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Five Tuesday Louisville basketball thoughts

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From Ryan McMahon’s hot start to the joy of childhood Cardinal fandom.

Louisville v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

1. The fact that Ryan McMahon is more dialed in than we’ve ever seen him is no longer up for debate. He was 2-for-4 from deep against NC Central. One of those two misses went all the way down before popping back out, and he had another three waived off because a foul was called just before the shot left his hand.

On the season, McMahon is now 13-of-22 from beyond the arc. That’s just a hair below 60 percent despite the three-point line moving back this season. That’s a hot start. But is it the hottest start for a Louisville basketball player since the advent of the three-point line?

I put stat God Kelly Dickey on the case and he found that the answer is no ... but it’s awfully close.

Since the three-point shot became a thing in 1986-87, only one player in Louisville history has gotten off to a hotter start from deep than McMahon has this year. That player would be Dwayne Morton, who connected on 13 of his first 20 three-point attempts during his sophomore season of 1992-93. Morton would end the season 51-of-96 from three, good for a still school-record season percentage of 53.1.

I’m going to guess that McMahon hoists a few more than 96 triples this season. If he makes better than 53.1 percent of them, that would be cool. Anything seems possible at the moment.

If you’re worried that discussing these numbers might be jinxing McMahon or over-inflating his ego, let me add that Dickey also pointed out that the missed floater that caused Ryan to finish 2-for-5 from the field overall kept Louisville from having a school record 9-of-9 players shoot .500 or better from the field in a game. So, yeah, he clearly needs to get back in the gym.

Final note: McMahon is 13-of-22 from three this season by himself. Kentucky is 13-for-61 as a team.

2. The most significant piece of news that came out of Sunday’s game may have been the status update that Chris Mack gave on Malik Williams and David Johnson.

“I could’ve put them in the game tonight,” Mack said about both sidelined players. “Just because the doctor clears you, they haven’t had their basketball legs under them in so long, especially David. I’m not going to put those guys out there in a 20, 30-point game just yet, but I could’ve put them in if I wanted.”

Here’s hoping they can be worked into game action sooner rather than later, because there’s always an adjustment period with stuff like this; Not just for the player(s) returning to the court, but for their teammates who have gotten accustomed to playing without them.

Getting Williams some run against either USC Upstate or Akron (or both) feels especially important. It’s safe to assume that Malik is one again going to be our best interior defender — although Steven Enoch has looked much-improved in that area so far this season, albeit against inferior opponents — so you’d love to have him back and in the flow when the Cards face one of the best big men in the country in Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey on the 29th.

Johnson is clearly going to have a role on this team once he gets back to full strength. His immediate return doesn’t feel as crucial as Williams’, but the sooner he gets on the floor the sooner we get started with the process of determining what that role is going to be.

3. One of the best parts about getting older (there aren’t many) is hearing the stories from my friends about their kids who are just now starting to really get into Louisville sports.

Take, for instance, my man Jax, who is obsessed with Aidan Igiehon because of the “Irish Hulk” nickname. Jax is such a Hulk fanatic that when he got a high-five from Igiehon before the game on Sunday, he celebrated so thoroughly that he wound up leaving the preseason ACC Player of the Year hanging.

Childhood fandom is so pure and so unpredictable. My dad made an offhand comment one time when I was a kid about how hard Derwin Webb played and how much he respected it. That offhand comment morphed into young Mike Rutherford being a bigger Derwin Webb fan (what up, judge?) than he was a Greg Minor or Clifford Rozier fan.

Growing up a Louisville fan is the best.

4. I know his team didn’t look the part on Sunday, but LeVelle Moton is one of the most respected head coaches in college basketball — a fact which Chris Mack himself talked about after the game. Moton has a had a number of offers over the last decade to leave his alma mater and take a step up in competition. Instead, he’s built NC Central into a program that has dominated the MEAC and been to the NCAA tournament each of the last three seasons.

So when Moton sung Louisville’s praises after the game on Sunday, his words carried a bit more weight than the average low major coach addressing the press after a loss inside the Yum Center.

“We knew they were good. I personally think that they are the number one team in the country. You kind of have to pick and choose your poison. So we tried to dare them to shoot the basketball. I think they shot it better than they ever have.

“I think they should be the number one team in the country. They don’t make mistakes. They are going to protect the basketball. They are big and physical at every position. They are talented. They have quality depth. They are well coached. And if they make their shots, they can cause some problems. The big kid in the middle is unreal. There is not a weight you could lift for that. It’s tough. So you’ve got to pick your poison. They’ve got the ACC Player of the Year; the point guard was hitting some shots tonight. Obviously, number 30 is going to expand the defense. They are good, they are really good, so God bless them.”

God bless them, indeed.

5. USC Upstate, Louisville’s Wednesday opponent, is going to be the worst team the Cards face this year. This has been your warning.

Tell the kids they’re gonna get to see Keith Oddo.