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Thursday evening Cardinal news and notes

Teddy (the kid) loves Teddy (the football player). Dad loves both.

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NET Rankings Update: No. 24 (up 5 spots).

—The second-ranked U of L women’s basketball team is back in action tonight at 8 against Boston College.

—The Cards sit at No. 1 in the latest women’s basketball power rankings from CBS.

—The silver lining here is that the rest of the year was fantastic. Just had to get the nastiness out of the way early on.

—Hoops Insight explores how Louisville can challenge for the ACC title this season.

—The Virginia women’s basketball team has joined Duke in opting out of the rest of the season due to health and safety concerns.

—Louisville sits atop the ACC power rankings for each member of the league’s Royal Couple, Packer & Durham.

—Wednesday showed that Charles Minlend isn’t quite ready for major minutes yet, but getting him onto the floor for the first time was a step in the right direction.

—If you are 70 or over and live in Jefferson County, you can now sign up to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Spread the word.

—A few notes from last night’s game via Josh Mark’s stat tracker:

- All but 5 FG attempts for the Cards last night came from 3PT or in the paint. Pretty good from a nerd perspective. Shot chart below.

- Cards tied their second highest segment differential (+9) in the 2nd segment of 1H last night.

- Matched our season high in blocks (5, previously vs Pitt).

- Took care of the ball - matched our season high Ast/TO ratio (1.5, PVAMU & WKU)

—Following the retirement of Bob Beatty, Jay Cobb has been named as the new head football coach at Trinity. Cobb has been the Shamrocks’ defensive coordinator for the last seven years.

—Congrats to Louisville’s Emina Ekic, who was selected by Racing Louisville FC with the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft. She is the first U of L player ever to be selected in the NWSL Draft.

Fifth Overall: Emina Ekic (Forward, Louisville)

The 2020 ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Ekic is the first Cardinals player ever taken in the NWSL Draft. She left UofL having tallied the fourth-most goals in program history with 29 and second-most assists with 19. The Louisville native, who attended duPont Manual High School, played a part in 10 of the Cardinals’ 11 goals last year with seven goals and three assists. Ekic also led UofL in scoring in 2017 and 2019, with seven of her goals game winners. She quickly established herself at the college level, named ACC Co-Freshman of the Year after claiming numerous high school accolades, including Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016.

—Before the Cards take on Miami Saturday night, why not compete in some virtual U of L trivia? You can sign your team up here.

—”Don’t Tell a Soul,” a thriller filmed in Louisville starring Rainn Wilson of “The Office” fame, opens Friday.

—The first edition of Jeff Greer’s new Louisville basketball newsletter is out, and I will begrudgingly admit that it’s informative and good.

Louisville put together a strong 2019-20 campaign, winning 24 games and tying for second in a very competitive ACC. But while that season was the culmination of the careers of a few long-time program hands, the Cardinals’ roster makeup far better suited Chris Mack’s offensive philosophy than what he wants from his defense.

This season’s team, made up of one holdover from the Rick Pitino/David Padgett era (Malik Williams) and 11 players Mack and his staff recruited, matches much better the hybrid pack-line defense Mack wants his teams to play. As I watched the Cards squeeze Virginia Tech out of the lane and invite the Hokies to beat them with jumpers — which, as can happen with pack-line defenses, they almost did — I kept thinking the same thing.

The 2020-21 Louisville roster, with an average height of 77.6 inches and all but one regular contributor taller than 6-4, is the perfect physical fit for Chris Mack’s defensive philosophy. So far this season, Louisville’s defensive efficiency — adjusted for game tempo via Ken Pomeroy’s brilliant hoops analytics site — is the best-ever for a Mack-coached team.

What really stands out is how Louisville is thriving. The Cards don’t focus on turning teams over and they struggle with fouling shooters, something I’ll get to with the One Big Question segment below, but they’re doing a few other things very well. In 10 games, Louisville’s opponents have only attempted 160 layups or dunks (16 a game) compared to 391 jump shots (39.1/game). Opponents are shooting 38.8 percent from the field, a product of too many jump shots and lengthy, athletic Louisville defenders who challenge a lot of those shots. Then, on the back end of possessions, Louisville is rebounding misses at 74.7 percent, a good rate.

—The “Atlantic and Coastal” podcast dives into the discussion of who the best team in the ACC is right now.

—Eric Crawford recaps Louisville’s win over Wake for WDRB.

—Carlik is just a tad smaller than those other two guys.

—U of L volleyball’s Merideth Jewell has received a promotion.

—The ACC has announced that Saturday’s game between Georgia Tech and NC State has been postponed.

—Gary Parrish gives Louisville some attention in the lead-in to his daily hoops rankings for CBS.

The ACC has had at least two teams finish in the top 10 at KenPom for seven consecutive seasons. Right now, it has zero in the top 10. So the league is down at the top relative to how it normally looks. As far as power conferences go, the ACC is probably the most wide open. It’s not crazy to think at least six different schools could win the league title.

Louisville is one of those schools.

Chris Mack’s Cardinals beat Wake Forest 77-65 on Wednesday night to improve to 9-1 overall, 4-0 in the ACC. The lone loss on the resume is a lopsided loss at Wisconsin in which Carlik Jones, the team’s leading scorer, did not play. He had a game-high 23 points and 10 rebounds against Wake Forest to help Louisville extend its winning streak to five games heading into Saturday’s contest at Miami. It’s an impressive start to this season, especially considering the Cardinals lost the top five scorers from last season’s team and failed to enroll their best recruit (Jay Scrubb).

So will Louisville win the ACC?


But it could also end up being Virginia. Or Virginia Tech. Or Clemson. Or Duke. Or Florida State. Or somebody else. At this moment, zero ACC schools are ranked higher than 15th at KenPom, but six are between 15th and 30th. So while it’s possible nobody will emerge as a great team, there are at least six teams that qualify as good. And, oddly, good just might be good enough to win the ACC in this unusual season.

Louisville is No. 17 in Thursday morning’s updated CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings. The Cardinals are one of three ACC teams in the Top 25 And 1. The others are No. 19 Clemson and No. 26 Virginia Tech.

—The changes to the U of L women’s basketball schedule continue.

—The CJ looks at what we learned from Louisville’s win over Wake.

—2021 Girls LIT bracket:

—Louisville’s Nick Albiero has been named the ACC Swimmer of the Week.

—Big Red Louie writes that Louisville has a unique luxury at the guard position.

—The baby becoming a meme for her Mary Katherine Gallagher tendencies is wonderful.

—Samuell Williamson played with noticeably “more pop” Wednesday night.

—Christian Academy tight end William Paar has announced that he will join the Louisville football team as a preferred walk-on.

Paar is a Card Chronicle fan so he’s already my new favorite U of L walk-on.

—Urban Meyer could be targeting Charlie Strong to join his staff in Jacksonville.

—The Athletic has a good read on how playing against older competition her whole life prepared Hailey Van Lith for her freshman season at Louisville.

Hailey Van Lith spent a year in the gym with her older brother’s AAU team before she went to her first official basketball tryout. Her dad Corey was the coach of the Wenatchee Panthers 9-and-under boys’ team. Hailey started the season as the 6-year-old little sister and daughter of the coach who attended every game as a statistician and videographer and every practice as a way to expend some of her energy at a side basket.

But by midseason, when the team was short a player or two, Corey had Hailey jump into some drills for an extra body. And by season’s end, with Hailey sometimes running full-court scrimmages with the 9-year-olds, Corey knew she was a bit different. She wasn’t the biggest player on the court (not even close) nor the best (she was closer there), but she was the most competitive and arguably the toughest.

If Hailey could hang with 9-year-olds when she was 6, then she could probably play with the 10-year-olds when she was 7, Corey assumed. So, he called the local 10-and-under girls’ AAU club and asked if he could bring Hailey to the tryout. They adamantly said no — there was a tryout for the 7-and-under team that Hailey was welcome to attend, but the club didn’t allow anyone to play up an age group, and certainly not three age groups. But Corey was adamant, too, and ultimately he got the team to budge under a simple agreement: If it were not blatantly obvious that Hailey was the best or second-best player at the 10-and-under tryout, she would happily join the other 7-year-olds.

That season, 7-year-old Van Lith — as the smallest and youngest player on the court — was the starting point guard on the 10-and-under team.

“It helped me learn to play using my body a lot and change tempo, change speed because obviously I don’t have that length or that height advantage on people,” Van Lith said. “It taught me a lot and how to be a little bit crafty.”

The experience laid the roots for Van Lith’s smooth transition to the college game.

—Florida State shot 70.7 percent from the field last night and beat the absolute piss out of NC State. That’s the best ever shooting percentage by an FSU team playing in a league game, and the best by an ACC team period since 2000.

—It appears linebacker Damon Lowe is making the move from WKU to U of L for his final season.

—Slick move from the future Cardinal here.

—Louisville Report takes an early look at the points of emphasis for Saturday night’s game against Miami.

—And finally, beat Boston College.