—Adidas announcing its own NIL network could be big news for Louisville.
—Louisville senior forward Emily Engstler, senior guard Kianna Smith and sophomore guard Hailey Van Lith have been named region finalists for 2022 WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches’ All-America.
—I’ve got 16 things you should know about this year’s men’s Sweet 16, which gets underway tonight.
—The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach has a great read on Jeff Walz building Louisville into a national power despite the program having virtually no history before his arrival.
Everyone always asks Jeff Walz the same question: How did he do it? More specifically, how did he do it there?
When Walz was hired in March 2007, the Louisville women’s basketball program had never reached a single Sweet 16. This weekend, the Cardinals will play in their 11th. They’ve played in the national championship game twice (in 2009 and 2013), and they’ve reached four Elite Eights in the last nine years.
Walz’s Louisville teams have found sustained success in different ways, with various offensive and defensive systems, but they were always teams anchored in assembling talented rosters. Consider this year’s squad, which earned a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament and will face No. 4 Tennessee on Saturday for another Elite Eight berth. After last season, Walz lost Dana Evans, who averaged 20.1 points per game last season and had been one of the best players in the country for years. Louisville added Syracuse transfer Emily Engstler and became a team known more for its defensive mindedness and balanced scoring. (Engstler was named to the All-ACC first team and ACC all-defensive team this season.)
“He looks at his roster from year to year and says, what can we do to win?” ACC Network analyst and former Clemson player Kelly Gramlich says. “He doesn’t have a specific system, where he says, we have to play zone, or we have to do that. He doesn’t care. He just wants to win … and he gets great players.
“We know Louisville is a basketball town, and Kentucky is a basketball state. The Louisville women have been an absolute picture of consistency since he got there.”
—D1Baseball.com has an insider feature on Louisville shortstop Christian Knapczyk.
—Former U of L hoops recruit Khristian Lander is transferring from Indiana.
—Mike Krzyzewski says he feels sorry for his players because of all the pressure that’s been forced upon them with everyone knowing this is Coach K’s last season. If only there was some way that could have been avoided.
—Lou City’s 2022 season is off to a perfect 3-0-0 start.
—I love this.
This is insane. We mentioned that new Bucs guard Shaq Mason is Shaquille Olajuwon Mason, named after the two former NBA stars. Well, his new teammate, Bucs pass-rusher Shaq Barrett, was born a year earlier in 1992, and is Shaquil Akeem Barrett, named after the same two players.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) March 24, 2022
—The Louisville baseball team is headed to Chestnut Hill today for a weekend series at Boston College. Here’s a preview.
—The U of L men’s tennis team is set for weekend road tests at North Carolina and Duke.
—Jeff Greer’s latest U of L hoops newsletter looks at some of the names that could be joining Kenny Payne’s first staff as well as some of the recruits who could become the first to sign on to play for Payne.
I’d imagine things will move quickly over the next week or so. In the meantime, Payne has started the recruiting efforts necessary to bolster next season’s roster and beyond.
* There is, of course, Louisville’s obvious and serious pursuit of DJ Wagner, the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class who is Milt’s grandson and plays AAU ball for Pervis Ellison. Payne will kickstart that process ASAP. John Calipari is definitely aware of the incoming fight — he and his full staff watched Wagner and his five-star center teammate Aaron Bradshaw immediately after their NCAA Tournament loss to Saint Peter’s. This will undoubtedly be the biggest recruiting battle between the archrivals in at least a decade — but maybe ever.
* Louisville also reached out to top-40 wing Tyrell Ward, the former Xavier pledge who once considered the Cards under Chris Mack. A 2022 prospect who would arrive this spring, Ward played at D.C. powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High. He will be a major target for a number of schools. Maryland just hired Kevin Willard, who will want to make a local splash. Virginia Tech hired Ward’s high school coach last summer. Georgetown desperately needs a boost, too. He is a really good player and would probably start for Louisville this fall.
* Keep an eye on Skyy Clark, the former Kentucky commit who is a top-30 prospect. Louisville-bound forward Kamari Lands answered a bunch of questions on his Instagram stories earlier this week, and in addition to repeatedly saying he still planned to attend Louisville and looked forward to talking with Payne, he also said he was recruiting Clark to Louisville.
—If you missed yesterday’s Mike Rutherford Show with Sean Moth in studio, I’d highly encourage you to check out the podcast. Sean had some very insightful thoughts on U of L interim AD Josh Heird, this year’s Cardinal baseball team, and the differences in the philosophies at U of L under Tom Jurich’s guidance and after Jurich left.
Sean’s the man.
—Anonymous men’s college hoops coaches share their thoughts (Insider) on thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of the 16 teams still standing.
—The latest episode of the Cardinal Sports Zone podcast is here.
—Dream chasers only.
Who's ready to chase their dreams?#GoCards pic.twitter.com/EZecXGPRA0— Louisville Basketball (@LouisvilleMBB) March 23, 2022
—Whether you’re staying in town or following the women’s team to Wichita, there are alumni events for you to attend and show off your Cardinal spirit.
—The CJ’s Cameron Teague Robinson writes about Hailey Van Lith finding her confidence at the perfect time.
—Malik Cunningham and Pete Thomas spoke with the media following Wednesday’s practice.
—A few of the 2022 Big X Sports Radio golf cards are available here.
—Carlik has been crushing it.
A @carlikjones appreciation post bc look at these numbers he’s puttin’ up:— Texas Legends (@TexasLegends) March 22, 2022
14 PTS | 12 AST | 7 REB
21 PTS | 11 AST | 6 REB
22 PTS | 12 AST | 6 REB
30 PTS | 6 AST | 7 REB
16 PTS | 15 AST | 7 REB
30 PTS | 9 AST | 5 REB
14 PTS | 12 AST | 3 REB pic.twitter.com/Ewau4RvJyF
—Rick Barnes has signed a contract extension with Tennessee that will keep in Knoxville through at least the 2026-27 season.
—Bellarmine’s Dylan Penn, the MVP of the 2022 Atlantic Sun tournament, has entered the transfer portal as a graduate student.
—Donovan Mitchell is launching a new TV special to help student-athletes capitalize off of the name, image and likeness rule changes in college sports.
—NIL is awesome.
Saint Peter's guard Doug Edert has signed an NIL deal with Buffalo Wild Wings pic.twitter.com/l207Tm2P4T— Front Office Sports (@FOS) March 23, 2022
Edert is one of four men’s and women’s players in the Sweet 16 who have inked deals with Buffalo Wild Wings.
—Pat Forde wonders if we’re entering a new era of March Madness unpredictability.
—Tulane graduate assistant Larry Dace has accepted a graduate assistant job on the Louisville football staff.
—The Athletic’s Chantel Jennings re-seeds the women’s NCAA tournament after the first two rounds and has Louisville at No. 6 overall.
6. Louisville (No. 1 seed)
Louisville hasn’t really been tested yet this tournament. The Gonzaga game was close, but there was more talent on the Cardinals’ roster than the Zags’ to determine the outcome. Hailey Van Lith has looked very good so far, scoring 41 points and grabbing 10 rebounds total through the first two games. But it would’ve been more promising to see a big second-round game out of Emily Engstler.
—Top U of L hoops commit Kamari Lands is excited about the Kenny Payne era.
—Freshman QB Khalib Johnson is making a solid first impression during his first spring practice session at U of L.
—Jeff Walz is 1-1 in games against Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper, but the two have not squared off since Harper took the job at UT.
—El Ellis says he loves Louisville and has a solid first impression of Kenny Payne, but won’t fully commit to being a Cardinal in 2022-23.
“He’s really just been down to Earth, just trying trying to get to know me, trying to get to know us, asks us how things went,” he said.
Louisville has already had one player enter the transfer portal in reserve big man Gabe Wiznitzer, but Ellis is not in a rush to hit the portal. In fact, coming back for a second year with the program is very much on the table for the combo guard.
“Of course I’m going to think about coming back. I love Louisville,” he said.
Soon, Payne will meeting the team in their entirety, as well as conduct one-on-one meetings with each player. For Ellis, the relationship he forges with Payne will play a huge role in deciding if he will definitively come back to the Cardinals.
“Right now, I’m going to try and build that relationship with coach Kenny,” he said. “I’m just going to take it day-by-day, continue to talk to him, and maybe I don’t have to enter the portal. If I build a good enough relationship there, I probably don’t need it.”
—The Cover 3 podcast re-grades Louisville’s hire of Scott Satterfield. The highest grade from the three hosts was Chip Patterson’s C+.
—Cora Hall of the Knoxville News Sentinel previews Louisville-Tennessee and predicts a 6-point Cardinal victory.
—And finally, the Mike Rutherford Show returns this afternoon from 3-6 on 1450 The Big X. We’ll have Cameron Teague Robinson on to talk about the women’s team’s run in the NCAA tournament, Kyle Tucker on to talk Kenny Payne as well as Saint Peter’s, and Brett Dawson on to talk about the latest updates with the U of L men’s basketball team. You can stream the show here.