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Contemplating the Cardinals

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Revisiting the Pitt game, and Tourney Prospects

OK then, where were we?

Thirty six hours have passed since my diatribe in the aftermath of U of L’s bench meltdown in the final minute of the much-closer-than-it-oughta-been W over woeful Pittsburgh.

I’ve meditated.

I’ve exercised. Several times. Excessively.

Took a walk in the snow, tried to help a car make it up Galt hill. Futilely.

Had long conversations with fellow hoopaholics to exorcise the demons.

Put Spike Jones on the box.

Sooooooo, allow me to share a few observations from the victory.

Then take a look at the Cards’ realistic chances to dance.

(Not that I’ve totally forgiven Mack and Malik for their unacceptable behavior that nearly cost the Cards the W.)

Sam & Syd. Louisville fans who watched the game don’t need me to tell them it would not have been won without the efforts of Curry and Williamson.

The former had a several minute stretch during his first stint which energized his mates, who had been playing with a strange passiveness. Beast on the boards. Patrolled the paint.

For a stretch, it was like watching Rodney and Ellis. Huzzah.

Forced into more action in the 2d, because Panther big John Hugely dominated Malik Williams, and got under his skin, forcing the Cardinal to sit after fouling out, Curry held his own. More than held his own actually, because he was able to body up with his opposite.

Williamson keeps on learning. He now understands that streaking to the hoop without the ball brings rewards. Along the baseline. Curling from the FT line extended.

Loved his recovery and Very Important Shot Block against Pitt, after missing a charity toss down the stretch.

Ever astute Doc offered a perceptive observation during our post mortem.

That Sam is more effective when Syd is in the game. Because Curry, unlike Malik or even Roosevelt Wheeler, plants himself low on the block, ready to board, and doesn’t roam hither and yon. Which leaves the middle more available for cutters.

Whither Withers? Would love to offer something here about U of L’s most puzzling piece. But, gotta say, I Just Don’t Know.

Jae’Lyn remains an enigma. Increasingly so

Against Pitt, he played five ineffectual minutes. Without focus. Without energy. Without, one guy’s opinion, a clue.

After his one board, he turned, dribbling ahead a couple of times then forcing an ill-advised half court bounce pass to Dre Davis ahead of him. Turnover.

His play is truly hard to figure out. He stays engaged on the bench. If only he were more so on the hardwood.

Would love to offer more. Haven’t a clue.

But that turnover brings me to one aspect of . . .

The McMains Effect. On the play mentioned in the previous section, Withers got the rebound, and, instead of outletting the ball to, you know, a ballhandler, he turned and dribbled up court himself.

Malik and Dre do the same thing.

I believe it to be part of the new OC’s philosophy.

Well and good.

I understand we’re not going to return to the golden days, when Wes would clean the glass, turn in a one motion before landing, and hurl that unique Unseld Pass© to Butch at midcourt.

But I am old school enough to believe that fellows adept at handling the rock should be the ones handling the rock. Especially on breakouts.

Will be glad to consider any analytics that prove me wrong.

Matt & Noah’s D. Have had conversations with several fellow fans to the effect these transfers hurt the Cards on defense.

I agree somewhat. Neither is Jarrod West. Actually, nobody else is Jarrod West, to be frank.

But, here’s what I think. Locke’s a shooter, and needs to be on the court for scoring. Cross is a baller, a scorer, a right place at the right time kind of dude, and needs to be on the court as much as possible.

It’s a totally anecdotal, subjectively observational observation.

(Some things are the same as they ever was. My verbosity.)

Will U of L get an invite to the Dance? Let’s get one thing out of the way. As heady as it may seem, the Cards’ 4-0 start in the league is of but peripheral consequence.

The only one of those Ws that inures to Louisville’s benefit at all is beating the Demon Deacons, a Quad 1 notch on the belt buckle. (Top 50 NET W.) Here’s why.

What follows are the rankings of the ACC schools in the Top 100 of the NCAA Net Rankings, and Ken Pomeroy’s Ratings. The former, which is the first number behind each school, is the only one that really matters.

Duke: 9/7.

Virginia Tech: 41/30

North Carolina: 42/31.

Wake Forest: 45/52.

Clemson: 57/43.

UVa: 73/54.

Florida State 78/47.

Miami (also 4-0 in the ACC): 95/91.

Notre Dame (59) and Syracuse (71) are Top 100 in KP, but not in the one that matters.

The Louisville Cardinals, by the by, are 81 in the NET, 60 in KP.

Not good.

Winning in Tallahassee would be huge. A victory on the road against a Quad 2 team is a Quad 1 W.

U of L has 16 tilts left in the oddly underwhelming ACC.

The Cards cannot falter in the 7 battles against league foes they “should” beat. You figure out who I’m talking about.

And, one obsessive fellow’s opinion, need to win at least 5 of 9 against the Seminoles, Blue Devils, Tar Heels, Hokies, Tigers and Cavaliers.

Plus pray that those schools do enough to increase their standing in the NET. And that enough other name brands struggling around the land continue to do so. Strong finishing stretches by Mississippi State, Maryland, Furman and DePaul would also be welcome.

Let’s hope the Cards grab their opportunities by the short and curlies, macheteing their way to a spot in the bracket that Sunday evening in early March.

— c d kaplan