisville’s new men’s basketball coach at 4 p.m. this afternoon. You’ll be able to hear the full-presser on 790-KRD.

—U of L football is using this spring to re-tool its defense.

—Here’s a really good Cincinnati Magazine read on Chris Mack from the middle of the 2011-12 season.

It’s Friday, December 30, and today is Mack’s 42nd birthday. In interviews, even during games, he seems affable and relaxed—the kind of guy who reflexively praises his players, who peppers his press conferences with ’80s pop culture allusions, and who shows up to tape promotional videos wearing a jacket, tie, and Xavier gym shorts. But today is also Xavier’s final practice before playing the Gonzaga Bulldogs on New Year’s Eve, and while Mack’s still wearing shorts, things feel markedly different.

This is in part because, as one NBA scout says, Mack runs “the most brutal practices in the country.” The team works through a rigidly choreographed series of drills, scrimmages, and scenarios—18 sets in 84 minutes. Mack even looks different in practice. His face seems harsher, his arms longer as he paces along the X logo at center court, projecting the focused, joyless intensity he demands from his players. “Brad Stevens and Butler got their asses beat by Gonzaga,” he reminds them. They respond by diving (or being shoved) to the ground, by barking instructions at each other on defense, by perpetrating hellacious box-outs—all a day before the game, when most teams are jogging through plays and shooting free throws.

The Musketeers always practice this hard. (When they don’t achieve his desired intensity, Mack will switch up his starters—making, say, star guards Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons face each other.) But today seems especially important given the match up against Gonzaga, a program, like Xavier, that’s seen as a “mid-major,” a good team in a bad conference. Mack is concerned about Gonzaga’s post players—especially seven-footer Robert Sacre—and he works up a sweat showing his big men how to get better, lower position on defense. “We gotta be fireplugs down here,” Mack tells Travis Taylor. “We’ve worked on it for two days.”

The “practices are fun now” era at the Yum Center seems like it’s going to be short-lived.

—Jeff Greer is keeping up with the recruits Chris Mack and his staff have offered scholarships to over the past 24 hours, a list which now includes at least a dozen players.

—Trinity standout David Johnson, a former commit, has confirmed that he has spoken with Mack and that he still has a scholarship offer to U of L.

—Loyola has won more NCAA tournament games in 14 days than Illinois, DePaul and Northwestern have won combined over the past 12 years. I wrote about Chicago finally having a successful college basketball team.

We could change that, DePaul. We could change it together.

—Quite the stat.

—Michigan’s Austin Hatch has a story to tell.

—More good stuff from Marc Murphy.

—Dino Gaudio talked about Louisville’s hiring of Chris Mack on today’s David Glenn Show.

—Mo Egger writes for The Athletic about Chris Mack’s ability to connect with people.

That’s the biggest part of Mack’s legacy at Xavier. He’s found ways to connect to his team’s fans, his school’s donors and the city, unlike most who’ve coached or even played in this town. He’s been engaging and rarely standoffish in dealing with the media, often quick with a quip or a self-deprecating remark that seemed to bring him down a rung closer to everyone else’s level.

He’ll go watch the Bengals and yell the same things at them that we do. He’ll watch NBA games and tweet the same things about them that we do. He’ll get off work and sometimes stop to have a beer at the same places we do.

A day or two before one particularly big game, Mack went on a Xavier message board to encourage fans to be as loud as possible.

A few hours before one Crosstown Shootout, he showed up with food for students waiting to get in, then got on the mic to promise them the ass-kicking his team would ultimately deliver.

—Jake Lourim of the CJ focuses in on Vince Tyra’s background and what has made him successful over the years.

—Relive the Louisville women’s team’s road to the Final Four on this cool page.

—Those are still awfully large numbers for a women’s regional final.

—Yesterday’s postponed Louisville-Cincinnati baseball game has been rescheduled for May 9.

—My daughter.

—Love the Sister Jean story? Take a cue from Loyola players on how to treat the elderly. Good read from the Chicago Tribune.

—Jeff Capel is officially the new head coach at Pitt, which is a hell of a land for them and a hell of a loss for the recruiting renaissance happening at Duke.

—UT-Arlington fired the most successful coach in program history this week. The story behind the move shows just how much it would suck to be the head coach at a mid-major school with a short-sighted athletic director.

Baker and Cross have had a tumultuous relationship since the summer of 2016, a source said, and it’s only deteriorated since then. Baker was never satisfied by the consecutive 20-win seasons and conference championship, wanting Cross to match the nation’s top mid-major programs.

Even after Cross led UTA to the best season in program history last season the coach’s end-of-year meeting with Baker didn’t go well. Voices were raised amid Baker telling Cross he wanted UTA to be the “next Gonzaga.”

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Baker, who was hired the same day College Park Center opened, said he felt he needed “new leadership to match my philosophy and match what my dream is,” which is playing on the sport’s biggest postseason stage.

This year, 11-seed Loyola-Chicago is playing in the Final Four. Maryland-Baltimore College became the first 16-seed to win an NCAA tournament game, and Stephen F. Austin State almost beat 3-seed Texas Tech two seasons after reaching the Sweet 16.

”We want to be that Loyola,” Baker said. “We want to be UMBC. We want to be the SFAs. Those schools are getting there, so we want to be there.”

March can make you, but it can absolutely break you too.

—Ryan McMahon gets some love from Sarasota Magazine.

—Someone get this kid on staff.

Mack does need to hire one more assistant.

—Romeo Langford’s latest diary for USA Today addresses Louisville’s hiring of Chris Mack.

As one of the top uncommitted seniors in the 2018 class, I can tell you I haven’t been getting recruited much by the other players here. We don’t really talk about it — it’s just the same old, same old. I was asked this afternoon by a reporter if Chris Mack coming to Louisville changes anything for me, and my answer was not really.

A “not really” when he could have easily just said “no?” I’m saying done deal*. Romeo Langford to Louisville. Book it.

(i’m not saying this)

—Arica Carter is a coach at heart who doesn’t need the spotlight.

—Well done.

—And finally, I’m back on the air from 3-6 this afternoon talking about the Mack hire and the women’s arrival in Columbus for the Final Four. You’ll be able to hear the Mack introductory press conference in full beginning at 4. Listen here.