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Thursday evening Cardinal news and notes

Beat Syracuse.

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NET Rankings Update: No. 43 (no change)

—The Louisville women will be defending their No. 1 ranking for the first time tonight when they host No. 23 Syracuse at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. Here’s a preview.

—Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician also previews tonight’s contest.

—U of L will be airing its own half-hour pregame show 30 minutes before the Cards tip-off against Duke on Saturday.

The University of Louisville will offer a live-streamed, half-hour pregame television show prior to the Cardinals’ 4 p.m. men’s basketball game against Duke on Saturday in the KFC Yum! Center.

Hosted by in-arena personality Allison Cook and sponsored by KORT Physical Therapy, the show will be streamed live from 3:30-4 p.m. ET on the UofL Men’s Basketball Twitter account @LouisvilleMBB, the men’s basketball Facebook page @LouisvilleMBB and on Louisville Cardinals YouTube GoCards page.

The program will feature interviews with former Cardinals Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton and Ryan McMahon; additional stories with sophomore guard David Johnson, new arena public address announcer Lance McGarvey and a look back at the Cardinals’ 2020 victory at Duke; plus season highlights and comments from UofL Coach Chris Mack. The show will originate live from the KFC Yum! Center and take fans up to the top of the hour and ESPN’s telecast of the game.

—With all legal challenges finally out of the way, Top Golf Louisville is moving forward.

—High-ranking folks within the NCAA are “holding their breath” over college hoops avoiding a big February pause.

—The issue of conference tournaments is also a touchy one this year.

—Props to the Cardinal baseball social media team.

—U of L volleyball’s spring schedule is out.

—247 Sports is keeping up with all the latest hirings and firings in college football.

—TuTu Atwell is No. 62 on The Athletic’s NFL draft big board.

—Can’t wait to watch this guy lose soooo many 17-13 games over the next three years.

—Tennessee is hiring UCF’s Danny White as its new athletic director.

—Jeff Goodman has advice for Kentucky fans after the team’s latest heartbreaking loss Wednesday night against Georgia.

—Louisville is among the favorites to land Antonio Gates Jr.

—The Pac-12 has agreed to part ways with commissioner Larry Scott.

—The second edition of Jeff Greer’s Louisville hoops newsletter is out.

Upon even closer review, you can see how Louisville’s poor shooting is undercutting its credibility as a drive-and-kick threat and making everything harder for Johnson and Jones. On Monday, for instance, Florida State was far more concerned about Johnson and Jones driving into the lane as scoring threats than it was concerned about Johnson and Jones driving and dishing to perimeter shooters. The playmakers can only do so much; the play-finishers have to do their part.

Louisville has missed 136 3-pointers — and 69 of those misses came in situations when either Johnson or Jones created a clean shooting opportunity for anyone other than each other, primarily from a drive-and-kick.

I also went back and looked through each of Johnson and Jones’s assists. Johnson has assisted a Jones field goal 10 times; Jones has assisted a Johnson field goal 10 times Of their assists to teammates other than each other, 20 resulted in made 3-pointers.

That means Johnson and Jones’s teammates are a combined 20 of 89 from 3-point range when one of the two playmaking guards passes to them for an open look from 3. That’s 22.5 percent. I’m no coach, but 22.5 percent is not exactly helpful. That shooting clip needs to improve by at least 10 percentage points to force defenses to respect the possibility of a Johnson or Jones kick-out off drives. Just the threat of someone other than Johnson or Jones consistently making a 3 would improve Louisville’s offense across the board.

Gotta make shots.

—The latest episode of The Crunch Zone pod is here.

—The CJ’s Shannon Russell looks at the keys for Louisville to beat Duke on Saturday and get back on track.

—Jody Demling has more info on the man who will be Louisville’s new running backs coach.

—David Johnson is the No. 16 pick in the latest NBA mock draft from Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo.

16. Rockets (from Heat): David Johnson, PG, Louisville

Height: 6’ 5” | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Sophomore

Johnson made a good decision to stay at Louisville and has started to answer the lingering questions about his shooting. He’s upped his three-point percentage from 21% to 43% and his free throw clip from 60% to 76%. That progression was necessary for him to threaten defenses as a big, playmaking combo guard. He’s also a very good on-ball defender. In a relatively thin point guard class, Johnson figures to benefit. He stands to be more consistent and aggressive at times, but he’s a very advanced passer who can almost be too unselfish at times. If his shooting improvement proves to be sufficient, he looks like a versatile backcourt piece who can help a team in a range of areas. There’s a lot to like.

The Rockets could end up with multiple first-rounders in this draft, this one eventually being whichever one is worst between Miami’s pick, Oklahoma City’s pick and Houston’s own (protected 1–4). Houston stands to get younger and turn the roster over a bit, but the Rockets haven’t historically relied on the draft to get better. How that might change in the post-Harden, post-Morey era remains to be seen.

RIP to Don Sutton, one of the major sports voices of my youth.

—Five-star hoops prospect Brianna McDaniel has Louisville in her top five.

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

—Louisville Report looks at the points of emphasis for Saturday’s game against Duke.

Jekyll & Hyde Defense

Duke has a very peculiar defense, in that they excel on side of the three-point line, and are substandard on the other.

We’ll start with where they do well, which is inside the perimeter. While they allow team to connect on 50.9% of their two point attempts, the closer the get to the basket, the more efficient the defense they play. The Blue Devils average 4.7 blocked shots per game, which ranks third in the ACC and 35th in D1. They also are very adept at pickpocketing other teams, as their 9.0 steals per game is 18th in D1.

Beyond the perimeter, however, is a completely different story as Duke has some of the worst three-point defense not only in the ACC, but in college basketball. They allow opponents to connect on 37.3% of their three-point attempts, which is 309th out of 340 D1 teams. In conference, it has been even worse, allowing ACC foes to shoot 40.7%, which is the worst in the league.

—Jeff Walz and his team are excited about the challenge of playing as the No. 1 team in the country for the first time.

—And finally, beat Syracuse.