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Friday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

Cardinal Christmas tree season is back.

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A quick apology to start for my absence on the site and the radio show, as well as the lack of a podcast for a couple of weeks. My wife and kids (and parents) got Covid last week and then I somehow managed to get it a week later than everyone else. It has not been fun.

Happy holidays.

—Twelve Louisville football players were named All-ACC on Tuesday, with Yasir Abdullah being the only Cardinal to receive First Team honors. Abdullah was snubbed for ACC Defensive Player of the Year, which was given to Pitt’s Calijah Kancey.

—The U of L volleyball team begins what it hopes is a run to the program’s first national title when it hosts Samford tonight at 7. If they win, the Cards will face either Purdue or Tennessee in the second round tomorrow.

Let’s get it, ladies.

—A 12-team College Football Playoff is officially coming in 2024. If Louisville’s incoming recruiting class is, in fact, the real deal, that could be perfect timing for the Cardinals.

—Testudo Times reacts to Maryland’s thumping of Louisville Tuesday night.

—Via Kelly Dickey, U of L’s 25-point loss to the Terps was its largest home loss since a 106-72 loss to Charlotte in Freedom Hall on Feb. 11, 2001, and its largest non-conference loss since an 85-51 loss to Kentucky in Freedom Hall on Dec. 27, 1986

—Updated list of Louisville football players in the transfer portal:

RB Trevion Cooley
RB Jalen Mitchell
LB KJ Cloyd
OL Max Cabana
DB Nicario Harper
DB Derrick Edwards
DL Caleb Banks

—Confirmed transfer portal offers made by Louisville:

Tyrese Chambers - WR, FIU
Andrew Armstrong - WR, Texas A&M Commerce
Ajani Corenlius - OT, Rhode Island
Xavier Guillory - WR, Idaho State
Kyle Hergel - OG, Texas State
Drae McCray - WR, Austin Peay

—After one season at Louisville, RB Tiyon Evans has declared for the NFL Draft.

Evans oddly finished his only season at Louisville with the exact same number of rushing yards and touchdowns that he had last season at Tennessee.

—Future Louisville RB Rueben Owens was named district MVP for a second straight season.

—Four-star SF Carter Bryant (2024), who took an official visit to U of L last month, says Arizona, Louisville, Gonzaga, and Duke are the schools most in contact with him.

—Both Boston College QB Phil Jurkovec and Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong are in the transfer portal.

—So is top left bad then?

Is this also bad?

It seems bad.

—Louisville swimmer Gabi Albiero punched her ticket to the 2024 Olympic Trials in the 50 Free with her time of 25.26 in prelims before winning the event in the finals with a time of 25.06.

—Jeff Greer says in his latest newsletter that Kenny Payne’s first season at Louisville has become more about survival than laying a foundation for the future.

There is always a conversation to be had when things aren’t going very well. You don’t want to change your approach just to change it and say you did. You certainly don’t want to change without conviction in the new plan. But when things are going as badly as they are for Louisville men’s basketball, you have to wonder if change for the sake of respectability is worth it in the face of sacrificing philosophical program goals, at least for the time being.

The long-term vision for Louisville men’s basketball, in the eyes of Kenny Payne, is a team built on passing — on moving the ball and moving off the ball, organic, sharp offense that generates good shots with the right shot-takers. Not really an offense built on specific plays and sets but rather a focus on free-flowing, natural basketball from a foundation of team understanding and game IQ. To execute that kind of offense (see: Duke), a team needs smart players who know their roles on the roster and are well-drilled in them by smart coaches. It never hurts in college basketball to also have a bunch of former blue-chip recruits on the roster.

Alas, Louisville is 0-7 while trying to play some version of that type of offense, with aimless passing to seemingly just rack up pass numbers on each possession. It ranks 247th in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency ratings. The Cards have a 1-to-2.26 assist-to-turnover ratio, giving the ball away on a quarter of their possessions. What’s worse, U of L ranks 343rd in D1 men’s hoops in non-steal turnovers, aka unforced errors. Beyond the numbers, when I sit inside the KFC Yum Center and watch Louisville play, I see a team completely devoid of an offensive plan or understanding of each other.

So, I have a radical theory.

Perhaps it’s time to press the pause button on the grand vision for Louisville’s offense and recognize that this group, which has been embarrassed four games in a row, is not built to play that way. What’s the old saying about insanity?

The point is, this season is no longer about building momentum for future campaigns. At this point, 2022-23 is about survival. Louisville flat-out looks like a team that might not win a game this season. I can’t believe I’m typing that, but nothing we have seen sticks out as a reason to think anything else. And the thought of U of L bottoming out even close to that badly — say 5-26 overall or, god forbid, even worse — could cause significant damage to the project Payne is trying to construct before it ever really gets off the ground.

Louisville’s reputation takes a hit every time the Cards lose by devastating margins or to less-talented opponents. That has to hurt recruiting, which would be disastrous for a staff expected to recruit at a high level. As Rivals recruiting writer Rob Cassidy pointed out last week, success on the court tends to translate to rapid recruiting momentum in college basketball — but failure compounds recruiting challenges, too. Sure, Louisville’s current team can slog through the season and hope to learn from it, but Louisville’s program cannot afford to suffer a reputation hit that affects the ability to build for the future via recruiting.

—Class of 2023 OL Jordan Church has decommitted from Louisville. This leaves U of L’s class at 14 players.

—Last week’s Las Vegas Invitational has been rightfully dubbed as “the Fyre Fest of women’s college basketball.”

—The Big Time Yurts crew is getting the band back together, at least for a day.

—Despite Louisville’s lack of help, the ACC prevailed in the final ACC-Big 10 Challenge.

—Michigan QB Cade McNamara was in the portal for a hot minute before committing to Iowa.

—Tom Crean is rejoining ESPN as a college basketball analyst. Not a bad cycle that he’s in at the moment.

—Friday Irrelevance, double helping:

Almost 40 percent of the starters in this weekend’s conference championship games will be players acquired via the transfer portal.

—It’s Kentucky high school football state championship weekend. The CJ has your need to know info on the six title games, including the 6A battle between Male and Bullitt East.

—The Cincinnati Enquirer reports on the apparent return of the Keg of Nails rivalry.

—Rick Bozich wonders what the first step forward for the Louisville men’s basketball team is.

“I think winning basketball starts in two areas for me,” Payne said.

“(One) is on the defensive end, (being) desperate defensively, helping each other, scrambling, fighting. I use the words ‘every inch is a dogfight.’

“So whether you’re dribbling the ball as an offensive player and we’re putting pressure on the dribbler, whether that’s a pass, then we’re trying to get a deflection, whether that’s a shot (with) a hard contest, whether that’s a rebound, hit hard first. Then go get the ball.

“The best offensive teams are going to be the teams that are good passing teams. And we’re trying to learn.

“I want that to be our identity. I want us to be desperate defensively. And I want us to share the ball offensively. I think we played enough games where we had less than 10 assists. That’s not good enough. It’s not good enough.”

Let the record show that Louisville has committed more turnovers than it has forced in all six games. It also shows that the Cards have managed fewer than 10 assists in four of six games.

—Top DL recruit Rueben Bain has narrowed his final list of schools to Louisville, Miami, Florida State, Alabama, and Auburn, and will reportedly take a visit to U of L next weekend.

—If the College Football Playoff had existed starting back in 1998 (when the BCS was first launched), 66 different teams would have made the field, including Louisville in 2004 and 2006. Kentucky is one of just 11 power conference programs that would have yet to make the CFP.

—Kim Schatzel has been chosen as U of L’s 19th president.

—Congrats to KT on a fabulous run at WAVE. One of the nicest and funniest dudes you’ll ever meet.

—U of L LB target Marcellius Pulliam will decide between the Cards, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Auburn and Miami on Saturday.

—Yasir Abdullah is a Third Team Pro Football Focus All-American.

—Papa Abdullah thanks Card Nation for the support during Yasir’s terrific career as a Cardinal:

—Tyan Stokes, a Louisville native and one of the top-ranked basketball players in the class of 2026, says U of L is one of the programs he’s most in contact with.

—Trentyn Flowers, who visited during Louisville Live, gives an update on his recruitment but does not mention the Cards.

—U of L has some special potential Christmas gifts up on its auction site.

—Montrezl Harrell is the eighth former Louisville player to score 6,000 points in the NBA.

—”Gaslighting” is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year, even though I’m pretty sure they picked the same word a few years ago. I can’t believe they don’t remember that.

—Pierce Clarkson talks about his big win over Mater Dei last week and says he’s “100% locked in” to Louisville.

—The Ohio State women’s team was “fearless” as they snapped Louisville’s home winning streak on Wednesday night.

—This feels like 75 years ago.

—Kevin Willard called a spade a spade when he was asked about the state of the Louisville men’s basketball program.

—At least the Cards aren’t alone in making power conference history this season. Thanks, Cal.

—And finally, U of L volleyball cleaned up the ACC awards again, including Claire Chaussee bringing home conference Player of the Year honors.