The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Panthers

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The Cardinals will hit the hardwood again on Sunday afternoon getting back to action after an eight game lay-off. The Cardinals will spark back up an old Big East rivalry when they travel to the Petersen Events Center to play the Pitt Panthers. Louisville has an 8-5 advantage in its series with Pittsburgh, winning the last four match-ups. In the last meeting, the Cardinals won 64-61 over the Panthers in the KFC Yum! Center on Jan. 28, 2013 as Russ Smith led the Cardinals with 20 points. This will be the fourth true road game of the season for our Cardinals and they will play four of the next five on the road.

COACH PITINO PREVIEWS PITT

The Panthers have won two of their last three games and will be looking for their fourth ACC win. On the season, Pittsburgh is averaging 66.5 points on 44% shooting from the field, and 32.9% from the three. Leading the way on offense for the Panthers are Michael Young averaging 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds (15 double figure scoring games this season) while Jamel Artis is averaging 10.5 points and five rebounds. James Robinson is second in the ACC in free throw percentage 84.3% a game and is third in assists 4.7 a game. Cameron Wright is shooting 44.6 percent from the field. The Pittsburgh Panthers are a defensive team that’s allowing 62.6 points on 42.6% shooting from the field, 32.2% shooting from deep and they have given up 65 or less points in five of their last eight games.

Pitt’s 2014-15 Overall Rankings Offense | Defense

OFFENSE
-POINTS PER GAME
67.3
185th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
34.4
199th
OVERALL
-ASSISTS PER GAME
15.5
33rd
OVERALL
-FIELD GOAL PCT
.440
148th
OVERALL

DEFENSE
-POINTS ALLOWED
62.8
99th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
21.4
321st
OVERALL
-BLOCKS PER GAME
3.2
204th
OVERALL
-STEALS PER GAME
4.9
319th
OVERALL

Pitt’s 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #95
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-101.9 ranks 183rd
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-109.5 ranks 43rd
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Louisville winning the game 64-59 based on his indexes.

On the season, Louisville is averaging 72.6 points on 42.7% shooting from the field, and 29.4% from the three and are allowing their opponents 57.2 points on 37% shooting. Over the last 11 games, Terry Rozier has averaged 20.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.2 steals, scoring over 20 points in four games. He leads the ACC in steals. Montrezl Harrell is averaging 14.9 points and 9.2 rebounds while he is two points short of becoming the 66th career 1,000-point scorer at Louisville. His seven double doubles this season are tied for the ACC lead. Chris Jones is dishing out 3.7 assists and Wayne Blackshear is grabbing 5.2 rebounds a game. Our Cardinals have been relying on a defense that’s allowing 29.4 percent shooting from deep and has given up 63 or less points in six of their last eight games.

Louisville has a 46-26 record in conference games on the road over the last nine seasons (.648), claiming the best road record in both the Big East and AAC during its time in those two leagues. In order to keep that record on the positive side they are going to have to figure out how to get the ball in the basket. I expect that over the past eight days Coach Pitino has developed some new strategy to get these guys in the best position to be successful. I think we will see a more relaxed team on the offensive end of the floor with an emphasis on scoring in the paint, and working the clock during a possession. Quick jump shots and possessions haven’t been working very well for this group. I also think you will see Quentin Snider, Shaqquan Aaron, and Anton Gill start to become more important to this team and all will start to see their roles get bigger starting in the game against Pitt. I think we will see an improved Montrezl and one that stops letting the opposing defense dictate his offense.

Folks this group needed these eight days in the practice gym and I really think that we will see some great results. I look for a much more efficient group on offense and a more relentless group on defense. Pitt will be in the wrong place at the wrong time on Sunday. Cards will roll and look much better in the process.

Louisville 78 Pitt 63

Oh Captain! My CaptainL!

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On Monday Jason Anderson of ESPN680 broke the news that Montrezl Harrell had advised him that he was no longer a team captain on this year’s squad. On Tuesday Coach Pitino confirmed that news to Jeff Greer. “Absolutely no big deal,” he said in a message to The Courier-Journal. “Totally nothing. He is still the leader of our team.”

You can imagine the speculation into this has run wild. In the midst of some tough losses and poor offensive output now the news that one of the more dominate members of this team is no longer a captain. Are things going on inside the Louisville program? Is the season headed for a complete tailspin? I don’t believe that for one second, and I think this latest news about Harrell is just him jumping on a grenade for his team.

We have all watched a shy kid from rural North Carolina grow up before our eyes. We have watched him make a name for himself on the basketball court. He’s helped Louisville win conference titles, he had a breakout performance during the Cardinals Title run and he helped lead the U-19 USA Team to a World Championship.

He could have left in the off season for the NBA but chose to come back to Louisville to take another step in his basketball evolution. This time he wanted to have his moment. Not just a footnote in Louisville Basketball history but as a guy who we talked about as having made a significant impact on this program. The shy, introverted Harrell has taken it upon himself to be the leader of this team and is finding out that is a huge burden to bear.

This guy has all of the qualities of being a great leader, and a great Captain. He leads by example, has determination, drive and the willingness to put his team first. And I’m sure in some of those classes at Hargrave Military Academy they discussed guys who were willing to throw themselves on a grenade to save the rest of the troops. It’s one thing to be a leader but something really special to be that leader.

Montrezl Harrell has always been his toughest critic always quick to tell the media huddled around him in the post-game locker room what he could have done better in a win or a loss. This guy gets it. Right now his young team is struggling to find their identity, struggling to get the ball in the basket and have lost some tough games. There is a big grenade flying towards this 2014-15 group of Cardinals from the fans, and media. This latest news about Montrezl not being a Captain anymore means that he has made that ultimate sacrifice and has jumped on that grenade.

Montrezl Harrell may no longer be the Captain but he is the ultimate leader.

Montrezl Talks about his role as a leader on this 2014-15 team at Media Days

Cards Have a Devil of a Time Shooting in Loss

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The build-up for this game really didn’t live up to the hype on Saturday afternoon in the Yum Center. The ceremony honoring the 1980 team was awesome; the uniforms were awesome but the game itself not so much. The Blue Devils and Cardinals played for the first time as conference foes and for the 10th time in their history. It was the Blue Devils that would walk away with the win 63-52 and now lead the series 6-4. The Cardinals have won 4 out of the last 6 in the series. Saturday was the first time in the last 3 years that the Cardinals lost by 10 plus points, they are now 77-11 all-time at the Yum Center and they are now 151-68 all-time vs the current ACC teams.

In my pre-game breakdown I felt like the Cardinals would have a great chance to win this game if they rebounded the ball well and was able to stop Duke’s offensive attack that is the most efficient in college basketball. The Cardinals had 18 offensive rebounds to their 5 and won the rebound battle 38-32. The Cardinals defense held a team averaging 83.2 points a game to just 63 points, and a very good three point shooting team to 4-15 from behind the arc for 26.7%. They also forced 10 turnovers and had 6 steals.

What I didn’t consider in my pre-game is that Louisville would come out and shoot 29% their second worst performance on the season. The Cardinals were 18-61 from the field, and 4-25 from behind the arc. The Cards were also outscored in the paint 32-24. This program has thrived on those fast break points and points off of turnovers and they got just 12 points from this combined. A lot of this has to do with just having a team full of streaky shooters but let’s not forget that on the other side today was one of the greatest coaches ever. Coach Krzyzewski hasn’t won 998 games without coming up with a way to shut teams down. He made a great decision having the Dukies play zone defense and he devised a scheme to completely shut Chris Jones down. A guy who was one of the hottest players in the ACC coming into this one had just 5 points and had just as many turnovers with 5.


Out of the Cardinals big four who had been averaging double figures only Montrezl and Terry came through today. Rozier led the Cardinals in scoring with 17 points. Harrell had his 19th career double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds. He now leads the ACC in double-double games. Wayne did score 7 points and 4 rebounds today but was 0-5 from behind the arc. I have to give kudos to Mango for playing as hard as he could for 26 minutes today and for crashing the boards grabbing 7 rebounds. He was just over-matched on the defensive end of the floor trying to contain Okafor. A problem a lot of other players will have. Another thing that may have gone unnoticed is that the Cardinals have been shooting it great from the free-throw line. They shot 75% from the line today and have made above 70% in the last nine games. They are 14th in the nation in free throw attempts.

If I could offer any words of encouragement to discouraged Cardinal fans it would be to remember that 2012 group that was one of the worst offensive teams in history to make it to a Final Four. I’m not saying that this group can replicate that but they do play defense as hard as that bunch did and when you do that there’s always a chance. This team will continue to get better and learn to be more effective playing to their strengths. I also think that there are a few more guys on this team who will be devloped into effective offensive threats. The sky isn’t falling the shots just aren’t right now. It’s all about the journey… Go Cards!

(Video Cred TheCrunchZone.com)

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: Blue Devils

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In 1980 I was an 8yr old growing up in a small town in Kentucky. I didn’t start really paying attention to Cardinal Basketball until I was 12, but have read enough old articles and watched enough old footage that I can really appreciate how good that 1980 team was. Every time the program has won a national title it has been really special, but that very first one is what put the program on the map. That was a special team and a special group of players that included Louisville’s own Darrell Griffith who promised his city a championship and delivered. On Saturday that group will be honored when the Cardinals play Duke a team Louisville beat in 1986 for the program’s second title. Louisville will even break out the Dunking Bird uniforms for the occasion.

RICK PITINO TALKS BLUE DEVILS

The Cardinals and Blue Devils have played nine times on the hardwood. Duke leads the series 5-4, but Louisville has won the last four out of five including the last one in that inspirational elite eight game during the 2013 title run. This game will feature two of the biggest traditions in college basketball and two of the most influential coaches in the history of college basketball. Mike Krzyzewski in his 40th season has 997 wins, and Rick Pitino in his 30th season has 709 wins. Saturday will be the beginning of a new ACC rivalry that will be very good for years to come.

The Blue Devils will limp into the Yum Center on Saturday after losing their last two games, including falling 90-74 at home to Miami on Tuesday. Their offense really hasn’t been the issue as much as they just can’t seem to get stops on the defensive end of the floor. They have allowed 10 made three-point field goals in each of the past two games. They are allowing opponents to shoot 42.8% from the floor, and 30.6% from the three. This is a team that relies heavily on a group of freshman and they haven’t fully bought into giving their best effort on defense.

This Duke team is loaded with talent and they have an NCAA-best and school-record nine McDonald’s All-America selections on the roster in 2014-15. Freshmen Tyus Jones (9.4ppg, 3.4rpg), Jahlil Okafor (18.9ppg, 9.4rpg) and Justise Winslow (11.9ppg, 4.9rpg) have started all 16 games for the Blue Devils. This trio combines to average 40.2 points, 17.6 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. A freshman has led the Blue Devils in scoring in 12 of 16 games. Okafor has led eight times, while Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow have each led Duke in scoring two times. This rookie trio has accounted for 10 of Duke’s 11 20-point games on the year (Okafor 7, Jones 2, and Winslow 1).

The upperclassmen leading the way on this team are Quinn Cook (14.8ppg, 2.9rpg), Amile Jefferson (8.3ppg, 7,7rpg), and Rasheed Sulaimon (8.1ppg, 1.9rpg). Cook and Sulaimon are great shooters and both of them can light it up behind the arc. Cook has made at least one three-point field goal in each of the past 26 games, and is shooting 41.4 percent from behind the arc. Sulaimon is shooting 44.4 percent (8-of-18) from three- point range in league play. While Jefferson is a beast on the backboards especially the offensive glass. He has 50 of the Blue Devils 201 offensive rebounds on the season ranked 7th in the ACC with 3.1 a game.

Duke’s offensive attack is one of the most efficient in the NCAA as the Blue Devils rank in the top 10 in points per game (6th), floor percentage (2nd), and points per possession (5th), efficiency (5th), two- point field goal percentage (6th), field goal percentage (6th) and true shooting percentage (10th). To say they will be the toughest challenge of the season for the Cardinals defense is a major understatement.

Duke’s 2014-15 Overall Rankings Offense | Defense

OFFENSE
-POINTS PER GAME
83.2
6th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
38.2
50th
OVERALL
-ASSISTS PER GAME
16.1
25th
OVERALL
-FIELD GOAL PCT
.502
6th
OVERALL

DEFENSE
-POINTS ALLOWED
64.4
143rd
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
25.6
85th
OVERALL
-BLOCKS PER GAME
3.9
131st
OVERALL
-STEALS PER GAME
7.8
58th
OVERALL

Duke’s 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #11
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-95.0 ranks 66th
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-116.9 ranks 7th
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Louisville winning the game 74-69 based on his indexes.

Chris Jones has averaged 17.5 points, 7.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and shot 49 percent from the field in the last four games. He handed out a career-high 11 assists with just two turnovers in the last game. Terry Rozier is leading the Cards in scoring with 17.4 points a game and has scored over 20 points in his last four. Montrezl Harrell has been quiet as of late but he is just 12 points short of becoming the 66th career 1,000-point scorer at Louisville. His six double- doubles this season are also tied for the ACC lead. Wayne Blackshear has also maintained a steady pace averaging 12 points and 4.6 rebounds in his last three games. These guys are Louisville’s bread and butter and they’ll need to keep trending upward to beat the Dukies on Saturday.

Louisville must also get some help from the bench. The Cards got 18 points from the bench in the last game as Snider, Aaron, and Gill had some productive minutes. The guys at the 5 spot are also going to be important in this one and moving forward. Mango’s numbers are slowly improving averaging 4.3 points and 7 rebounds in the last three games. Onuaku and Anas still need to improve on their numbers.

Louisville ranks among the nation’s top 15 in field goal percentage defense holding opponents to 36.5%, which ranks 11th nationally. They have held 12 of their last 17 opponents under 40 percent shooting from the field, and are 42nd nationally in three-point field goal percentage defense holding teams to 29.5%. Defense is what our Cardinals are about and if they win the game on Saturday it will be because of another great effort on that end of the court. Louisville has held a rebounding advantage in 10 of its 17 games, but the Cardinals have been beaten on the boards in three of the last four. The Cards are 17th nationally in offensive rebounds per game. I think they’ll have to win this battle also or at least keep it close.

This is one of the biggest games on the schedule. The Yum center is going to be rocking and emotions will be running high. I think our guys will feed off of that energy along with the buzz from the ceremony honoring that 1980 group. They’ll channel some of that greatness from those throwback uniforms and will have one of their best games of the season. It will be three losses in a row for the Dukies…

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 70 Duke 63

Louisville’s 2015 Signees Make the First McDonalds All-American List

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On Wednesday the McDonald’s All-American Game committee released its initial list of 492 boys nominated for the annual showcase and gave Louisville men’s basketball fans something to smile about. Three of the Cardinals class of 2015 signees – Deng Adel, Raymond Spalding, and Donovan Mitchell made the first cut. They will now be eligible to make the final team of 24 boys selected to play in the 2015 Game. The final teams will be announced during the McDonald’s All American Games Selection Show on ESPNU on Jan. 28 at 5 p.m. CT.

The Cardinals coaching staff were ahead of the curve in identifying and landing three of the biggest stock risers in the class of 2015. In the ESPN rankings Deng Adel went from No. 81 to No. 30, Donovan Mitchell rose from No. 72 to No. 37, and Raymond Spalding, a local kid was identified by the Cardinals’ staff early in the process, before he went from unranked to No. 52.

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(Photo Cred SourceHoops)

Deng Adel is ranked #57 by Future150, #32 by 247Sports, #18 by Scout, #30 by ESPN, and #50 by Rivals. Defensively he plays with strength, length and lateral quickness. Offensively, he scores with spot-up 3-pointers and straight-line attacks off the dribble with athletic finishes. He is a player who competes hard, plays with energy and is still on the rise.

“We know that Wayne is leaving and we had to have an impact player who could physically play right away. Deng is a highly ranked basketball player and he’s good at all phases of the game, he can flat out defend you on one end, then turn around make a great pass, make a great shot and then get to the offensive glass. He’s an outstanding basketball player with size and the physical ability to play right away” –Coach Pitino

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(Photo Cred 247Sports)

Donovan Mitchell is ranked #31 by Future150, #29 by 247Sports, #21 by Scout, #38 by ESPN, and #31 by Rivals. He emerged as one of the biggest summer stock-risers in the country last year. According to those who have followed that progression closely his shooting and ball handing has made progress, but it’s his physical tools that have allowed him to begin separating from his peers. An excellent defender he uses his broad shoulders, long arms, and a chiseled frame to oppose his will. Offensively he has a tremendous first step and he has the strength to make plays in the tightest of situations.

“Immediately In the first five minutes I absolutely fell in love with the way he played, his game, everything about him, the way he carried himself. I watched another game, then another game and just fell in love with his game athletically, the way he leads. Then after speaking with him on the phone I realized I had another person with the character of Peyton Siva. On his visit he reconfirmed all of my thoughts, the way he treats his family, the way he carries himself, this is a special young man on and off the basketball court.” –Coach Pitino

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(Photo Cred VerbalCommits)

Raymond Spalding is ranked #49 by Future150, #39 by 247Sports, #41 by Scout, #52 by ESPN, and #39 by Rivals. Defensively he is a good rebounder and contest, alters and blocks shots on the ball and from the weak side to aid a teammate that has been beat. Offensively his length and mobility allow him to run the floor very well where he is an above the rim finisher. Spalding has hands and shooting touch that allow him to be a good shooter in and round the lane. He also can face and straight line drives down the lane. Just last night twitter was buzzing about Spalding’s big game against St. X, where he took over scoring 26 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. He also had 5 monster dunks. This kid is a great local talent and the Cards were lucky to get him.

“I have not seen too many people improve like him. I knew we had to nail this one down and we couldn’t let him get away from Louisville, he’s too good of a basketball player, one of the best to come out since Rondo. When he gets to the point that he says I’m gonna impact every play on the court offensively and defensively, when he reaches that point then look out because we’ll have one of the best players in the country.”-Coach Pitino

These three guys obviously have the talent, background and off the court integrity to be McDonalds All-Americans. All three are worthy of one of those final 24 spots. It never works out like that but still it doesn’t take away from the fact that these guys are very worthy. I really hope one of them gets to represent the Cardinals in this game but if not it is still a great honor to just be mentioned with the other great athletes in the country. I know that their supporters and families are very proud of this achievement and I know Cardinal Nation is very proud of these guys.

Louisville has had 19 McDonald All-Americans since 1978.

2011 Chane Behanan
2011 Wayne Blackshear
2009 Peyton Siva
2008 Samardo Samuels
2006 Earl Clark
2001 Carlos Hurt
1993 Jason Osborne
1990 Clifford Rozier
1990 Dwayne Morton
1987 LaBradford Smith
1987 Jerome Harmon
1985 Pervis Ellison
1985 Tony Kimbro
1984 Kevin Walls
1982 Billy Thompson
1981 Milton Wagner
1981 Manuel Forrest
1978 Jerry Eaves
1978 Scooter McCray

We will find out in a few weeks if one of the 2015 guys will join this list. I want to congratulate each of them on making the first list and wish them good luck in making the final cut. GO CARDS!

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: Virginia Tech

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I literally cut my teeth as a Louisville Basketball fan when they were members of the Metro Conference. I can remember it like it was yesterday lying in the floor watching that old Zenith console TV. It will be like Déjà Vu on Tuesday night when Louisville renews an old Metro Conference rivalry with Virginia Tech. The Cardinals and the Hokies have met 36 times in a series that started in 1978. The Cardinals lead the series 28-8, and have won the last nine straight dating back to the last meeting that came with the dissolution of the Metro back in 1995. This is the only meeting between the two schools this season. The Cards will also face a familiar foe in the Hokie head coach Buzz Williams who had some great battles with coach Pitino when he was the Marquette head man.

RICK PITINO PREVIEWS VIRGINIA TECH

Buzz Williams is a very good coach and he is in the early stages of rebuilding the Virginia Tech program. His young Hokies are 8-7 and 13th in the ACC. The Hokies have five freshmen seeing significant minutes. Justin Bibbs (13.5 ppg), Ahmed Hill (8 ppg), Jalen Hudson (5.9 ppg), Malik Muller (4 ppg), and Satchel Pierce (3.6 ppg) are averaging 35.0 points per game and their 550 points accounts for 49.5 percent of the team’s scoring. This group has made 34 of
the 75 available starts for the team this season. Adam Smith (12.7 ppg), Joey Van Zegeren (9.8 ppg), and Devin Wilson (7.9 ppg) are the upperclassmen leading the way.

The Hokies appear to have the offensive firepower to be competitive scoring 69.4 points a game. This team can shoot the basketball and are averaging 47.8% from the field good for 32nd in the nation. They are shooting 40.4% from the three and 61.1% at the free-throw line. But getting both ends of the floor on the same page has been the issue. They are giving up an average of 79 points during a three game skid that was capped off with an 86-75 defeat at Florida State last week. They are allowing opponents to shoot 40.4% from the floor and 32.7% from the three.

2014-15 Overall Rankings Offense | Defense

OFFENSE
-POINTS PER GAME
69.4
142nd
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
32.0
292nd
OVERALL
-ASSISTS PER GAME
12.1
215th
OVERALL
-FIELD GOAL PCT
.478
32nd
OVERALL

DEFENSE
-POINTS ALLOWED
66.2
184th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
22.8
257th
OVERALL
-BLOCKS PER GAME
4.0
121st
OVERALL
-STEALS PER GAME
4.5
337th
OVERALL

Virginia Tech 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #183
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-102.4 ranks 210th
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-100.8 ranks 165th
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Louisville winning the game 77-57 based on his indexes.

Our Cardinals are coming off one of their best performances of the season especially on the offensive end of the floor where they won the shooting battle 47.5% to 43%. They struggled on defense especially in the final 8 minutes giving up a 13 point lead and giving up 15 offensive rebounds that helped give the Tar Heels eight more looks at the basket. There was also a lack of scoring outside that of Jones, Rozier, Blackshear, and Harrell. And Montrezl had a very mediocre outing. It will be interesting to see how our guys come out of the gate on Tuesday night.

We need to get more production out of our 5 spot guys Mango, Onuaku, and Anas. We also need to get more production out of our bench that was outscored 20-0 in the loss to UNC. Coach Pitino has said that he will make these areas a priority moving forward and Tuesday night will be a good chance to see if our big guys and bench can get things moving in the right direction. This Hokies program is on their way to being very competitive but I don’t give them much of a shot in this one.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 78 Virginia Tech 60

Tar Heels more like Cardinals Achilles Heel

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(Louisville’s Chris Jones walks off the court following Louisville’s 72-71 loss to North Carolina in an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In sports you win some tough ones and you lose some tough ones. The Cards have done both in the last ten years but this one was gut wrenching. Coach Pitino said after the game that this loss ranks in his top 10 as toughest of career, “it stings” he said. Well I concur this one did sting and will for a few days. North Carolina with a late rally today beat our Cardinals 72-71. North Carolina now leads the series 10-3, have won three in a row and the last six out of seven. Coach Pitino is 0-6 against the Tar Heels. The Tar Heel is more like the Achilles Heel to the Cardinals.

COACH PITINO POST GAME

In Greek mythology a guy named Achilles grew up to be a man of war who survived many great battles. But one day, a poisonous arrow shot at him was lodged in his heel, killing him shortly after. We aren’t talking about life or death here but it felt like an arrow had been shot through my heart when our Cardinals surrendered a 13 point lead in the final 8 1/2 minutes of the game today.

Our Cardinals fought a great battle today but ultimately their Achilles Heel was the lack of a great performance from Montrezl Harrell who seemed to disappear towards the end of the game. He only had 5 rebounds and 9 points to go along with three turnovers. The teams lack of production at the 5 spot, with 12 rebounds and 8 points. The Cardinals were outscored in the paint 40-26. Their lack of production from the bench hurt and they were outscored 20-0. The team’s loss on the glass 40-30. Carolina had 17 second chance points.

TERRY ROZIER POST GAME

CHRIS JONES POST GAME

There were also some positive things from this game today. Terry (25 points, 5 assist, 3 steals) and Chris (19 points, 5 assist) played incredible and both hit big time shots in clutch situations. These guys kept the Cardinals in a position to win this game all day. It’s on a stage like today when great players make great plays and these guys did that proving to the rest of the country why they are one of the best back-courts in college basketball. I also thought Wayne (10 points, 4 rebounds) had a solid game. Other positives included the Cardinals defensive effort that held one of the best transition teams to just 4 fast break points and got 10 steals.

Some of us take these losses harder than others do and I am one of those people. I had my very first ACC melt down today and this loss really put a damper on my Saturday. But when looking at the overall performance of the team it really was one of the best efforts of the early season. Also we’ll get the Tar Heels again here in a few weeks on January 31st, so the thought of revenge helps. Coach Pitino took this loss as hard as any of us and he knows what has to be done to fix this team shortcomings. The college basketball season is a process and we are still in the early stages of that process. I have total confidence in our players and our coach. There is still a lot to look forward to this season. Go Cards!

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The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Tar Heels

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The Cardinals will take their 2-0 ACC record to tobacco road on Saturday afternoon to face the North Carolina Tar Heels. This will be the first time these teams play as conference foes. The teams are meeting for the second year in a row, as the Tar Heels beat the Cardinals 93-84 last season on Nov. 24 in the Hall of Fame Tipoff. Carolina leads the all-time series 9-3, and have won the last five out of six including two in a row. Saturday’s contest will also include a pair of Hall of Fame coaches on the sidelines, Roy Williams 735 wins (Hall of Fame class of 2007) and Rick Pitino 709 wins (class of 2013).

COACH PITINO TALKS ABOUT THE NORTH CAROLINA GAME

The Tar Heels are 1-1 and have won 5 of their last six games. The Tar Heels are facing their second consecutive ranked opponent, hoping to bounce back from Monday night’s loss to No. 13 Notre Dame. That defeat snapped a five-game Carolina winning streak. The one thing that this Carolina team has struggled with over the past couple of years is consistency. They look like world beaters in one game and come out uninspired in the next one. They have the talent and the depth but just haven’t been able to put it together night after night.

MONTREZL TALKS NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina is averaging 80.1 points a game while shooting 45.3% from the floor, 30.5% from the three and 70% from the free throw line. They are led in scoring by Marcus Paige (13.5PPG), Kennedy Meeks (12.7PPG), Brice Johnson (11.3PPG), Justin Jackson (9.6PPG), and J.P. Tokoto (9.1PPG). Carolina’s defense is holding its opponents to 35.4% shooting this season, ranking second in the ACC. The Tar Heels lead the ACC in three-point field goal percentage defense at 26.1%. Carolina has held 13 of its first 15 opponents under 40% shooting from the floor. Carolina leads the ACC in offensive rebounding percentage at .449 (ranking second nationally) but is 14th of 15 ACC teams in defensive rebounding percentage at .677 (222nd nationally). The Tar Heels are very good when it comes to sharing the basketball averaging 17.8 a game ranked 8th nationally.

CHRIS JONES TALKS NORTH CAROLINA

Kennedy Meeks will be a big challenge for the Cardinals. He leads the team with 8.8 rebounds per game and 22 blocked shots. Meeks is tied with Montrezl for the lead in the ACC in double-doubles with six each. J.P. Tokoto has led UNC or tied for the team lead in assists nine times this season. Justin Jackson has scored in double figures three times in the last five games. Isaiah Hicks has been Carolina’s defensive player of the game a team-high six times this season.

North Carolina 2014-15 Overall Rankings Offense | Defense

OFFENSE
-POINTS PER GAME
80.1
16th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
45.1
2nd
OVERALL
-ASSISTS PER GAME
17.8
8th
OVERALL
-FIELD GOAL PCT
.453
92nd
OVERALL

DEFENSE
-POINTS ALLOWED
64.4
147th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
28.1
15th
OVERALL
-BLOCKS PER GAME
4.7
65th
OVERALL
-STEALS PER GAME
7.3
101st
OVERALL

2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #11
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-89.4 ranks 10th
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-111.5 ranks 19th
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Louisville losing the game 71-67 based on his indexes.

This North Carolina team is about like the match-up with UK when it comes to their length and athletic ability. The Cardinals are going to have to play great in transition defense and limit the Tar Heels in their fast break points, and they must have a good day on the glass just to be able to stay in this game. Louisville’s big four have come up big all season and they will need to have a good game on Saturday. I’m concerned about the production in the paint and would like to see the Cardinals get more out of that 5 spot on Saturday.

I don’t think the Cardinals have to play a perfect game to beat North Carolina on Saturday but they will have to play one of their best games of the season. They will be very motivated trying not to lose back-to-back games at home. This one has me nervous but I just can’t pick against our guys and think they will answer the bell on the defensive end of the floor. Plus I really like the way Chris Jones has been playing and think he comes up big on Saturday.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 67 North Carolina 63

Jones Helps Cards Keep Up With ACC

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On a very cold evening in Louisville the Cardinals overcame some cold shooting to claim their second victory of the early conference slate. The Cardinals are now 2-0 in ACC play after beating Clemson tonight 58-52. This is the third straight season that the Cardinals have started 2-0 in conference play. They previously started 2-0 in the Big East, and the American Conference last season. The Cardinals now lead the series against Clemson 4-0 and after the win tonight they are 76-10 all-time at the Yum Center. They move to 150-66 all-time vs current ACC teams.

At times it wasn’t very pretty to watch especially in the first half. Clemson had the Cardinals well scouted, shut down the inside game with their zone, and controlled the pace throughout. Clemson came into this game holding seven out of the last ten teams they’ve played to 65 points or less. They held the Cardinals to 22% on 6 of 27 shooting from the field in the first half and held them to 32.7 % shooting for the game on 18 of 55 from the field. The Cardinals were 6 of 24 from the three point line for 25% for the game. The Cardinals used a 17-0 run at the start of the second half to propel them in the win. They have used the “BOOM” producing over 30 runs of 8-0 or better this season in their 15 games.

The Cardinals were without Anas tonight who had a migraine, Shaqquan had a knot on his head that he got in practice limiting his time, and Montrezl got into foul trouble sitting most of the first half. These things certainly didn’t help the Cardinals on the offensive end of the floor. The Cardinals looked a little better on the defensive end of the floor forcing the Tigers into 15 turnovers and getting 11 steals. The Cardinals have now produced double-digit steals in 12 of their last 15 games and they have now had fewer turnovers than their opponents in 13 of their last 15 games.

For the second straight game it was Chris Jones who was this team’s saving grace. He led all scorers with 22 points. He also had 2 assist and 5 steals. He is ranked in the top six in the ACC in steals. For all the hard time he gets from some fans this Cardinal team would be in big trouble without him. I really think he has turned the corner and now fully understands the role he plays on this team.

Terry Rozier is another guy that continues to come through in the clutch when the Cardinals need a basket. He had 15 points to go along with 6 rebound, 4 assist and 3 steals. He currently leads the ACC in Steals. He has been the most consistent player in a Cardinal uniform this season.

I was hoping that Wayne Blackshear would be pushed by the recent play of Shaqquan Aaron. Tonight Wayne had a nice game scoring 11 points, to go along with 4 rebounds and 2 steals. He is another player that is among the top 6 steal leaders in the ACC. He was 3-10 from behind the arc tonight.

Montrezl had his mildest performance of the season. He got into foul trouble early in the game sitting for most of the first half and really never got it going like we are used to from him. He did have some moments in the second half and did end up scoring 6 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. He is now just 32 points shy of becoming Louisville’s 66th career 1000 point scorer. His 6 double-doubles this season is tied for the ACC lead.

If you have been watching some of these conference games this season then you know how much of a grind it’s been for all of the top teams in the country. When teams get into the conference part of the schedule the scouting report really finds their weaknesses. Louisville did get 15 rebounds from the five spot on Wednesday night and Mango really was going hard to the glass on both ends of the floor. I was very impressed with his effort. Despite the rebounding efforts the Cardinals only got 4 points from the five spot. Teams are going to keep playing to this weak spot.

Regardless of the teams shortcomings they keep finding ways to win games and guys are stepping up and making plays when they need to. I’ll take a 2-0 start to conference play and run. Things are going to get tougher in the coming weeks but the Cardinals are going to keep getting better. Bring on the Tar heels…

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The Beak Basketball Breakdown: Clemson

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The Cardinals took care of business on Sunday evening down in Winston Salem beating Wake Forest in their very first conference game. Now the Cardinals will play their very first ACC game at the KFC Yum Center on Wednesday night against Clemson. The Cardinals and the Tigers have only played three times on the hardwood with Louisville leading the series 3-0. After their win Sunday the Cardinals are 149-66 against current ACC teams.

COACH PITINO TALKS CLEMSON AND THE PROGRESS OF HIS TEAM

Clemson has won four of their last six games. They are averaging 65.2 points a game shooting 42.5% from the field, 28% from Three and 66.5% from the free throw line. Jaron Blossomgame is averaging 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds while Damarcus Harrison is averaging 11 points and 3.5 rebounds. Donte Grantham is the third player averaging double-digit points and Landry Nnoko is grabbing 6.5 rebounds. The Tigers are a team that rely heavily on their defense and they are holding teams to 62.6 points a game on 39% shooting from field. Their defense has held teams to 65 points or less in seven of their last 10 games. They average almost 6 blocked shots a game good for 19th in the country.

Clemson 2014-15 Overall Rankings Offense | Defense

OFFENSE
-POINTS PER GAME
65.2
248th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
37.0
93rd
OVERALL
-ASSISTS PER GAME
10.8
292nd
OVERALL
-FIELD GOAL PCT
.425
232nd
OVERALL

DEFENSE
-POINTS ALLOWED
62.6
101st
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
25.4
103rd
OVERALL
-BLOCKS PER GAME
5.7
19th
OVERALL
-STEALS PER GAME
5.0
316th
OVERALL

2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #141
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-97.5 ranks 106th
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-99.2 ranks 204th
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Louisville winning the game 70-53 based on his indexes.

Our Cardinals have four players averaging in double figures with Terry Rozier (17.1 points, 5.6 rebounds), Montrezl Harrell (16.7 points, 9.5 rebounds), Chris Jones (12.1 points, dishing out 3.2 assists) and Wayne Blackshear (12.1 points). With Shaqquan Aaron coming around the Cardinal’s now must get something going at the 5 spot. Chinanu, Mango, and Anas are averaging 8.3 points a game combined while averaging 13.3 rebounds. These numbers have to come up for the Cardinals to be any real threat in the post season.

It will be interesting to see if Chris can put together great back to back performances and if the play of Shaqquan Aaron has lit a fire under Wayne Blackshear. We’ll see if the post guys show any type of spark after Coach Pitino said that he was going to put his focus on them. I don’t think the Cards have any trouble with Clemson and it will be another opportunity to get better. Tough road trip to Chapel Hill is looming.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 79 Clemson 65