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Thursday evening Cardinal news and notes

Nathan Hill and Amanda Buntin are rooting hard from the Cayman Islands for a win over NC State.

—Spread check: Louisville by 4.5.

—We’ve got top 25 vs. top 25 tussles on both the men’s and women’s sides tonight. Here’s a preview of No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 22 Florida State.

—Jay Bilas ranks the 68 best teams in college basketball and has Louisville at No. 21.

21. Louisville Cardinals

Chris Mack has brought a new system, new identity and new feel into The Ville, and the team and community are responding. The Bilastrator thinks it is the hair, but reasonable minds might disagree on that. Jordan Nwora is one of the best players in the ACC, and Steven Enoch is an NBA-caliber athlete with a terrific shooting touch. The keys have been togetherness and Christen Cunningham, one of the prime examples of why transfers should not be discouraged. Cunningham was a grad transfer from Samford, where he would have played in obscurity. Yet he transferred to Louisville and is respected nationally for his game and his character. Can only coaches aspire to move?

—Romeo Langford should have gone to Louisville.

—Terry Rozier reached a level of perfection Wednesday night that no Boston Celtic had achieved since Paul Pierce nearly 10 years ago.

—Congrats to DeVante Parker on having his Ballard High School jersey retired earlier this week. He could have easily been a great high major basketball player if he’d chosen to go that route.

—Speaking of Ballard, former Bruin and U of L signee Jo Adell has been named as the second-best prospect in baseball at the moment.

—For a brief period of time, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were members of the same AAU team. Matt Norlander of CBS gives more details on how Morant wound up becoming a college basketball sensation in Murray, Ky.

—A new NBA mock draft from SB Nation has Dukies going No. 1 and 2.

—Danielle Lerner has a great read on how Malik Williams wears No. 5 to honor the memory of a high school friend who died in a car accident.

Williams and Chamble didn’t become close friends until high school, but Rod Chamble, Peytin’s father, has known Williams since he was in seventh grade.

Williams, he said, was an intelligent and emotional kid who was thoughtful in everything he did. Peytin was the life of the party, ambitious and equally compassionate.

”She was that friend a lot of kids kind of leaned on,” Rod Chamble said. “When everyone else was talking negative, she was always positive.”

Peytin was that friend for Williams.

”I honestly believe that I could talk to her about everything and not have to worry about it and she could talk to me, too,” Williams said. ”She was definitely one of those girls who everybody was cool with. ... Me and her were both goofy but she was a little more focused than I was, which was good.”

Within a week of the car accident, he announced that he was going to change his jersey number from No. 34 to No. 5, in honor of Peytin.

”That was such a special thing and really just shows a reflection of his relationship with her,” Rod Chamble said. “That was his way of taking her to school with him. It shakes me up just talking about it.”

”I just wanted to leave a little legacy,” Williams said. ”I feel like she fought really hard, was a really focused and determined girl. I feel like wearing her number, she can play through me and live through me.”

—Backing the Pack profiles Louisville, which has been (quickly) re-made in Chris Mack’s image.

—James Burgess deserves some coin.

—Jaylen Smith is busy at Senior Bowl week trying to make his NFL dreams come true.

—The CJ gives three keys to a Cardinal victory over NC State.

—U of L is offering $23 tickets for both of this week’s home games.

—I can’t say I ever expected “listen to me talk about Rick Pitino with a sports radio show in Jerusalem” to ever be a news & notes blurb, but here we are.

—The Browns went with Johnny Manziel over Teddy Bridgewater partly because their owner wasn’t a fan of Teddy’s handshake. Swear to god.

—New staff is killing it.

—The U of L women’s track and field team is ranked No. 19 in the country.

—If you’re interested in buying one of the seats from Old Cardinal Stadium, you can make that happen for just 50 bucks.

—For anyone who wants to hear me talk about Big Ten basketball while half-awake, I’ll be on “Big Ten This Morning” on SiriusXM at 8 a.m. on Friday.

—Again, this is one of the coolest traditions Louisville basketball has.

—Less than a week after Ja Morant went 21-for-21 from the free-throw line, Grant Williams of Tennessee drilled all 23 of his attempts Wednesday night. One more and he would have tied an NCAA record set in 1959.

There’s only one thing to do here: Morant vs. Williams free-throw shooting contest at halftime of the Super Bowl.

—The CJ has a good read on U of L freshman QB Evan Conley, but the story also features a troubling tidbit.

“It was pretty crazy, and it’s a lot different,” Conley said. “There’s a big difference between Louisville, Kentucky, and Boone, North Carolina. It was all big changes, but it was all stuff I’m excited about. … Obviously, the level of play means a lot to me. I know I can play at the highest level.”

Conley is already in Louisville, having enrolled early this semester. He’ll attend spring practice as a rare Satterfield addition on a roster mostly inherited from Bobby Petrino.

This past week, Sloan said, Conley persuaded teammates to run routes for him, playing throw and catch in Louisville’s indoor facility. The next day, Conley tried again. Not finding any takers, he went alone and set up targets and nets.

“He was in there throwing balls by himself,” Sloan said. “That’s what kind of kid he is, and that’s what he’s going to do.”

To illustrate, Sloan recalled Conley texting him on Saturday nights after games. He’d already started watching tape of Kell’s next opponent and was lobbing ideas to the coach on how best to attack its defense.

“You don’t get too many kids who do that,” Sloan said.

Good on Conley, but he shouldn’t need to set up nets and targets to get his work in. This “culture shift” can’t happen soon enough.

—Louisville is No. 4 in Streaking the Lawn’s ACC power rankings.

—Malik Williams is happy to be a starter, but he also misses his role as bench hype man.

—And finally, beat NC State.