Future Cardinals Represent at Derby Basketball Classic

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I had a great time covering the three days of the Derby Basketball classic. It was great having the opportunity to watch and cover Ryan McMahon, Deng Adel, Donovan Mitchell, and Ray Spalding. I can tell you from being around these guys for three days that they are all great kids and they all represented themselves and the University of Louisville very well. Watching their interactions with the other players and with the adults you can tell that each of them were raised very well and the phrase yes sir and yes ma’am were commonly spoken between the four. And as far as their play on the basketball court they all are going to be very good and each of them has something to bring to the table.

Ryan McMahon isn’t a 6-7 guard but he sure plays like one. This kid is a very crafty player for his size and when he goes to the basket he means to score or make a play. The word fearless is the word I would use when Ryan gets a basketball in his hands, and he is very confident in his shot. It was awesome watching him break the record in the first round of the three point shooting contest and it just reassured everything that I had originally thought about his game. I can’t wait to watch him make big shots in a Cardinal uniform.

Ray Spalding has a ton of upside and when he adds more muscle to his athletic frame he is going to be big-time. He is a very versatile player who has good hands and can handle the ball well for his size. He is very good in the lane and can even step out and shoot the three. He’s got that very laid back personality like Wayne Blackshear and I do think he is going to be the biggest project out of this group but once Coach Pitino brings him along watch out.

Deng Adel is college game ready and is a fast developing forward. He plays very hard on both ends of the floor and kind of brings that energy that we were used to seeing from Montrezl Harrell. With added strength and some honing of his skills he is going to be a nightmare match-up for opposing teams. He is a player that can lead the break and stop and pop from long or mid-range. And can finish around the rim. He will see the floor next season on the wing.

Donovan Mitchell is one of the most college ready players that coach Pitino has ever recruited. Right now most of his scoring threat is finishing in the lane and around the rim. Once he adds to his skill set and polishes his mid-range game he is going to be a very good player. No doubt in my mind that this kid is going to be an instant fan favorite and he’ll play hero in more than his fair share of games in the future.

These guys were all under-evaluated, and under recruited at times in their high school careers. They are all guys that really came on late in the recruiting process and are all considered diamonds in the rough. Nothing like guys who play with that chip on their shoulder and I think all of these guys think they have a lot to prove not only to themselves but to everyone who ever doubted them along the way. We had a guy like this in Terry Rozier and we know how that worked out. If L1C4 was defined in the dictionary a picture of these guys would be in the footnotes. You are going to love these kids Card Nation…

Below are photos and videos over the last three days of the Derby Basketball Classic:

DERBY BASKETBALL CLASSIC PRACTICE COVERAGE:




NIGHT OF FUTURE STARS COVERAGE:

DERBY BASKETBALL CLASSIC COVERAGE:




JAYLEN JOHNSON AND ANAS MAHMOUD INTERVIEW AT DERBY BASKETBALL CLASSIC:

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Future Cards Headline Derby Basketball Classic This Weekend

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2015 signees Raymond Spalding, Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel and Ryan McMahon will play in the annual Derby Basketball event this weekend. Night of the Future Stars will take place on Friday at New Albany High School at 7:00pm. These guys will compete in Slam Dunk and Three Point contest. Saturday night at Freedom Hall is the actual Derby Basketball Classic All-Star game at 7:00pm.

These guys form one of the top recruiting classes in the country 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.

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:

WHITE TEAM

Deng Adel F 6′ 7″ Louisville
Prince Ali G 6′ 3″ UCLA
Bryant Crawford G 6′ 2″ Wake Forest
Jawun Evans G 6′ 0″ Oklahoma St
Ryan McMahon G 6′ 0″ Louisville
Donovan Mitchell G 6′ 3″ Louisville
Justin Patton C 6′ 10″ Creighton
Danjel Purifoy F 6′ 6″ Auburn
Matt Ryan F 6′ 8″ Notre Dame
Ray Spalding F 6′ 9″ Louisville
Diamond Stone C 6′ 10″ Undecided

PURPLE TEAM
Jalen Adams G 6′ 2″ UConn
OG Anunoby F 6′ 7″ Indiana
Thomas Bryant C 6′ 10″ Undecided
Daniel Giddens C 6′ 10″ Ohio St
Austin Grandstaff G 6′ 5″ Ohio St
Dedric Lawson F 6′ 8″ Memphis
KJ Lawson F 6′ 7″ Memphis
Juwan Morgan F 6′ 7″ Indiana
Brandon Sampson G 6′ 4″ St. Johns
Justin Simon G 6′ 5″ Arizona

Silver Team Coaching Staff
Coach Todd Day – Hamilton (TN)
Assistant Coach Perry Stevenson – Trinity (KY)

Purple Team Coaching Staff
Coach AW Hamilton – Hargrave Military Academy (VA)
Assistant Coach Ryan Arrowood – Huntington Prep (WV)

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 to support the Cards. The Cardinal’s Beak will cover all of the action and will have videos and photos from the events this weekend.

Coach Pitino Closes Out Season Talks Potential Adds

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Coach Pitino held his end of the season press conference today. He talked about the disappointment of losing in the Elite Eight and said that it ranked right up there with his loss against Duke. He also formally announced that both Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier will take the next step in their careers and enter the NBA Draft. It’s was also hinted at today that Anton Gill, Chinanu Onuaku and Shaqquan Aaron will be possible transfers.

COACH PITINO’S END OF SEASON PRESS CONFERENCE

With that happening it obviously leaves the roster with a few holes and Coach Pitino said that he would possibly add 1 to 3 guys to the 2015 class. Pitino will be looking for guys at the Juco level as well as looking at guys who will be 5th year transfers.

One name that has been popular as far as a Juco guy is concerned is Vincennes (IN) College SG Mychal Mulder.

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He is a 6-4 guard and was the leading scorer for the No. 1 ranked junior college team in the nation. He’s averaged 14.4 points and 7.1 rebounds. He’s ranked the No. 12 player overall and fourth-best shooting guard in the JUCO ranks, Shoots 43% from long range and made almost 50% of his attempts this season. Coach Pitino and staff have watched him play, and he is on campus today for a visit.

As far as 5th year transfers are concerned there have been a few popular names buzzing around.

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Trey Lewis a 6-2 Combo Guard got his release from Cleveland State today. He averaged 16.7 points, and 4.3 rebounds this season. He is a complete basketball player and you’ll see points, rebounds, assists and steals on the stat line when he steps onto the court.

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Damion Lee a 6-foot-6, 200-pound wing has told several sources today that he is transferring from Drexel where he was on pace to become one of the school’s all-time leading scorers. This past season, Lee averaged 21.4 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range and 88.7 percent from the free throw line. He earned CAA Rookie of the Year honors, averaging 12.0 ppg and 4.4 rpg to help the Dragons make the 2012 CAA championship game.

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John Brown a 6-7 Forward who played this past season at High Point where he averaged 18 points, and shot 54% from the field. Coach Pitino said today in his pressor that his emphasis would be on finding guys that can put the ball in the basket and this kid can do that. Louisville assistant Mike Balado worked for three seasons at High Point and recruited Brown so that connection is already in place.

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Tyler Harvey a 6-4 guard who played this past season at Eastern Washington where he averaged 23.4 points per game and also sits atop the Division-I stats in total three-pointers made this season. 3rd in Total points scored. This is another guy that would heal some of Louisville’s shooting woes next season.

Those seem to be the popular names floating around and here is a list of other potential 5th year guys:

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Shonn Miller a 6-7 guard who played for Cornell this past season where he averaged 16.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, shooting 43.4 percent on field goals and 83.4 percent from the charity stripe.

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Tyler Harris a 6-8 guard who played at Providence this past season where he was the third-leading scorer for the Friars. In 34 games, Harris averaged 9.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. I have heard that he is contemplating the NBA draft.

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Aaron Cosby a 6-3 forward who played for Illinois this past season averaging 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. He started 13 of the 19 games he played in.

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Andrew Andrews a 6-2 forward who played at Washington this past season where he averaged 14.7 points, and 4.3 rebounds.

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Four McGlynn a 6-2 forward who played for Towson this past season where he led the team averaging 12 points per game, while knocking down 37.4 percent of his 3-pointers and a career-best 91.7 percent from the charity stripe.

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Marcus Marshall a 6-3 forward who played at Missouri State this past season averaging 19.5 points per game this season for the Bears, and was the centerpiece of their offensive attack. He also lead the MVC in scoring.

As we close out another exciting Cardinal Basketball season we look towards an exciting 2015-16 year. Things are likely to look much different with a lot of new faces. I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the guys in the 2015 class look and who if any of the above guys end up wearing the Cardinal red next season.

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Spartans

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There are just two spots left in the Final Four in Indy next weekend. Our Cardinals have defied all odds and will be playing for one of those spots. They will be playing against a team that has traveled a similar path and defied their own odds. The Cards and Michigan State will play for the ninth time in their history. The Cards lead the series 5-3. Ironically the last time these teams played back in 2012 the narrative was similar. The Cardinals were on an improbable run in the NCAA and beat 1 seed Michigan State 57-44 in the Sweet 16 to advance to the Elite Eight and ultimately the Final Four.

This group isn’t as good as that 2012 Michigan State team but even though the names have change, their recipe for success remains the same. They have a great coach, a balanced scoring attack, and relentless team rebounding and intense man-to-man defense. They are also really good at defending the perimeter.

The Spartans have won seven of their last eight games. On the season they are averaging 71.2 points on 46.8% shooting from the field and 38.6% from the three. Izzo has a seasoned rotation led by two seniors Branden Dawson (11.6 PPG, 9.3 RPG), and Travis Trice (14.8 PPG, 5.4 APG). They are followed by three solid juniors in Denzel Valentine (14.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG), Bryn Forbes (9.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG), and Matt Costello (7.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG). Dawson is a beast and just may be the best player on the team. Forbes shooting 42.8%, Valentine shooting 41.6% and Trice shooting 37.4% are all very big threats from deep, and all have been hot during their tournament run. The Spartans have four players averaging at least 8.6 points.

As I mentioned above Izzo’s teams play a sticky man-to-man defense that has given up 63 or fewer points in four of its last five games. They are allowing teams to shoot 39.4% from the field and 31.5% from the three-point line. They will crash the defensive boards hard and are ranked in the top 20 in the nation.

Michigan State’s NATIONAL RANKS

Offensive efficiency, 13th (114.9)
Defensive efficiency, 47th (95.5)
3-point percentage, 26th (39.0)
3-point percentage D, 38th (31.1)
Free throw rate, 297th (32.2)
Free throw rate D, 204th (38.1)
TO percentage, 91st (18.0)
TO percentage D, 295th (17.0)

Michigan State’s 2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #15
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-95.5 ranks 47th
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-114.9 ranks 13th
-Per Kenpom’s game prediction he has Michigan State winning the game 65-64 based on his indexes.

There may not be a player left in the tournament that has had a bigger come up, or that has been bigger for his team than Terry Rozier. This kid had 17 points and 14 rebounds against NC State. His ability to take over on the offensive end and ability to rebound will be huge against the Spartans.

And you won’t find a player that works harder than Montrezl Harrell has during this tournament. He has played 114 minutes, scored 46 points, and grabbed 17 rebounds. There’s not a player on the other side that will get after it like Montrezl will on Sunday afternoon.

What about that senior Wayne Blackshear who has now played in more NCAA games than any other player in Louisville’s history. His team has followed his lead and his determination and will to win has rubbed off. He is the guy that got his teammates to believe.

Or the local kid Quentin Snider who dreamed of playing for the hometown Cards as a kid and now has become a big reason they are in the Elite Eight. He hit clutch free-throws in his first NCAA game and played 37 minutes without a turnover in his first Sweet 16 game. He is a stone cold basketball player and doesn’t flinch under pressure. He is unreal.

Guys like Mango whose defense has been unreal, and Gill who comes off the bench to take over the game…

To beat this Michigan State team the Cards need to continue to attack the paint. Hopefully that will lead to some foul trouble on their end. They have a very thin bench. Get into it early would really help our cause. But even more important than that is for the guys I mentioned above to continue doing what they have been doing. They got this.

I believe in our guys. They are on a mission and that along with our match-up zone will be too much for Michigan State to overcome.

The Beak Prediction:

Louisville 70 Michigan State 63

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…