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Monday morning Cardinal news and notes

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Taeson Graves has arrived just in time to follow the Louisville women’s basketball team on the road to their first national title.

—Spread check: Louisville by 22.5

—The Louisville women’s basketball team begins what it hopes is a run to the program’s first national title tonight at 8 on ESPN when the Cards face Marist. Here’s the U of L preview.

—Congrats to Louisville women’s basketball associate head coach Stephanie Norman, who has been named the 2021 Division I Assistant Coach of the Year by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

—Sheldon Rankins is now a New York Jet.

Mekhi Becton is excited:

—Dana Evans is a finalist for the women’s Naismith Trophy.

—The 7th-ranked Louisville baseball team pulled off its second straight ACC weekend sweep, taking all three from NC State in Raleigh.

—Ricky O’Donnell’s latest NBA mock draft for SB Nation does not have David Johnson (or any other Louisville player) going in the first round.

—A stat to remember in the years to come:

—The Wall Street Journal uses a formula to identify the most likely upsets of the NCAA tournament’s first round. I’d say that formula did a hell of a job this year.

—Jim Boeheim would like you to know that “not one sentence on the internet matters.” Especially not this one. Or this one. Does anything really matter?

—Local five-star OL recruit Kiyaunta Goodwin has Kentucky but no Louisville in his final five schools.

—Backing the Pack covers the Louisville baseball team’s sweep of NC State.

—U of L has landed a commitment from long-snapper Brett Kuczynski. Completely makes up for the Goodwin snub in my eyes.

—Jeff Walz released a statement on Sunday that partly covered his thoughts on the inequity of the NCAA’s handling of its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

—Nice story here from Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic on Louisville native Jo Adell’s mental struggles from last season, and his hopes for moving forward.

—North Carolina big man Walker Kessler, a former five-star recruit, has entered the NCAA transfer portal.

—The NFL has announced that its 2021 draft will be held in downtown Cleveland.

—Happy retirement to bowling icon Pete Weber.

—Standout swimmer Krista Wheeler has changed her college commitment from Alabama to Louisville. She’ll join her older sister, who is a current junior for the Cards.

—Louisville Report previews the Cards vs. the Red Foxes.

—If there are issues with the Baltimore Ravens right now, Dez Bryant wants you to know that they don’t stem from the play of the quarterback.

—Elizabeth Dixon is ready for her March moment.

—The Poughkeepsie Journal previews Marist vs. Louisville.

Pace and space are the focuses of Jeff Walz and company heading into this week.

“We’ve got to take good shots,” Walz said. “That’s going to be the key for us. We’ve got to eliminate poor shots. We’ve got to make that extra pass but at the same time if we have a good shot, don’t pass it up. If we can limit the number of contested shots we take, then I’m going to like the results.”

At tournament time, you have to minimize your weaknesses, clearly. But even more important is maximizing your strengths. For Louisville, that means passing, offensive balance, and putting pressure on opponents through offensive efficiency.

As it turns out, that meshes well with the kind of performance that has been required to win the past five women’s basketball tournaments – and beyond.

While the men’s tournament pace often slows to a more plodding proposition, the women’s tournament generally opens up.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 22-20 championship game,” Walz quipped earlier this season.

The past five women’s NCAA champions have averaged 84.02 points per game in tournament play. The past five men’s champions have averaged 78.0.

For Louisville, that has meant extra focus on ball movement in practice, with a premium on shot selection and pace.

“We’ve been having really good shootarounds, really good practices,” freshman Hailey Van Lith said. “... We’ve all finally just bought into it, everyone on the team. Double-teams come we’re kicking it out to wide-open shooters. Help collapses, we kick it out to shooters, because everyone on this team can shoot. That’s what makes us hard to guard, and we’re starting to use that to help us instead of to hurt us, with our shot selection. It’s a big reason I wanted to come play here – it’s like playing at the next level. Everyone can score, and everyone can shoot. It’s just about playing together.”

—The U of L softball team was swept by Clemson over the weekend.

—The 13th-ranked Louisville volleyball team took down No. 25 Florida State in a neutral site match on Saturday.

—While two U of L men’s basketball signees were released from their letters of intent on Saturday, El Ellis remains “locked in” and ready to play for the Cardinals.

—And finally, beat Marist.