Cards go “March”ing on

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(AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

We are just a few weeks away from college basketball’s craziest time of the year. March Madness is the best time of the year and some teams rise to the occasion while others find themselves on the outside looking in. It’s the time of the year when we witness magical moments and ultimate heart break. For the fourth straight year our Cardinals have secured themselves a part in the Madness and after a big win today they are looking to head into the month of March with a full head of steam.

After the tumultuous month of February our young Cardinals have looked adversity in the face and today made a statement by going into Tallahassee and thumping Florida State by 22 points. Watching them today reminded me of this quote: “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down”. The players on this Louisville team are all on that bus together and today looked like a team ready to ride it towards success.

The Cardinals have now won three straight and today they used the concept of “team ball” to score the highest point total since scoring 81 points on January 28th at Boston College. Five players scored in double figures, Wayne Blackshear leading the way with 18 points, Montrezl Harrell with 18 points along with his 200th dunk of his career, Anton Gill with 14 points the best since his birthday performance back in December against FIU, Quentin Snider with 10 points his second double figure game of his career, and Terry Rozier with 10 points. The Cards got the highest total of the season with 22 points from the bench, and finished with 20 assists on 31 made baskets. That assist total was the second highest of the season.

The Cardinals found their mojo again on the defensive side of the floor with 37 deflections, and 10 steals. The Cardinals forced 21 turnovers and tied a season high with 32 points off those turnovers. They entered the game today averaging 14.6 turnovers. It was great seeing these guys get it together on offense but good defense is the ultimate sign that these guys are ready to play hard. Defense is about attitude, and it’s time to bring it. No fears and no regrets! Go all in! These guys today played with a passion and desire on this side of the floor.

As I’ve grown older I’ve learned that life is a series of beginnings and endings. This serves to prepare us for some of life’s greatest challenges. We need to taste the sweetness of new beginnings and the bitterness that sometimes comes with saying good bye. These young Cardinals have grown up over the last couple of weeks. I believe that great triumph will come from their good-bye and that they will continue to embrace their new beginning. Go Cards!

ANTON GILL FSU POST-GAME

WAYNE BLACKSHEAR FSU POST-GAME

MONTREZL HARRELL FSU POST-GAME

TERRY ROZIER FSU POST-GAME

 

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Seminoles

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The Cardinals have renewed several old basketball rivalries during their very first season in the ACC. Saturday they will lock it up with an old rival from the Metro Conference days when they travel to play Florida State. Louisville has a 30-9 advantage in this series that dates back to 1976. It was Florida State who won the last game played between these teams 24 years ago in the Metro Tournament Championship game. One of my all-time favorite Cardinals “LA” Labradford Smith led Louisville in scoring in that game with 26 points. This is the last road game of the season for the Cardinals and they have been road warriors this season with a 6-3 road record. The Cardinals are in sole possession of fourth place in the ACC with a 10-5 conference record. Florida State is currently in eleventh place in the ACC with a 7-9 conference record.

The Florida State Seminoles are 15-14 this season and they have lost their last two games. FSU is averaging 67.6 points and they are shooting 46% from the field, while defensively they are allowing 67.1 points and their opponents are shooting 41.9%. Aaron Thomas leads the Seminoles averaging 14.8 points per game. Xavier Ranthan-Mayes is averaging 14.4 points, and he reeled off 30+ points in a four minute span during their last game. Montay Brandon is averaging 12 points and 5.6 rebounds, and Devon Bookert is averaging 10.4 points. Florida State is 11-5 at home.

Florida State 2014-15 Overall Rankings Offense | Defense

OFFENSE
-POINTS PER GAME
67.6
170th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
34.0
196th
OVERALL
-ASSISTS PER GAME
11.9
241st
OVERALL
-FIELD GOAL PCT
.460
68th
OVERALL

DEFENSE
-POINTS ALLOWED
67.1
195th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
24.0
156th
OVERALL
-BLOCKS PER GAME
4.7
46th
OVERALL
-STEALS PER GAME
5.5
268th
OVERALL

Florida State 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #99
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-97.5 ranks 84th
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-103.0 ranks 143rd
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Louisville winning the game 65-61 based on his indexes.

Our Cardinals are 22-5 this season and are coming off of back-to-back wins. They are averaging 69.9 points and they are shooting 42.8% while defensively they are allowing 58.9 points and their opponents are shooting 38%. Terry Rozier leads the Cardinals averaging 17.7 points and 5.5 rebounds. Montezl Harrell is averaging 15.3 points, Wayne Blackshear is averaging 10.5 points, and Chinanu Onuaku is averaging 3.3 points and 5.1 rebounds.

The young Cardinals have had a lot on their plate over the last couple of weeks. But just as winning heals all wounds adversity can really strengthen the bond of a team. The guys did a great job at coming back from 13 points to gutting out a one point victory against Georgia Tech. Quentin Snider showed a lot of moxie and composure in that game and his team will need that again facing a pretty stout defensive FSU team. I think Montrezl and Terry will need to have solid outings as well. It’s clutch time and those guys plus Wayne Blackshear are going to have to guide this team.

Florida State is likely headed to the NIT barring a conference tournament win and they would like nothing more than to take some of the frustrations from a rough season out on the Cardinals. They have always been a team that plays tough at home and I expect them to play their best game of the season Saturday. Like I mentioned above the Cardinals adversity I believe has brought them closer together and given them a purpose. Really think we see an inspired team who will take FSU’s best shot and take care of business.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 76 FSU 60

The Sport of Life

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Chances are that if you are a sports fan then there are moments in your life where sports have transcended the competition on the field of play and provided defining moments in your life. Sports have healed relationships, created long lasting bonds, brought nations together, brought communities together, and sports have inspired people for generations. In some way or other sports will impact a person in some way in their life’s journey.

I remember the first time my father took me to Riverfront Stadium for a Reds baseball game and the ride home having an actual conversation with him. Being able to relate to my father for the first time on that level was a very special moment for me. It’s a moment that I can’t wait to have with my own son someday.

I will always cherish those moments shared with my friends over the years going to basketball and football games. The high fives, the hugs, and the chest bump when our favorite player made the big play. All of those laughs I’ve shared before and after the games have been great times indeed.

My son is only three years old and I have already had immeasurable joy taking him to his first Cardinal basketball game, and watching that big smile come on his face when he seen the mascot for the first time. I’m certain that the feelings a father has at that moment can only come from that experience.

These are only moments in my life experienced as an observer of sports. The defining times I’ve had during my involvement in sports have been just as impactful. That coach who inspired me to reach further, that game where I got my moment and that comradery shared with a team. Learning what it means to win and lose and the appropriate way to deal with both.

With all of the positive moments that sports brings to our lives there are times that they bring a dose of reality. Yes sometimes sports serve as a sobering reminder that we are only human and humans are capable of doing horrible things. I don’t think anyone could have said it better than the voice of the Louisville Cardinals Paul Rodgers did yesterday.

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Sports have reminded Cardinal fans this week just how much it can relate to real life. And while it’s happened before I’ll never get used to watching human failure. Just like all of you I’m ready to get back to those happy moments and ready to see more achievement. I’m ready to share that next awesome experience with someone.

In a few weeks we will be heading into spring. Spring is a time of the year that brings life back to nature. The time moves forward and new beginnings are abound. As we head into the new basketball season that is March Madness and as we head into the spring football practices I hope the Louisville athletic program can move forward and put this latest negative behind us. Go Cards!

Big Monday and New Beginning for the Cardinals

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Tonight will be the very first appearance on a Big Monday ESPN telecast for the Cardinals. And this will also be a big night for this Cardinals team to move forward. I’m glad they are out of town and hopefully have been able to escape all of the negative vibes floating around the Cardinal universe. Tonight it’s time to circle the wagons as a team and a fan-base and move forward as this season approaches its finale.

I expect with the loss of point guard Chris Jones that Coach Pitino will adjust his offense around the three other guys on this team who have been the statistical leaders throughout. Terry Rozier is averaging 17.6 points a game, Montrezl Harrell is averaging 15.6 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, while Wayne Blackshear is averaging 10.5 points and 4.3 rebounds… These guys will be counted on to carry the bulk of the load as they have done for most of the season, but we really need these younger guys to also step up.

For Quentin Snider who dreamed of someday being a hometown hero and starring in front of the Yum Center crowd this is his time to start that journey. He played 38 minutes last week against Syracuse and ran the team with poise and control. The guys seemed to really feed off his positive energy.

Shaqquan Aaron was called out by Coach Pitino last week and was challenged to put his team first and to be a Louisville man. This is his opportunity to show his coach and his peers that he is ready to get past the me-ball and ready to put in the work it takes to get to that next level as a college athlete. The minutes are going to be there now.

Chinanu Onuaku is oozing with potential. He has the god given size and athletic ability to really be a premiere Center in college basketball. Coach Pitino has called him one of the best passing big men he’s ever seen. Word is that he’s been working with another one of those great passing big men assistant coach David Padgett. If Onuaku can decide he wants to listen he could also be a valuable asset for a team that is going to need some points from the five spot.

Let’s face it folks there is going to be a huge opportunity for these guys including Anton Gill who will also get the opportunity at the guard spot, while Jaylen Johnson, Mango Mathiang and Anas Mahmoud will get their chance at minutes at the five spot.

I think Coach Pitino needs to roll the ball out and really start to simplify some of the things he tries on the defensive end of the floor. That is what has been holding a lot of these guys back. Just let them get out there and make their mistakes and play basketball. These guys need to start having fun in these games instead of worrying about making a mistake and being in the wrong spot on defense. Coach Pitino doesn’t have a veteran team and just dismissed his best defensive player. In my opinion it’s time to relax and tell these guys to guard their man and do their best. Maybe this will also let them play looser on the offensive side of the ball leading to more production.

I love new beginnings. It’s a big reason why I love the NCAA tournament. It’s like a season all of its own and as long as you get there it doesn’t matter what happened along the way. Anyone can ask last year’s UCONN team about that. As far as I’m concerned tonight starts the new University of Louisville basketball season. I think and hope we’ll see a revived group of Cardinals ready to face the challenges that lie ahead. Go Cards!

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Canes Part 2

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I think I’m stating the obvious in saying that Saturday is a must win situation when the Cardinals return to the Yum Center to play the Miami Hurricanes. The Cardinals are 8-2 in the all-time series against the Hurricanes, which dates back to the 1950-51 season. Louisville won the last matchup with Miami, defeating the Canes, 63-55, earlier this season on Feb. 3, 2015 in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes are 7-6 and in 7th place in the ACC while the Cardinals are 8-5 and in 4th place in the ACC.

The Hurricanes have been playing well as of late with wins in three of their last four after pounding Virginia Tech 76-52 on Wednesday. They are another team trying to close strong in hopes of getting one of the last spots in the tournament. They have beaten three ranked opponents this season including two on the road. Sheldon McClellan is leading the way for the Hurricanes averaging 14.8 points and 4.9 rebounds. He is hitting shots at a 51.7 percent clip. Angel Rodriguez is averaging 12.6 points and 4.3 assists. He is second in the ACC in steals. Tonye Jekiri is grabbing 10.4 rebounds a game. He leads the ACC with 15 ten plus rebound games. Davon Reed is knocking down 50.0 percent of his shots from long range overall, while notching a 54.8 percent (23-42) clip from three in ACC games. He leads the team with 23 3-pointers.

Miami 2014-15 Overall Rankings Offense | Defense

OFFENSE
-POINTS PER GAME
68.8
146th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
34.2
191st
OVERALL
-ASSISTS PER GAME
14.0
78th
OVERALL
-FIELD GOAL PCT
.437
168th
OVERALL

DEFENSE
-POINTS ALLOWED
62.9
90th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
24.7
99th
OVERALL
-BLOCKS PER GAME
3.4
183rd
OVERALL
-STEALS PER GAME
5.9
218th
OVERALL

Miami 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #59
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-98.4 ranks 104th
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-109.2 ranks 51st
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Louisville winning the game 67-59 based on his indexes.

Our Cardinals have proven this season that they can score and defend with the best of them but have struggled in both areas in back to back losses. Terry Rozier has averaged 19.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in the last eight games. Montrezl Harrell is averaging 15.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and is shooting 57.7 percent from the field. Chris Jones has averaged 15.9 points, 4.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 2.0 steals and is expected to make a return to the Cardinals line-up on Saturday. Two of the Cardinal freshman had good games in Syracuse. Quentin Snider scored a career-high 13 points and Chinanu Onuaku totaled a career-high matching 11 rebounds and added eight points and three assist.

The Cardinals have just nine steals collectively in their last four games. The Cardinals had been seventh nationally averaging 9.3 steals a game prior to that stretch. While the offense has gradually gotten better the defense has gotten worse. They are going to have to get back to what Louisville teams have always done best and pick it up on this side of the ball. Coach Pitino has called the guys out for their poor defensive effort the past couple of weeks now charting their deflections and sharing the totals with the fans.

Saturday’s game will not be a cake walk. Miami is another hungry team looking to boost their March resume. They have some big wins including at one of the toughest places in the ACC Cameron Indoor. They have a lot of talent and have a very solid game on both ends of the floor.

This is one of those feel better, get back on track games for the Cardinals. I really would like to see Snider and Onuaku build on their solid performances at Cuse… I hope Jones can get back on track, and would like to see Wayne have a good game. I think we’ll see these things plus great all around games from the other guys. It’s crunch time and I really believe these guys know that and are ready to get back down to business. Like Montrezl said after the game on Wednesday they’ve worked too hard to let this season get away from them.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 70 Miami 59

The Five Stages of Cardinal Grief

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It’s been less than 24 hours since our beloved Louisville Cardinals lost another disappointing game. It has been a while since we have had to deal with back-to-back losses and some might be taking it a bit hard. I run through my Cardinal Stages of grief pretty quick these days and have already reached the acceptance phase. What stage are you in?

-The Five Stages of Cardinal Grief

-Denial: It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.

“The Cards lost a lot of key guys the last couple of seasons. They needed Blackshear to realize his talent, Jones to NOT be a knucklehead, Mathiang to take that next step, and at least 2 freshmen to contribute regularly. None of these things happened.”

“I love seeing these freshmen get playing time.”

“The 2012 team lost to USF and Syracuse back-to-back games just before the conference tournament and Pitino still took them to the Final Four.”

“I was encouraged by the play of Q, Nanu and Anas though. On the flip side the Aaron comments are IMO out of line for the general public and I am a bit concerned about some of the recruiting choices over the last couple of years.”

-Anger: As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family.

“Our front court screwed us in this game. Those guys are not ready for the season. I refuse to believe that Blackshear is a competitor.”

“We have lost back to back to two teams that are on the bubble (or would be if Cuse didn’t take themselves out) we are going to lose to them by nine and ten points. We have one win over a team that might make the sweet 16. I had questions about us with Jones, but there is no excuse for the total lack of talent on this team. We have two players that will play in the NBA.”

“That is the problem with Rick Pitino’s system. His teams need you to turn the ball over at a relatively high rate to be successful. Undoubtedly, Louisville will run into a team in the NCAA tournament that takes care of the ball, and then the Cardinals are done.”

“Play smart? Keep in mind that this is a Rick Pitino coached team. He simply can’t coach his way out of a box when it comes to strategy in the final minutes of a tight game.”

“Harrell is good for a few poster dunks, but is never a factor in most games and disappears at crunch time. Blackshear better have a good major.”

“Remember when Denny couldn’t adjust to the 3 pointer? Rick can’t adjust to the one and done.”

-Bargaining: The normal reaction to feelings of vulnerability is often a need to regain control.

“No, this Louisville team is not terrible, but it is a mediocre team. This team is a far cry from the overly hyped team that started the season.”

“This was a product of the fact that Cuse simply didn’t turn the ball over enough. Louisville can only shoot a decent percentage when the opposing team turns the ball over, because obviously, this creates high percentage shots.”

-Depression: May be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods after the Cards lose. It’s usually what we feel before the reality of the situation becomes more clear.

“This is the most poorly prepared team ever under Pitino. Time to retire if you can’t get them to work harder to be prepared.”

“Sad to see that Louisville’s chance of winning it all is actually not that good though.”

“I am extremely disappointed in this Louisville team.”

“Most disappointing loss I have seen in a long time, we could have beat Syracuse and should have played better.”

“I don’t know why but the game felt terrible. They started out great moving the ball and Trez hit a couple shots early. We were getting the ball inside and Nanu and Mahamoud even took a couple shots. I started having high hopes for the team minus Chris Jones at the start of the Cuse game. Christmas killed us. Absolutely destroyed it. Hats off to him for the game he had.”

-Acceptance: Not everyone is capable of reaching this stage. It is that moment when you can put the entire season in perspective and realize that one loss isn’t the end of the world. It is also when you realize why the Cardinals actually lost the game.

“Calm down Card Fans. Today was our first real test playing the freshman and playing Cuse can only help as the season progresses. After all it’s not like we got beat by Little Sisters of the Poor. Cuse is one of the elite programs in the country and they are playing every game like they are in the NCAA Tournament already due to their self-imposed sanctions. And even though they may not be quite as good this year they are still Cuse. We have one of the best back-courts in the country especially if Jones gets it together and a Hall of Fame coach. He will get it fixed. I am confident that by the end of the year our Cards can play with any team in the country. Go Cards!”

“This is going to be one heck of a year in college b-ball! Who needs to wait until March it’s already crazy!!!! Congrats Cuse and keep you heads up Cards fans.”

“My expectations for this team haven’t changed. This team looks about as good as it was projected to be in the preseason. We have Sweet 16 ability and can hopefully realize that potential. With any luck, we’ll make the Elite Eight. And if many of the bounces go our way, a Final Four is possible.”

“This year is wide open for the hottest teams come March. Should be fun.”

“A lot to learn from this game. We had way worse losses last season. Pitino is a March-Master. And he’d better work some of that magic. Time to figure out how to make the Louisville front-court be effective”

There you have it Cards fans some real examples of other members of Card Nation going through some of the same emotions as you are. And as I said at the beginning I am in the acceptance stage of my Cardinal grief. I don’t think the last two losses will factor into the big picture of this season.

I was impressed with the play of Quentin Snider last night and he was very level headed in crunch time and the team appeared to feed off of his patience. He just had a cool demeanor and his team-mates benefited from that greatly. Chris Jones may find his way back to this team if he decides that he wants to put his team-mates first and he has the ability to be a great point guard, but simply doesn’t have some of those on the court intangibles that a team like this needs.

The Cardinals have really missed a good defensive big man, a great rim protector, shot-blocker, and a presence down low that allowed the guards to take chances with the knowledge that the 7-footer could make up for their miscues. I thought that once Montrezl settled into the season and Mangok got used to his role that they would be able to make up for some of this loss, but like the situation at point guard there are just certain intangibles that these guys don’t have that this team needs. I was impressed with the play of Onuaku tonight and maybe he will start putting complete games together on offense and defense.

This program has lost a lot of great players and great young men over the last couple of years. We lost four seniors last year that were the winningest in program history. Wayne Blackshear is a great young man, great student and a quality athlete. He just isn’t a guy that’s going to lead you to a National Title. Terry and Montrezl are great players who are just going to play their game and do their part. Neither of them seem like they want any part of trying to motivate these younger guys. We needed Chris to be something he’s never been. It was probably unfair to place such high expectations on this guy. He had some pretty big shoes to fill. We really needed a few of these freshman to come in and play like upperclassmen, but again probably unfair to expect that. We are also seeing for the first time in a long time a Louisville team who is struggling to play elite defense.

I’m not trying to make excuses here folks. This is the reality of the situation and these things just can’t be ignored. Our Cards are 20-6 and this team is a 20-6 team right now. Coach Pitino has come down pretty hard on these guys. We as fans expect a lot but he expects perfection. In the last few weeks he has laid it all out on the table. It will be the Louisville way or the highway. Let’s hope these guys buy into that.

Every loss our Cards have is very tough to deal with but when you go through your Cardinal stages of grief you can understand and accept that those losses eventually mean nothing. All that matters is how you perform under the bright lights of March. We have seen things fall apart during this time of the year before and seen teams come back to perform well in the post season. We’ve got some guys on this team that can make that happen again.

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Orange

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Our Cardinals are back at it tonight and will look to recover from a tough loss in conference play on Saturday. The Cards will face a familiar foe tonight when they travel to New York to play an old Big East rival Syracuse. This will be the first meeting between these teams as members of the ACC. Louisville leads the all-time series, 15-7, and the Cardinals have won the two most recent contests with the Orange. The Cardinals have a 3-4 record in games played at Syracuse, winning three of their last four in the Carrier Dome. The last meeting between the two was in the 2013 BIG EAST Tournament championship game, won by the Cardinals, 78-61. Coach Pitino is a former Syracuse assistant. He was on Coach Jim Boeheim’s first staff with the Orange. Chinanu Onuaku is the brother of former Cuse standout Arinze Onuaku. Louisville is 8-4 in the ACC and currently in 4th place. Syracuse is 7-5 in the ACC and currently in 6th place.

The Orange has lost four of their last six games and is still looking for their first win over a ranked team. On the season, Syracuse is averaging 69.7 points on 44% shooting from the field and 31.9% from the three. Leading the way for the Orange is Rakeem Christmas (17.7 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.6 apg), Trevor Cooney (14.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.3 apg), Michael Gbinije (12.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.5 apg), Chris McCullough (9.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.1 apg) and Tyler Roberson (7.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.5 apg). Gbinije leads the ACC in three point field goal percentage for league games only (.509, 29-of-57). The Syracuse Orange have five players averaging at least 6.9 points.

Defensively, Syracuse is allowing 63.1 points on 39.7% shooting from the field and allowing 31.5% shooting from the three. They have given up 70 or more points in four of their last five games. They are ranked 18th nationally in steals (8.4), Syracuse is 70th in the ratings percentage index (RPI) and 48th in the Sagarin Ratings through Feb. 15.

Syracuse 2014-15 Overall Rankings Offense | Defense

OFFENSE
-POINTS PER GAME
69.7
121st
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
37.3
49th
OVERALL
-ASSISTS PER GAME
15.6
24th
OVERALL
-FIELD GOAL PCT
.441
139th
OVERALL

DEFENSE
-POINTS ALLOWED
63.1
93rd
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
25.1
76th
OVERALL
-BLOCKS PER GAME
5.4
19th
OVERALL
-STEALS PER GAME
8.4
18th
OVERALL

Syracuse 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #64
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-95.0 ranks 52nd
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-104.8 ranks 111th
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Louisville winning the game 66-64 based on his indexes.

Our Cardinals hope to bounce back tonight after splitting their last four games. On the season, Louisville is averaging 71.6 points on 43.4% shooting from the field and 29.4% shooting from the three. In their six ACC road games this season, the Cardinals have shot a collective 53.2 percent from the field (158-of-311).

The Cards will be without one of their leading scorers, and top defensive players tonight. As everyone knows by now Chris Jones has been suspended for this game. But the Cards still have Terry Rozier who is averaging 18 points and 5.5 rebounds. He has averaged 21.7 points in Louisville’s six conference road games. Montrezl Harrell is averaging 15.4 points and 9.3 rebounds while Wayne Blackshear is grabbing 4.6 rebounds.
Defensively, Louisville is allowing 59 points on 37.6% shooting from the field are is allowing 29.4% shooting from the three. They have given up 56 or less points in three of their last four games.

We have been waiting all season for some of the younger guys to step up and play a bigger role on this team. We saw that happen last week in the final 12 minutes of the Pitt game. With Chris Jones benched at the end of that game Quentin Snider came in and hit some big jump shots to spark a Louisville comeback. Tonight he will get his chance to make a name for himself yet again. We will also need to see a good effort from Anton Gill and Shaqquan Aaron. I think the Cardinals played the best 12 minutes of the season at the end of that Pitt game and there’s no reason to think these guys aren’t capable of playing like that tonight at Syracuse.

Coach Pitino has been really focused on getting the ball in the post area saying this week that he has told his team to look inside with every possession. He also mentioned this week that Anas will see more minutes in place of Mango in the rotation. With the way Cuse plays that tough 2-3 zone it is going to take a solid effort from all our big guys. They will also need to match the physical play of the Cuse post guys.

With Syracuse being banned from any tournaments this season, this is its national championship. Expect a nasty crowd and a motivated team to come out and try its best to pull off the upset. That along with the Cardinals being without their starting point guard will make for one of the most challenging games of the season. It’s gut check time for our Cardinals. A win tonight could make a huge statement, but another loss could raise a lot of concern. I believe that we will see inspired basketball from our guys…

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 64 Syracuse 60

Will Louisville First be Chris Jones Last?

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It’s been a week ago today since our Cardinals played the best twelve minutes of basketball this season in a comeback win against Pitt. And it’s been a week since I witnessed one of the most heated exchanges of the season between Coach Pitino and Chris Jones.

With 12:15 left in that Pitt game Chris was pulled after he had missed a lay-up. As he was walking towards his spot at the end of the bench you could see the frustration on his face and see him saying things under his breath with Coach Pitino right behind. Once Chris sit down Coach kneeled down in front of him and let him know just what he was thinking. The tension between coach and player was very obvious and I cringed watching this interaction.

Coach Pitino made it very clear in his post-game press conference that night how upset he was with Jones. And there was no sign of Chris in the post-game locker room. I was sure that we would see the fallout from this before the game against NC State but Chris did start and played in the loss to the WolfPack. Ironically it was the worst game the Cardinals have played all season. Chris led all scorers with 20 points in the loss and it didn’t seem like there was any hangover from his bad game against Pitt. But maybe there were issues and we just didn’t see it.

On Tuesday night we got word that Chris Jones had been suspended. The press alert read as follows:

“University of Louisville guard Chris Jones has been suspended from the men’s basketball team for a violation of team rules. Jones will not travel with the team for the Cardinals’ 7 p.m. game at Syracuse on Wednesday. He is averaging 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and at team-leading 3.7 assists for Louisville (20-5, 8-4 ACC).”

After the interaction I witnessed between Coach Pitino and Chris last week the news tonight didn’t surprise me.

Chris Jones when fully engaged and committed to his team is one of the most formidable point guards in the country and makes the Cardinals one of the best teams in the country. When he’s not things don’t go well for him or his team.

Chris Jones is a complex guy with a complex past. He grew up on the mean streets of Memphis where he had to be tough and strong looking out for his single mother and his sisters. Growing up in these rough environments and surrounded by dysfunction often leads to a fight or flight mentality with no other coping skills learned. He was described as scrappy, undisciplined and unpredictable in his early basketball days.

This led to several setbacks for Chris. He had academic issues at Melrose High school having to leave after his junior year for Oak Ridge Military Academy in North Carolina. He was dismissed from that school after an altercation with a teacher. He came back to Melrose finished school then committed to Tennessee to play college basketball. He never made it due to NCAA sanctions and not qualifying academically. He eventually landed at Northwest Florida College.

During the time he spent at Northwest Coach Steve Forbes turned a player known as a high tempered dictator into a team player. Forbes has been quoted saying: “He’s the most highly competitive person I’ve ever coached. Ever,” “It can be his biggest strength and his biggest weakness. He will fight every fight.”

It’s hard to escape your past but it looked like Chris Jones was a guy that was going to do it. Or at least it did until that final twelve minutes of that Pitt game last week when he was arguing with his coach, pouting on the bench and not cheering for his team.

Chris Jones has been given many chances in his life and in his basketball career. We could be watching his last chance play out in front of us. Will he let his past continue to dictate his future or will he make the best of the time he has left here at Louisville. Coach Pitino said on Tuesday night “we move on without him”. The Louisville program has always been bigger than the player. Louisville First… Let’s hope it’s not Chris Jones last

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Wolfpack

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The Cardinals are back at it again on Saturday afternoon in the Yum Center and look to build on their mid-week sweep of Pitt. They will face NC State in another ACC battle. This is NC State’s very first trip ever to the Yum Center, and is the very first time Coach Pitino has faced a NC State team. Louisville is tied 8-8 in its series with NC State, last facing the Wolfpack 27 years ago. NC State has won three of the last four match ups, including the last when the Wolfpack prevailed 101-89 on Feb. 13, 1988. NC State has lost five of their last six games and is 10th in the ACC. The Cardinals have won five out of their last six games and are 4th in the ACC.

COACH PITINO TALKS NC STATE

The Wolfpack hasn’t had trouble with losing as much as they have had trouble closing out games. Four of NC State’s five most recent losses have been by five or fewer points. They are a very talented and competitive group. On the season, NC State is averaging 71.5 points on 44.6% shooting from the field, and 36.4% from the three. Leading the way for the Pack is Trevor Lacey (16.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.4 apg), Ralston Turner (12.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.1 apg), Anthony Barber (11.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.6 apg), Kyle Washington (7.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.5 apg) and Abdul-Malik Abu (5.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.6 apg). The North Carolina State Wolfpack have four players averaging at least 7.6 points. Defensively, NC State is allowing 66 points, 40.3% from the field, 32.9% shooting from the three, and has given up 68 or more points in four of its last five games. NC State is 63rd in the ratings percentage index (RPI) with the nation’s fifth-toughest schedule and 44th in the Sagarin Ratings through Feb. 11.

2014-15 OVERALL Rankings Offense | Defense

OFFENSE
-POINTS PER GAME
71.5
82nd
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
37.9
38th
OVERALL
-ASSISTS PER GAME
11.6
260th
OVERALL
-FIELD GOAL PCT
.446
118th
OVERALL

DEFENSE
-POINTS ALLOWED
66.0
170th
OVERALL
-REBOUNDS PER GAME
25.8
43rd
OVERALL
-BLOCKS PER GAME
5.5
17th
OVERALL
-STEALS PER GAME
4.0
345th
OVERALL

NC State 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #55
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-99.3 ranks 124th
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-110.5 ranks 36th
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Louisville winning the game 73-62 based on his indexes.

Our Cardinals hope to keep things rolling in the ACC after winning five of their last six games. They are averaging 71.9 points on 43.9% shooting from the field, and 29.1% from the three. Terry Rozier is averaging 18.5 points and 5.7 rebounds while Montrezl Harrell is averaging 15.8 points and 9.2 rebounds. Chris Jones is dishing 3.7 assists and Wayne Blackshear is grabbing 4.6 rebounds. The Cards hadn’t been getting anything out of the bench but on Wednesday the bench scored 8 points, had 12 rebounds, 3 assist, 2 blocks, and 1 steal.

Wayne may not be available for this game due to a hip issue. Expect a game-time decision with him. If he doesn’t play I expect to see a starting line-up of Quentin Snider, Chris Jones, Terry Rozier, Montrezl Harrell, and Chinanu Onuaku.
Defensively, Louisville is allowing 29.1 percent shooting from deep and has given up 63 or less points in five of its last eight games.

I know the thing I’ll be watching for in the game on Saturday is whether or not the Cardinals bench can keep gaining momentum. I thought those guys really took a step forward on Wednesday and I’d love to see them build on that against NC State. I will also be interested in seeing how Chris Jones recovers from his dismal outing in the last game. It’s no secret that he landed in Coach Pitino’s doghouse not playing for the last 12 minutes in the second half against Pitt. This young man has made a lot of progress this season in his game and his attitude. I hope he can put the last one behind him and continue with his great ACC play.

The Cardinals are going to need the bench and Chris Jones at their best to win this one. NC State is a hungry team desperately needing a win to keep their NCAA tourney streak alive. Mark Gottfried, in his fourth season at NC State, will be working toward mentoring his team into the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season. The Wolfpack has made the Big Dance in each of his first three seasons, making Gottfried the first Pack coach and just the fourth in ACC history to achieve that feat. And these guys are battle tested playing the 4th toughest schedule in the country this season. This NC State team is going to be a very talented, hungry, and motivated bunch. They play great interior defense that will also make them very tough on Saturday.

This game has all the makings of a trap. The old classic “what the crap just happened kind of games”. I think it is going to be a very hard fought close game throughout and I just hope the Cards can carry some of that momentum from that terrific second half they had Wednesday.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 68 NC State 61

Young Cardinals Step Up, Grow Up Help Louisville Sweep Pitt

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Coach Pitino said in his post-game that it is very tough to sweep a team during a season. This is especially true when that team is riding high on a three game winning streak like Pitt was on Wednesday night. The Cards used one of their most impressive stretches of the season to sweep Pitt beating the Panthers 69-56. This is the Cardinals 6th straight win over the Panthers in a series they now lead 10 to 5. With this big win tonight our Cardinals clinched their thirteenth straight 20+ win season.

There was really nothing spectacular about the first half of this game and other than Montrezl hitting jump shots from all over the gym it was just dull. He scored 14 of the Cards 27 first half points. With Wayne going out early with a hip injury and 0 points from the bench it looked like it was going to be just another night.

When the second half started Pitt looked like they had come out of the locker room on a mission. They were hitting shots and the Cards weren’t doing much to slow them down. They took the lead and kept it for pretty much the first 12 minutes. Then you could see the lights come on in the Cardinals that were on the court. Peyton Siva was in the house tonight and in the final 8 minutes of this game the defense looked as good as it did during some of the games he played. The Cardinals were flying all over the court, deflections, blocked shots, steals, close outs, solid rotation it was a thing of beauty. The offense wasn’t too shabby either during this stretch. Alley-oop dunks, great passes the Cards found their mojo on both ends of the court. They closed out the second half on a 14-1 run.


On Wednesday afternoon Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier were named to the Wooden Award Late Season Top 20. On Wednesday night and especially in that second half stretch they showed why. Montrezl finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 blocks and 1 steal. Terry finished with a perfect 10-10 on the free-throw line, 22 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assist and 1 blocked shot. This is the second game this season where these guys both finished with a double-double. This was Trezl’s ninth double-double and Terry’s second this season.

In my Pregame breakdown I said that I would like to see the bench start coming around and that the time was now. I mentioned specifically Snider, Aaron, Gill, and in that 5 spot from Mango and Anas. On Wednesday night these guys answered my call. Every one of them had a hand in this game. Their team needed them especially with Wayne out and Chris sitting in the dog house. The Bench scored 8 points, had 12 rebounds, 3 assist, 2 blocks, and 1 steal.


There’s no doubt that some of these guys grew up a little bit tonight. And I think it speaks volumes about the direction this team is headed. Progress is being made and these guys have continued to work hard. When you’ve got new players that come into a program you need this type of game and this kind of reward. Faced some adversity, were asked to step up, and answered the call.

If this team can build on this game especially the young guys and play segments like in the final eight minutes then they are going to be a force in the tournament and could very well make a solid run. I know it’s just one game and I may be a little too happy with some of the things I seen. But Cardinal fans I’m excited… Go Cards!

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