clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Friday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

Beat UK.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

—Kenny Payne did not sugarcoat the importance of the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry during his pregame press conference on Friday.

—Highlights from last night’s women’s basketball win over Syracuse are here.

—Mark Story of the Lexington Herald Leader is going with an 81-69 Kentucky win at Rupp Arena on Saturday.

—Hoops Insight looks at the biggest problems right now for both Louisville and Kentucky and what each needs to do in order to defeat the other on Saturday afternoon.

Keys to the game

For Louisville

They’ll need Curry and Huntley-Hatfield to bully their way inside against Kentucky’s lack of shotblocking from the jump (assuming freshman Ugonna Onyenso doesn’t play much). Teams don’t post up Kentucky much as Tshiebwe is extremely strong and tough to move, but Lance Ware can be pushed around. If that doesn’t work, Louisville will need to give significant time to Withers/Traynor lineups and take advantage of Kentucky’s two-big lineups on defense. Withers is good at attacking closeouts and finishing at the rim, so he can have a good game today for Louisville if they try to spread the floor. El Ellis needs to avoid the urge to drive into the lane and create tough shots for himself, as Kentucky will likely pay a lot of attention to him. Mike James could have success today, as he’s significantly bigger than Kentucky’s guards and is a strong finisher around the rim.

On defense, Louisville has to crash the boards hard. Their wing size with Withers, Traynor, Lands, and James needs to be effective at rebounding over Kentucky’s smaller perimeter players. Louisville doesn’t foul much, but they might want to get physical with Oscar Tshiebwe as he can be prone to poor FT shooting games. Lance Ware is also a poor FT shooter, so sending him to the line can work, especially given Louisville’s surplus of bigs.

—Five-star LB TJ Capers — a top 10 player in the class of 2024 — is down to just five schools: Louisville, Georgia, Colorado, Miami and USC.

—From recruit to player to coach, Kenny Payne has been a fixture in the Louisville-Kentucky basketball rivalry for decades now.

—I love the Konnos.

—The latest From the Pink Seats podcast features Zach Soskin and is definitely worth your time.

—Ryan Wallace has officially been named as Louisville’s new tight ends coach.

—Matt McGavic is picking the Cats over the Cards by 23 tomorrow afternoon.

—The people have spoken: DePaul > Luka.

—Congrats to former Louisville WR Justin Marshall (now at Buffalo), who was named MVP of the Camellia Bowl after a big performance.

—Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician recaps the Syracuse loss to Louisville from Thursday night.

—John Fanta of Fox looks at the 23 biggest storylines in college basketball heading into 2023.

—Matt Norlander lists Louisville’s dismal year as the 12th-biggest CBB story of 2022.

12. Louisville’s dismal 2022 (all of 2022): As an entity, Louisville men’s basketball has been mired in controversy for almost a decade now. But these past 12 months have been a nightmare nadir. Chris Mack resigned on Jan. 26, when the team was 7-4. The Cardinals went 6-15 after he left. This season, U of L is infamously putrid, getting off to a 2-11 start under Kenny Payne — and losing out on the D.J. Wagner recruitment to Kentucky in the process. The Cardinals are in a race with 1-12 California to see which can be the worst high-major team this season. Hard to fathom how a top-10 program in the history of the sport could fall so far like this, but it’s a desperate state of affairs in Derby City as we prepare to flip the calendar to 2023.

—If nothing else, the Cards will be sporting some sharp uniforms Saturday afternoon.

—Class of 2024 U of L hoops commit TJ Robinson recently dropped 50 points in a game.

—Louisville Report examines the game of new Cardinal QB Jack Plummer.

—Friday Irrelevance:

—Here’s the official U of L preview of tomorrow’s rivalry game.

—U of L volleyball standout Aiko Jones has announced (in a very clever way) that she’s returning for another season.

—Louisville has offered Eastern Michigan offensive lineman transfer Marcellus Johnson.

—The CJ looks at five previous times that the underdog has prevailed in the Louisville-Kentucky series.

—Well done.

—The LHL looks at how the Louisville and Kentucky men’s basketball programs are positioned for the future.

—John Clay previews Louisville vs. Kentucky in podcast form. ‘

—Madden Sanker, the highest-rated offensive lineman to ever sign with Louisville, never wavered from his commitment during the transition from Scott Satterfield to Jeff Brohm.

—Has John Calipari become the Jimbo Fisher of college basketball?

But along the way, the game evolved, tracking as college basketball always does in lockstep with the NBA. Even control-freak college coaches ceded a little, exchanging mistakes and player decision-making for a premium on shooting, spacing and spreading the floor.

Since Kentucky’s title only one national-championship team — 2013 Louisville — has shot worse than 36 percent from the arc. In that same span, Kentucky has shot better than 36 percent just twice, this year and in 2016. “Their offense is archaic,’’ says one coach. “It’s gotta be the same s— he was running with the New Jersey Nets.” Predictable is how another coach describes it, so much so that his team spent little time worrying about sets and simply concentrated on player tendencies. “Yeah, he’s been running the same stuff for years,’’ adds another. “When you have stud players, though, it works. When you’re running floppy action for Tyler Herro, that’s a bucket. It’s a little different if it’s not him.’’

Calipari purposefully went out and sought shooters in the transfer portal (Antonio Reeves from Illinois State and C.J. Fredrick from Iowa). Yet it hasn’t made a significant bounce in the overall offense. “Well, that’s because if you don’t run good offense to get open shots, it doesn’t matter how many good 3-point shooters you have,’’ a coach says.

Another coach specifically pointed to the Wildcats’ pace and lack of precision, that they “jogged” through cuts. “You sprint, and the defense is like, what are they doing? Where are they going? Otherwise it’s pretty easy,’’ he says.

—Happy seven year anniversary to Lamar Jackson lighting up Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl.

—Malik Cunningham 2022 regular season highlights are here.

—This year’s Louisville-Kentucky game has quickly gone from “Dream Game” to “nightmare fuel.”

The only reason to watch is out of morbid curiosity, or the saddest form of rivalry participation: schadenfreude. At least they’re worse off than us. What a sad state. A sad, basketball-loving state with no obvious reasons to hope that either of the two schools who’ve combined to win 11 national championships will deliver anything but more disappointment this season.

Louisville, which has won just one NCAA Tournament game since 2015 and parted ways with Chris Mack during a 13-19 season, is 2-11 under new coach Kenny Payne. The Cardinals are 343rd out of 363 Division I teams in the NCAA’s NET ranking. Kentucky, which has zero Final Four appearances since 2015 and zero tournament victories since 2019, has turned a preseason top-five ranking and the returning player of the year into an 8-4 start with blowout losses to Gonzaga and Missouri. After their latest no-show performance against the Tigers, who went 12-21 last season and have a new coach, the Wildcats are 40th nationally and seventh best in the SEC in the NET.

Remember when this game set the state on fire every year? When one of these rivals was — and often both were — trying to step on the other’s neck en route to a much bigger goal? The Dream Game in 1983, an overtime thriller for a spot in the Final Four, which relaunched the annual series. The sequel in the 1984 Sweet 16. The unimaginable Final Four matchup in 2012. The wild Kentucky comeback in the 2014 Sweet 16. The 19 times since ’84 that both these teams were ranked when they met, six times when both were in the top 10. Before their 2020 game, at least one of them was ranked in 14 consecutive and 19 of the previous 21 meetings.

From Joe B. Hall versus Denny Crum to John Calipari against Rick Pitino, there were so many collisions of coaching giants at the height of their powers — and animosity for each other. That was fun. This? Isn’t. Even Mack recording stupid videos poking Kentucky was more interesting than what we have now.

—The latest Card Chronicle Podcast episode is here.

—For different reasons, Louisville and Kentucky will both be desperate for a win on Saturday.

—Kenny Payne knows how much the Bluegrass State rivalry means to folks on both the red and the blue side.

—And finally, beat Kentucky.