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Monday evening Cardinal news and notes

Just like the podcast, baby Mac is undefeated.

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NET Rankings Update: No. 7.

—Hoops Insights has a good look at the different ways Louisville’s perimeter shooters react when their outside shots are going down and when they aren’t.

—Never get sick of these videos.

—A loaded first weekend of college hoops after the Super Bowl definitely lived up to the hype.

—This time against Virginia was different because this Louisville team is different (Athletic link).

There’s no need to recap the string of nine losses Louisville endured thereafter, a nightmarish pattern fans and players alike came to refer to as “the curse.” Fifth-year senior Dwayne Sutton admitted Friday he didn’t want to end his career without a win over Virginia, and Nwora said the curse was a motivational talking point among the veteran players in the locker room before the game.

There’s a sense that perhaps Louisville could have had a win in the bag after building a 14-point halftime lead, or even when it was a nine-point game with 10 minutes to go. But it’s Virginia.

“You gotta know that Virginia is a team that’s relentless,” Williams said. “They’re gonna fight for 40 minutes and they’re going to stay consistent throughout the whole game. So it’s always in the back of your mind, like this game’s never over until the clock hits 0:00 in the second half.”

So when time did run out, when the scoreboard confirmed that the streak was finally snapped and it all became real, the scene materialized into pandemonium.

Louisville players bounced into the tunnel reaching up to grasp the outstretched hands of jubilant fans, jumping on each other’s backs and relishing the crowd’s adulation like light-deprived trees soaking up sunlight. Williams paused to execute an elaborate handshake with his pint-sized nephew before disappearing to join his teammates.

—Donovan Mitchell is one of 44 candidates to make the USA Basketball squad for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

—Wednesday night’s women’s basketball showdown between NC State and Louisville is going to feature a little bit of a role-reversal.

—This is an awesome shot.

—Mekhi Becton has officially received his invite to the NFL combine.

—Sports Illustrated writes about Louisville baseball’s offseason being driven by versatility.

—Louisville’s own Jack Harlow, who was courtside for the win over Virginia on Saturday, will be on The Tonight Show this Wednesday.

Pretty awesome.

—These confessions of a movie theatre employee are awfully eye-opening.

—Cardinal hoops recruit Roosevelt Wheeler recaps an “amazing” visit to U of L.

—Darrell Griffith saw Saturday as not just a celebration of his 1980 national championship team, but of the Louisville fan base.

“Speaking for my teammates, this day was for us to celebrate the fans and their support for us over the years, and they’re continued support for Louisville,” All-American guard Darrell Griffith told the media of the experience.

A local product that starred at Male High before turning down countless scholarship offers to chase his dream of winning a national title for his hometown school. When making his decision to sign with Denny Crum’s program was to win a championship and get his degree. He accomplished both.

“It means probably a little more for me than the other guys because I’m from Louisville,” Griffith said of the 1980 title. “I’ve seen how we came so close so many times and were never able to get over the hump. It means so much to everybody, but me in particular, it has an extra special meaning.”

—Elizabeth Balogun and Nigeria nearly upset Team USA in Olympic Qualifying on Saturday.

—Angel McCoughtry has signed a deal with the Las Vegas Aces.

—This picture rules.

—Sports Illustrated has 10 questions for the final month of the college hoops regular season.

—One of the biggest keys to the Cardinal surge over the last month has been bench play.

—In each of the three previous years the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has done its February seed reveal, three of the four No. 1 seeds in the reveal have also been No. 1 seeds on Selection Sunday. If that history repeats itself, Pat Forde is looking at the teams with the best shot to work their way up to that top line.

Louisville (21) was the No. 7 overall team in the selection committee’s Saturday rankings, same as its NCAA NET ranking. It leads the conference at 12-1, with a road win over Duke and a home loss to Florida State. (For tiebreaker purposes, the Cardinals will be rooting for the Blue Devils in their Big Monday clash with the Seminoles.) Louisville is on a 10-game winning streak and will be solidly favored in its next four games (at Georgia Tech and Clemson this week, home against Syracuse and North Carolina the following week). The Cards are shooting a blistering 44.9% from three-point range during ACC play, and their offense has found another dimension with the ascension of freshman David Johnson as a 6-foot-5, pick-and-roll defense shredder. He is an elite passer. Biggest remaining games: at Florida State Feb. 24, at Virginia March 7. (The Cards are 0-5 in Charlottesville since joining the league.)

—Dave Lackford of Rivals goes in-depth on the class of 2021 offensive linemen that the Louisville staff currently has its eyes on.

—LJ Nesbitt of The Crunch Zone shares his thoughts on the week that was in Cardinal hoops.

—Eli Rogers was one of the standouts on the first weekend of the XFL.

—Louisville is No. 5 in Andy Katz’s latest Power 36 rankings.

—The newest installment of the U of L men’s soccer newsletter is here.

—Eric Crawford writes about Louisville’s latest “finish.”

And once again, the Cards were closers. After the big 3 to tie it at 68 with 3:52 left, they found a way, though players acknowledged, some of their past failures were in the back of their minds.

”We’ve had a bunch of chances to beat them since I’ve been here, but somehow they always find a way to win,” Nwora said. “So it felt good being able to finish the deal today. . . . All the older guys were talking about it, that we hadn’t beaten them yet. So we had a little chip on our shoulders. We were able to anchor down at the end and get a few stops, and Dave was able to get into the lane, and make free throws. We were just looking at it as we weren’t going to let ourselves lose. We even talked about it at halftime, because it seems like we’re always up. The big thing was getting stops.”

For Johnson, it wasn’t a spectacular stat line, but the ball was in his hands a great deal with the game on the line, and he was able to deliver.

”His size is great. He really attacked,” Bennett said. “Chris ran some good stuff to get him downhill. He made the plays and again we probably had a couple breakdowns where we either reached or leaned and weren’t quite right but the young man, being a freshmen from this area, he showed hometown good tonight in that setting.”

—The Cardinal lacrosse team opened up its 2020 season with a 16-11 road win over Cincinnati.

—Cameron Teague of the CJ writes that a veteran pitching staff could carry the Louisville baseball team to the 2020 national title.

—Jay Scrubb is very good. We’re continuing to establish this.

—TNIAAM recaps Syracuse’s Sunday upset of Louisville.

—Here’s what Tony Bennett had to say following his team’s loss on Saturday.

—I love literal sports cheers more than almost anything.

—The U of L men’s tennis team hammered Boston College to move to 2-0 in ACC play.

—The latest episode of The Cardinal Sports Zone podcast is here.

—Louisville stays at No. 5 in ESPN’s latest college hoops power rankings.

5. Louisville Cardinals (21-3)

Previous ranking: 5

This week: at Georgia Tech (Wednesday), at Clemson (Saturday)

It’s hard to overstate the difference David Johnson has made for the Cardinals since truly emerging over the past month. The freshman point guard isn’t putting up insane numbers, but he has added a playmaking aspect Louisville was missing while he was dealing with his shoulder injury. Johnson has size and strength and makes an impact at both ends of the floor. Against Virginia, Johnson played just 17 minutes and had seven points, three rebounds and five assists — and completely took over the offense down the stretch. He consistently got into the paint and either made a play for himself or a teammate or got to the free throw line. By the way, Jordan Nwora seems to have fully snapped out of his mini-slump at the beginning of ACC play: Over his past four games, he is averaging 23.5 points and 8.0 rebounds while shooting 16-for-34 from 3-point range.

—The Virginia celebration episode of the CC pod is out now.

—Louisville’s safety signees are “home run” additions.

—Georgia Tech’s Moses Wright is very focused on Wednesday night’s game against Louisville.

In Georgia Tech’s previous outing against Louisville back on January 23rd, Moses Wright didn’t have the most efficient outing against the Cardinals. And he knows it.

”Honestly I didn’t think I played up to my standard against Louisville,” the junior forward admitted. “I felt like there were a couple plays here and there that I could have done differently”

While he did end up finishing with 11 points, it was also coupled by committing 3 turnovers and matching his rebounding season low of 3. He credits a combination of effort and execution as to how he performed against the Cards, and he’s vowing to flip the script come Wednesday.

’I’m going to give it my all against Louisville”

With reserve big man Evan Cole’s status still listed as “questionable” vs. Louisville per Josh Pastner, they’ll need all the effort they can get out of the 4 and 5 spots.

—Streaking the Lawn gives its thoughts on UVA’s loss to the Cards.

—And finally, it’s an ACC showdown tonight on Big Monday with Duke hosting Florida State at 7 p.m. on ESPN. The winner moves to within one game of Louisville in the conference standings, while the loser falls two games off the pace.