The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Wolfpack

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Just a few weeks ago a lot of Cardinal fans as well as the talking heads were wondering if Louisville would make it past the first round game of the NCAA Tournament. Now here they are in the Sweet 16 and just two wins away from another Final Four. The Cardinals overcame a “Big” obstacle in their first round game against UC Irvine and then just completely overwhelmed a UNI team that most were saying had a legit chance to make it to a Final Four themselves. Now awaiting the Cardinals is conference foe NC State.

The Wolfpack has made a great run through the tournament after having a bi-polar type of season. Guard play is critical in the NCAA Tournament and there hasn’t been a better trio during March Madness than that of Ralston Turner (13.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG), Trevor Lacey (16.1 PPG, 4.5 PPG) and Anthony Barber (11.8 PPG, 3.8 APG). Mark Gottfried runs his offense strictly through these three guards. Lacey is the dynamic scorer, Turner is a sharp shooter and Cat Barber is a lane slashing assist machine. These three guys complement each other very nicely. They are a big reason why NC State is in the Sweet 16.

The rest of their team hasn’t been too shabby either. The Wolfpack is averaging 70 points a game shooting 43.7% from the field, and 35.4% from the three. As I mentioned above the guards make this team go but this NC State team is well balanced. They have shooters and big men who can finish around the rim. Every player has a defined role on this team. Turner, Lacey and Barber lead in scoring but they are followed by Lennard Freeman (3.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG), Abdul-Malik Abu (5.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG), C BeeJay Anya (4.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG), Kyle Washington (7.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG), and Caleb Martin (5.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG). On the offensive end of the floor all these guys can handle the ball and each of them are capable of creating their own scoring opportunities. They are a very tough group to guard when they have their mojo going. Their offense is the reason they have won five of their last six games.

The Wolfpack defense is also very adequate. They play an aggressive man-to-man with a very fast Barber hounding the back-court and bigs Anya and Abu banging in the front-court. They are allowing 65.5 points a game, allowing 40% shooting from the field and 33.1% from the three. They have given up 68 or less points in seven of their last 10 games.

NC State’s NATIONAL RANKS

Offensive efficiency, 34th (111.4)
Defensive efficiency, 76th (97.3)
3-point percentage, 82nd (36.3)
3-point percentage D, 96th (32.9)
Free throw rate, 203rd (36.0)
Free throw rate D, 112th (34.0)
TO percentage, 34th (16.4)
TO percentage D, 336th (15.7)

NC State’s 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #31
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-97.7 ranks 81st
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-111.6 ranks 27th
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Louisville winning the game 66-63 based on his indexes.

Here we are Cardinal fans again just two games away from another Final Four. This group has bonded together through much adversity and find themselves on the cusp of adding their own lore to a great Cardinal tradition. At the beginning of March Madness I wrote an article listing my 5 keys to winning a NCAA Title. When I wrote it there were doubts about this group of Cardinals possessing those keys, but as we have progressed over the last couple of weeks I am seeing some of these things.

A Cause: I don’t know if they have one common cause but this group wants to win for one another now. I have seen a very cohesive group over the last couple of weeks.

A Great Leader: Wayne Blackshear has taken on this role. He has taken this team on his shoulders and it was his will to win that helped them get past UC Irvine. Wayne wants to keep adding to his legacy as a Cardinal and he’s not ready for it to end. Terry Rozier has also taken his game to another level.

The Freshman or Player that comes out of nowhere: Quentin Snider has come out of nowhere. This kid has the moxie of a grizzled vet and he hasn’t even seen a full season of playing time. Those free-throws he hit in that first game were huge and he keeps getting better every time out.

A Bench: This has been the biggest question mark all season but even this has started to evolve over the last couple of weeks. Onuaku, Johnson, Anas, Aaron, Gill and Levitch were able to come in against UNI to give the starters a breather and they provided solid minutes. Still a long way to go but it’s coming around.

A Coach: Other than a potential match-up in the Elite Eight with Tom Izzo we will have an advantage the rest of the way if we kept winning. Nobody does March better and nobody gets their team ready faster in these quick turnaround games than Coach Pitino. He’ll have the game plan. His team will just have to execute it.

I’m not saying this team is going to win a championship, but we are closer to looking like a team that could. And this group has come a long way especially over the last couple of weeks. A very tough game waits on Friday night. To beat the Wolfpack they have to stop Lacey. That is the top priority. Doing that forces Turner and Barber to shoulder more of the load than they would normally feel comfortable doing. This is an average team if their guards aren’t controlling the game. And this team will get flustered quickly if the Cards come out and lock them down right from the start.

I think this group has their eye on the prize. They are focused on the task at hand.

The Beak Prediction:

Louisville 68 NC State 64

Montrezl Using NCAA Platform for Greater Good

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We hear many stories around this time of year in college basketball, but none are as interesting as when we see a student athlete going above and beyond and using the NCAA Tournament as a platform for the greater good.

Montrezl Harrell is one of the standouts of March Madness. He is focused on getting his team to another Final Four and trying to play well enough so the many scouts in attendance will take notice. For Montrezl being on such a big stage is an opportunity not only to help him but to take this opportunity to help others.

In a recent interview with Howie Lindsey of CardinalSports.com Montrezl said that he was wearing Yellow Shoe Laces for a school project and as a way to bring awareness to and for his support of kids affected by pediatric cancer. The team will also be wearing the Yellow Laces. Montrezl said that he was inspired by a young Louisville boy named Gavin Howard.

Gavin has been selling T-shirts and hoodies for years to help raise money for Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Harrell said he befriended Gavin during his Louisville career and often wears his T-Shirts.

Montrezl has always been the type of guy to help out when he could and has done many things like this for the community while he’s been a Cardinal. He is another great guy in a long line of them who have worn the Cardinal uniform. Thanks for being awesome Montrezl..! L1C4…

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: Northern Iowa

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Unfortunately I remember it like it was yesterday sitting in my living room in a state of shock after the 4 seed Cardinals had just lost to in-state 13 seed Morehead State in the first round of the NCAA Tourney. They had the Rodmanesque future pro in Kenneth Faried who scored 12 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. It wasn’t one of the better sports moments for Louisville fans.

On Friday I had flashbacks of that unpleasant moment when the 4 seed Cardinals were in a dog fight with 13 seed UC Irvine in their first round game in the NCAA Tourney. The Anteaters had the Manute Boesque future pro in Mamadou NDiaye who bullied the Cardinals around in the post and scored 12 points.

Friday things could have been very reminiscent of that game back in 2011, but instead the Cardinals pulled this one out thanks to the Game day heroics of freshman Quentin Snider and senior Wayne Blackshear and now they move on to the third round on Sunday to face the University of Northern Iowa.

The University of Northern Iowa is one of those teams that any college basketball fan loves to cheer for unless they are playing against your school. I cheered for them on their run in 2010 when they upset Kansas. And this team is very reminiscent of that group. They have a group of assassins when it comes to the three point shot and they bring four guys off their bench that shoot 40% from deep. They aren’t going to come at you with one or two guys. They come at you with 10. They play true team ball.

They are averaging 66 points a game shooting 48.2% from the field and 40% from the three. They are led by their do everything star Seth Tuttle who averages 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. The Wooden Award finalist leads the Panthers in points, rebounds, assists and blocks. The rest of their starting line-ups are as follows. Marvin Singleton (5.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG), Jeremy Morgan (5.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG), Matt Bohannon (5.6 PPG, 1.5 RPG), and Deon Mitchell (7.3 PPG, 2.4 APG). They also have three other players averaging between 5.0 and 7.8 PPG. This group is very deliberate and they’ll milk the shot clock on every possession waiting for a moment to take the best shot.

On the defensive end of the floor they aren’t going to wow you with their athleticism or their speed, but they will impress you with their attention to detail and fundamentals. They do a great job of keeping a body between the ball and the basket. They finished the season ranked 4th in the country in points allowed giving up only 54.3 points a game. Having that deep bench works more towards an advantage on this end of the floor and they keep fresh bodies coming at you in waves.

NATIONAL RANKS

Offensive efficiency, 15th (113.9)
Defensive efficiency, 20th (93.1)
3-point percentage, 11th (39.7)
3-point percentage D, 54th (31.6)
Free throw rate, 92nd (40.2)
Free throw rate D, 10th (26.7)
TO percentage, 92nd (18.0)
TO percentage D, 158th (19.3)

Northern Iowa’s 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #9
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-93.3 ranks 19th
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-114.6 ranks 13th
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Northern Iowa winning the game 59-57 based on his indexes.

I wouldn’t necessarily call them an unlikely cast of big performers for Louisville but I think it was surprising to some that Quentin and Wayne stepped up on the offensive end and that Mango stepped up on the defensive end on Friday. It is going to take that and then some on Sunday night for the Cardinals to advance to the Sweet 16 for the 21st time (4th straight). To win a game like this it’s also going to take a big effort from guys like Montrezl and Terry. They can’t have a sub-par performance in this one. They will have an athletic advantage and they’ll need to utilize it on both ends of the floor. The bench guys will also need to produce some solid minutes to try and keep up with their depth advantage.

My keys to this game are for Louisville to dominate the boards and to utilize the press effectively. UNI doesn’t have many weaknesses but they are ranked 322nd out of 350 Division I teams in rebounding. When they have struggled this season they have gotten killed on the glass. Rebounding has been Louisville’s strength this season and has been the one constant. I also think the Cards will have to be effective in both their full and half court press. If they can get into the legs of their shooters it will hurt their accuracy.

This is going to be a very tough game, but the Cards hold one distinct advantage. Having a Hall of Fame coach who has seen it all is huge in these quick turnaround games of the tourney. He will have a blueprint to solve the UNI riddle. He will just need his team to follow that blueprint. The Cardinals are going to have to beat the Panthers because UNI is a team that isn’t going to beat themselves.

The Beak Prediction:

Louisville 60 UNI 51

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Anteaters

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It was an exciting first day of the NCAA Tournament and some teams extended the dance while some took their final bow. The wait is over and we’ll get to watch our Cardinals take to the floor for their first game in the Tourney against the UC Irvine Anteaters. These teams have never met on the hardwood. Our Cardinals will make their 41st appearance in the Tourney which ranks 5th nationally and it will be their 9th straight trip. The Anteaters will be making their very first appearance in the big dance.

UC Irvine head coach Russell Turner is a young coach who is just starting to create his legacy in the college basketball ranks. He like a lot of young coaches has to be very innovative and creative to be competitive in this challenging landscape. Struggling to get recruits over some of the other West Coast schools Tuner got creative in his approach and started reaching out internationally. As a result he has himself a pretty scrappy basketball team led by Will Nelson from England and Mamadou Ndiaye from Senegal.

Captured in the March Madness I found myself up late last week watching the Big West Conference Tournament. I even found myself cheering for the Anteaters to win. Watching them in the semi-finals and finals I learned a few things about this team. They play hard for their coach, they don’t quit and they’ll play defense on every trip on that end of the floor.

Using their size and that solid defense UC Irvine is 21-12 this season and won the Big West Conference Tournament. They were rewarded a 13th seed for their efforts. They are averaging 67.9 points a game shooting 46.1% from the field and 39% from the three. Will Davis II leads the Anteaters averaging 12.9 points, 7.2 rebounds per game and he had a double-double in all of the conference tourney games. Luke Nelson is averaging 10.5 points. Mamadou Ndiaye is averaging 10.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and has had as many as 6 blocks in a game this season. Alex Young is averaging 9.6 points. Travis Souza is an excellent three point shooter and he is 47.4% from long range this season. UC Irvine shares the ball very well. All five starters’ average between 12.9 and 7.4 points per game, and the team finished the season 65th nationally in assists per game.

Defensively their perimeter defenders can be very aggressive, they really protect the rim and they make it really hard for opponents to score in the paint. They finished the season ranked 25th in the country in blocks per game. They are allowing 62.3 points and their opponents are shooting 39.3% from the field.

UC Irvine National Ranks:

Offensive efficiency, 134th (103.6)
Defensive efficiency, 102nd (99.0)
3-point percentage, 27th (38.9)
3-point percentage D, 210th (36.0)
Free throw rate, 337th (29.3)
Free throw rate D, 190th (37.3)
TO percentage, 120th (18.4)
TO percentage D, 263rd (17.7)

UC Irvine’s 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #98
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-98.4 ranks 92nd
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-134.7 ranks 135th
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Louisville winning the game 65-59 based on his indexes.

Our Cardinals have been led by the same cast of players this season. The team goes as Terry, Montrezl and Wayne go. Here towards the end of the season we have started to see a supporting cast emerge in Quentin, Chinanu, and Mango. Word is that Jaylen Johnson has been really solid in practice over the last couple of weeks and that the coaching staff expect a big tournament from him. As I said when the ACC Tourney started it’s going to take more scoring from the bench guys to make a run and the time is now for it to happen.

I think creating turnovers and attacking the basket are going to be the keys in getting the victory in the first round. And with the way Irvine plays defense on the interior our guys are going to have to hit some jump shots.

Folks this Irvine team played Arizona tough this season and took Oregon to OT. Any team that plays inspired basketball during this time of the year is a dangerous opponent. The Anteaters are playing inspired and they are out to make good in their first tourney appearance. I think this is going to be a hard fought game with Louisville’s athleticism taking over late. I think our guys match the intensity and will outlast the Anteaters. Should be fun!

The Beak Prediction:

Louisville 69 UC Irvine 57

The Cardinal Beak’s 5 Keys to Winning a National Title

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I truly believe that the NCAA basketball tournament is the hardest championship to win in all of sports. With its one and done format a great team can play one bad game and lose. It takes more than just shooting, rebounding, defense and a good team to win six games and cut down those nets. Below are The Cardinal Beak’s 5 keys to a National Championship. In my opinion these are the most important.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos 1- A Cause: “Win one for the Gipper”

Knute Rockne gave his “Win One for the Gipper” speech to the Notre Dame players at halftime of the 1928 Army game. Rockne was trying to salvage something from his worst season as a coach at Notre Dame. To inspire the players he told them the story of the tragic death of the greatest player ever at ND, George Gipp. Although historians believe that it is doubtful that Rockne’s version of Gipp’s last words was true, Notre Dame did win the game against Army.

Coaches have used variations of this type of speech to motivate their players for years, but sometimes these causes just appear on their own through life experiences that surround the program before or during the season. Every season we here about a team being inspired by something greater than the game.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos 2- A Great Leader

I don’t think there’s anything more important in college basketball than having at least one great leader. A great leader has been there and done that. A great leader is the one guy who can put the greater good of the team above his own goals. A great leader always strives for the best. They also understand that they are ultimately responsible for helping their fellow team-mates develop into their roles on the team. These guys are also considered the right arm of a coach, and do a great job at relaying a coach’s message to the rest of the team. This could be verbally or non-verbally.

A great leader of a team will often lead by example. All you have to do is google “a senior leads the team” and you will see many examples of this. In 2013 Peyton Siva filled this role. He was the backbone of that Championship team and they wouldn’t have made it there without him.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos 3- The Freshman or Player That Comes Out Of nowhere

A regular season in college basketball can take its toll on these young athletes. Often by the time a team reaches the NCAA Tourney they have developed players at every position and have a general rotation. In these quick turnaround games of the NCAA Tourney reserves often have to step up and play a more important role. There might be someone who comes out of nowhere that gives the team more than what they expected from him.

You can look on every NCAA championship basketball team and you will see a guy like this. That player who took on a very important role and got more points, rebounds, steals, than what was expected. In the tournament there are going to be teams that come out of nowhere and on those teams will be players that come out of nowhere.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos 4- A Bench

As I mentioned above there are very quick turnarounds in the NCAA tournament. Teams will get one day to rest before having to lace em up and play again. The more guys you can play to give the key guys a rest the better your chances are at making a good run. There also may be nights when some of those key guys are having an off night and with a deeper rotation another guy might be able to step up and provide the production.

Another thing; and it’s a big one with the way teams like Louisville play a very aggressive style of defense they may run into an officiating crew in the tournament that doesn’t allow some of the slapping and pulling. I expect the officiating to be very tough this year. If a team is at least two guys deep at every spot that could be the difference in maintaining a lead or winning the game if a key guy is in foul trouble.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos 5- A Great Coach

Most everyone can tell you some of the things that make a great coach. There are many good coaches in the college game right now, but only a few great ones. Great coaches aren’t made overnight. A great coach is someone who has learned and mastered his trade over time. Often he has had to adjust to the generational gaps and to the different changes to the game. A great coach has been there and done it. He’s coached in big games, won big games, coached great athletes and developed/mentored other great coaches.

Our Louisville Cardinals have that great coach. Rick Pitino is not only a great coach, but is a legend to the game of basketball. He has had such an impact on the game of college basketball that his legacy will live on long after we are all gone. He has been in a lot of big games, won a lot of big games and had many defining moments in his career. Hopefully here in a few days our Hall of Fame coach will add to that great legacy with an unexpected run at the NCAA championship.

If you go look at every championship team over the years you will find that each of them have these five key factors that helped them reach that accomplishment. These are in my opinion the five major keys to a NCAA championship.

I was 14 yrs. old lying in the floor watching my parents old Zenith console when that 1986 group of Cardinals won a championship. They were playing to validate a program, had a great senior leader in Milt Wagner, had the great freshman that came out of nowhere in Pervis Ellison, had the good bench players in Tony Kimbro, Mark McSwain, Kevin Walls and the great coach Denny Crum.

In 2013 I traveled to Atlanta and got to be there in person when a gutsy group of Cardinals won a national title 27 years later. They were playing for a fallen brother, had a great senior leader in Peyton Siva, had the great player that came out of nowhere in Luke Hancock, had the good bench players in Montrezl Harrell, Tim Henderson, Stephan Van Treese and the great coach Rick Pitino. It was much sweeter than it was on that grainy old color TV back in 86.

Really hope another great story plays out this year…

Enjoy the NCAA tournament Cardinal fans and Go Cards!

Future Cards Will Headline Derby Festival Classic

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The rosters for the annual spring basketball classic were reveled today and as expected 2015 signees Raymond Spalding, Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel and commit Ryan McMahon will play in the event.

These guys form a recruiting class ranked in the top 5 nationally and the Cardinals coaching staff were ahead of the curve in identifying and landing four 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. Recent commit Ryan McMahon is the lesser known of this group but he also came out of nowhere to garner attention for his long-range shooting. He is ranked the No. 42 shooting guard nationally by ESPN.com.

Cardinals fans will get a glimpse of the future at the Derby Festival Classic, to be played 7 p.m. April 11 at Freedom Hall. Tickets are available for $13, $18 and $50 through Ticketmaster.com or at the Freedom Hall Box Office.

Here are the rosters for each team. All of the Louisville guys will play on the white team.

Team 1
-Jalen Adams G 6-2 UConn
-Deng Adel F 6-7 Louisville
-Daniel Giddens C 6-10 Ohio State
-Austin Grandstaff G 6-5 Ohio State
-Dedric Lawson F 6-8 Memphis
-KJ Lawson F 6-7 Memphis
-Ryan McMahon G 6-0 Louisville
-Donovan Mitchell G 6-3 Louisville
-Matt Ryan F 6-8 Notre Dame
-Justin Simon G 6-5 Arizona
-Ray Spalding F 6-9 Louisville

Team 2
-Prince Ali G 6-3 UCLA
-OG Anunoby F 6-7 Indiana
-Thomas Bryant C 6-10 Undecided
-Bryant Crawford G 6-2 Wake Forest
-Jawun Evans G 6-0 Oklahoma State
-Brandon Ingram G 6-8 Undecided
-Juwan Morgan F 6-7 Indiana
-Justin Patton C 6-10 Creighton
-Danjel Purifoy F 6-6 Auburn
-Brandon Sampson G 6-4 St. John’s

First held in 1973, the Classic is the oldest high school all-star game in the nation and is known for showcasing players who’ve moved on to stardom at the collegiate and professional levels. Former players include Jamal Mashburn, Moses Malone, Rex Chapman, Pervis Ellison, Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, Darrell Griffith, Derek Anderson, Anfernee Hardaway and Michael Beasley.

Grab a ticket and get out to this event next month to support the Cards…

Cardinals Hours Away From First ACC Tourney

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We are hours away from watching our Louisville basketball team play in the ACC Basketball Tournament for the very first time. We have had a lot of these first. Louisville has played in three different conferences in the last three years and six different conferences total. I do hope this first will be our last. I’ve been waiting for years to put down roots in a traditional rich conference like the ACC.

I’ve heard stories of families going to ACC tournaments for decades. For some the conference tournament becomes an annual event. I want to have this with my son someday. I want to look forward to heading south every year, staying in the same spots, and eating at the same restaurants. I’m ready to start building decades of memories in the ACC.

Being a Louisville basketball fan has afforded me many great moments over the years but never the chance to embrace all of the nostalgia that a conference like the ACC can provide. I have been weaned on conferences like The Metro, and C-USA. I remember a time I traveled to Cincy to watch the Cardinals play in the C-USA Tournament at US Bank Arena. There weren’t any hard core fans, there weren’t folks tailgating beforehand and there were barely enough people in attendance to fill the lower bowl in that small venue.

The Big East was a great basketball conference that offered a different and intriguing backdrop. But even it wasn’t the type of conference where you could embrace it in a personal way like fans do the ACC. And it took a pretty healthy wallet to be able to afford the luxury of spending a week in New York City every year.

There has always been a large Louisville contingent at every stop along the way but isn’t it going to be nice to be in a city and an arena filled with fans just as passionate about their team as you are yours. Even the teams in the ACC who aren’t basketball giants have their fair share of fanatics.

In hours the Cardinals will start their first step in a journey that will hopefully be filled with years of great memories that can only be attained in a conference like the ACC. And I think it is very fitting to be able to kick things off by playing one of its founding members. As much as North Carolina represents the conferences past Louisville hopefully represents an exciting future.

I know I’m ready to embrace all that the ACC tournament has to offer, and ready to make many memories in cities like Greensboro, Charlotte and Atlanta. And even if they eventually move the tournament to new places I know that those hard core fans will bring that special tradition along. For the first time as a Louisville Basketball fan I feel like we are part of a bigger basketball family and that we finally have a home. And that’s awesome! Enjoy this weekend Cardinal Fans.

Senior Day Surprise.. Hoo? Mango thats who..

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It was a very emotionally charged day at the Yum Center and I was really impressed with how our guys came out and responded to it. They never once seemed like they were playing tight and were in attack mode for the whole game. As Coach Pitino said in his post-game this team has reached its potential. They have battled through adversity, taken their lumps and appear to be headed into the post season with a new found energy.

Beating the #2 team in the country is no small task. Virginia is very well coached and those guys don’t stop playing for a second. I said in my pre-game break down that I felt that the guys on the bench would all have to start being a factor for this Louisville team to be successful. Today they take down the future NCAA #1 Seed with Anton, Shaqquan, Anas, and Jaylen all coming into the game and making some kind of positive impact. And Mango ended up hitting the game winner. Here is a guy that pretty much epitomizes what this team is about. He has struggled more than any player on the team and hasn’t had many positive moments this season. He continues to practice hard and today it paid off.

I really feel like Coach Pitino simplifying things has really paid off and will continue to pay off as the Cards move forward. With the win over Virginia they will get that double bye in the ACC Tourney next week and really could work their way up to a 2 or 3 seed if they win a few games.

Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear got to go out on a winning note and they both played a big part in this victory. Quentin Snider and Terry Rozier also played very solid games. These guys along with Chinanu Onuaku have become a very solid starting unit. They have found cohesiveness with the extra practice time and I think they will continue to gel.

It really was an awesome day and one that I’ll remember for a long time. I’m proud of this team for not folding under the pressure and for the way they have continued to fight. It says a lot about the kind of guys they are. I hope they have a great run in the post season.

Below is some video and photos from the Cardinals big win on Senior Day.

Special Senior Day post-game Video:

Louisville Senior Day Ceremonies:

Louisville Senior Day Starting Line-up Intros

Mango hits the Game Winner and the celebration is on:

Wayne and Montrezl say good-bye on Senior Day:

Montrezl Post Game:

Wayne Post Game:

Terry Post Game:

Mango Post Game:

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The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Cavaliers (Senior Day)

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Saturday is set up to be a very special day in the KFC Yum Center. Not only are we celebrating the efforts of two great players in Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear, but there is also a pretty good team in #2 Virginia coming to town. This will be another opportunity to get a great quality win before the selection and seeding process next weekend. Our Cardinals will also ultimately be playing for a double bye in next week’s ACC Tournament. Louisville trails Virginia 3-6 in this series, but has won two of the last three meetings. Virginia prevailed 52-47 in Charlottesville earlier this season.

Video | Rick Pitino previews Virginia game

The Cavaliers will be looking to extend their nine-game winning streak. Virginia is averaging 65.8 points on 46.3% shooting from the field, and 36% shooting from the three. They are being led this season by Malcolm Brogdon (13.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.6 apg), Anthony Gill (11.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 0.9 apg), Darion Atkins (7.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.7 apg), Darion Atkins (7.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.7 apg), and London Perrantes (6.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.7 apg). The Cavaliers are 13-0 on the road this season.

Defensively, Virginia is allowing 50 points a game, 35.5% shooting from the field and 30.2% shooting from the three. They have given up 60 or less points in eight straight games. They have held six teams under 40 points this season.

Virginia’s 2014-15 OVERALL Rankings Offense | Defense

OFFENSE
-POINTS PER GAME
65.8
214th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
37.1
54th
OVERALL
-ASSISTS PER GAME
13.1
135th
OVERALL
-FIELD GOAL PCT
.463
61st
OVERALL

DEFENSE
-POINTS ALLOWED
50.0
1st
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
26.5
14th
OVERALL
-BLOCKS PER GAME
4.4
66th
OVERALL
-STEALS PER GAME
5.4
273rd
OVERALL

Virginia’s 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #3
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-84.2 ranks 1st
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-112.4 ranks 28th
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Virginia winning the game 56-53 based on his indexes.

Our Cardinals need a big win after splitting their last eight games. They are averaging 69.9 points on 43% shooting from the field, and 30.7% from the three. Terry Rozier is averaging 17.2 points and 2.8 assists; Montrezl Harrell is averaging 15.6 points and 9.3 rebounds. Wayne Blackshear is the third double-digit scorer averaging 10.7 points and 4.6 rebounds. Chinanu Onuaku has been gradually improving all season and is grabbing five rebounds a game. Despite an encouraging effort in the FSU game the Louisville bench was held scoreless against Notre Dame. The 5 spot combined for 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 turnovers and 11 fouls vs. Notre Dame.

Mango, Shaqquan, Anas, Jaylen and Anton have to become a bigger part of the Louisville team over the next couple of weeks. It’s imperative to this team’s tournament success in my opinion. We may see these guys play more due to the recent news that Coach Pitino plans on changing his system especially on the defensive end. The main reason some of the younger guys haven’t seen the floor was due to their defensive execution. One would think a simplified defense would mean more playing time. Currently the Louisville defense is allowing 59.3 points a game, 38.5% shooting from the field and 28.5% shooting from the three. They have given up 59 or less points in six of their last 10 games.

It’s always a good thing when you can get a game like this to end a regular season. A quality opponent can get a team prepared for the tough weeks ahead as tournament play starts. This Virginia team is a very good opponent to close the season with and they do a lot of things well. They will challenge our Cardinals in every facet of the game on Saturday and we’ll see if the Cards can start trending upward.

I do think our guys answer the call on Senior Day as they will be riding a wave of emotions from the festivities. I also think these guys will respond to the “system change” that Coach Pitino has made. I think they will play a little looser and will play harder not having to worry about making mistakes on the defensive end of the floor. I’m looking forward to being right in the middle of it all. Going to be a great day! Go Cards!

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 60 Virginia 53

Louisville Senior Day a Waning Moment and the End of an EraL

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We have reached the part of the college basketball season where teams are winding up conference play and ramping up for the post season tournaments. Years of hard work hang in the balance as seniors across the country near the end of their college basketball careers, and programs across the country are having their Senior Night/Day ceremonies.

On Saturday the University of Louisville will honor one senior Wayne Blackshear, and Montrezl Harrell who will be leaving the program early to pursue his NBA career… These guys will lace em up in that locker room for the last time, will come charging out of that tunnel to the Alma mater for the last time, and will get the love and admiration from the Yum Center crowd for the last time.

Cardinal fans will celebrate the contributions of these guys, recognizing the significant role they have played in this program, especially in the last three years where they have claimed two Big East Championships, an AAC Championship, two Final Fours and a National Title. These guys like the last group we sent out had their fair share of winning. Ceremonies like on Saturday are part of the process that allows closure for the seniors and a passing of the torch to the underclassmen. But they really are bittersweet and I never look forward to saying good-bye to our players.

In successful programs like the University Louisville the players leave but the tradition never graduates. This program is rich and vibrant because many guys like Wayne and Montrezl have cared enough to give their very best. There are still many chapters that have yet to be written, but these guys have added to the outstanding tradition of Cardinal basketball.

Montrezl Harrell said the best basketball advice he was ever given was to never give up. Not only has he never given up on this team or this program he is one of the hardest workers you’ll ever see on a basketball court. I heard an announcer in one of the U18 basketball games where Montrezl won a gold medal for this country call him “Enthusiasm Personified”. This announcer also said that he had never seen a player go as hard as Montrezl. That enthusiastic attitude on the basketball court has resulted in Harrell being the program leader in one of the most enthusiastic plays in the game the slam dunk.

He became the UofL career leader in dunks with seven slams against Indiana on Dec. 9, passing Pervis Ellison. He has 63 this season and currently has 204 dunks in his Louisville career. Harrell’s school-record 97 dunks last year shattered the Cards’ single-season mark by 38 slams. This along with his never give up mentality will be the legacy he leaves behind. Things always seem to work out in the long run. Louisville wasn’t Harrell’s first college choice but will forever be his home. Thanks for all of your hard work Trez and all those highlights that will be a part of Cardinal lore forever.

Wayne Blackshear said the best basketball advice he was ever given was to stay positive. He has taken that advice and applied it into his last four years as a Louisville Cardinal. He has had his fair share of tough luck during his college career. Struggling through two years of shoulder injuries and constant criticism Wayne has always stayed the course and maintained a positive attitude. He’s a guy that has never had attitude issues with his team or his coach, and has been an honor student in the classroom. He may not be known for his all-star play on a basketball court but Wayne is an all-star at life. These are the kind of guys that every coach wants on his team and the kind of player every fan wants to cheer for.

Louisville adapted the “Louisville First Cardinal forever” motto during Wayne’s four years here, and there isn’t a player that has come through the program that has epitomized that more. Wayne in the face of high expectations and adversity has always put his teammates first and showed courageous leadership. In four years he has also shown great perseverance and has become one of the rocks of the program. He has done it through nothing but hard work. And I thank you Wayne most of all for your character. Nobody better symbolizes the best of what the Louisville basketball program stands for than you.

We will honor Montrezl and Wayne on Saturday in the final home game of their careers, but the program will continue to count on their leadership. We’ll surely miss these guys but will never forget them. Their departure will be the end of an era as they are the only remaining participants from the 2013 title game, but their legacy will always be just a glance towards the rafters at that National Title banner.

Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell Louisville First Cardinals Forever…