A Regional Final Rematch in ACC/BigTen Challenge?

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Two legendary coaches in Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo along with two elite college basketball teams in Louisville and Michigan State we’ve seen some great battles between these coaches and teams in the NCAA Tourney in recent years. With the latest coming a few months ago in the Elite 8 when Michigan State evened up the tourney series to 2-2 when they beat our Cards in overtime to advance to the Final Four.

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We have grown accustomed to the possibility of these teams facing off in the NCAA Tournament every year, but now these teams are headed for an early match-up in the 2015 season. This morning on Twitter the Courier Journal’s Jeff Greer said that per a source we could see a Louisville vs Michigan State match-up in this coming season’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Then not too much later it was made official.

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The Louisville vs Michigan State head to head record stands at 5-4. These teams first met in 1959 in the Mideast Regional final with the Cards winning that game 88-81 with the most recent game back on March 29th in the Regional Finals where Michigan State prevailed in Overtime 76-70 against the Cards.

Now these teams are set to face off on December 2nd in East Lansing. It will top off one of the best and toughest road game seasons in the history of Louisville basketball. That would mean Louisville has games at UK, at Michigan State, at Duke, at UVA, at UNC, at Pitt, at Notre Dame, at Miami, and at NC State. That is some great basketball indeed. Stay tuned for more details about this match-up with Michigan State and more about 2015 Louisville basketball later this summer. Go Cards!

The Battle of the Barrel

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The last time the Cardinals and Commodores met was in the opening round of the 2014 College World Series. It was Vandy who walked away with the win in that game 5-3 and eventually went on to win their first National Championship. That is a grand trophy indeed, but when it comes to the Louisville Vs Vanderbilt series there is another trophy that is one of the coolest in all of college baseball “The Barrel”

The Cardinals and the Commodores are far from strangers to one another. In fact this has become one of the most competitive rivalries in college baseball. The programs, separated by only 175 miles, became regular foes in the NCAA Regionals due to the close proximity. From that “The Battle of the Barrel” game was born in 2012. What started as a typical midweek game has evolved into something much larger a true rivalry.

Louisville is just 7-23 all-time against Vanderbilt in a series that dates back to 1953, but our Cardinals have come out on the winning end lately and currently hold a three to one edge against them in recent contest. The Cards swept them in 2 games in the 2013 Regionals and won the “Battle of the Barrel” game back last May. They lost their match-up in the CWS and it was the 4th time the programs have met in the postseason in the last five seasons.

Today at 6:00pm this great new college baseball rivalry will again take center stage its “The Battle of the Barrel”. Be sure to tune in to see who walks away with this super masculine emblem of greatness. Go Cards!

You can hear the game on FM 93.9 The Ville or tune into ESPN3.

The Beak EYBL Review Day #2

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Once again on Saturday the nations top 2016 and 2017 prospects were on display at the EYBL event in Lexington. It was another great day of hoops.

I started off my morning on court #1 where I watched Charles O’Bannon Jr and Troy Brown Jr of the Las Vegas Prospects. Both are prospects in the class of 2017. Brown has a scholarship offer from Louisville and I really think that O’Bannon could get one eventually. In a recent interview with Prime Sports he was asked: When you think of College Basketball what are the first five schools that come to mind? His answer: UCLA, Louisville, Arizona, North Carolina, & Duke. Sounds like a kid that might have some interest.

Troy Brown Jr plays at such a high level for a young guy and made plays from many different spots on the floor. Great dribble drive, pull up jumpers and solid in the post. This kid has a 6-9 wingspan and uses that to his advantage both on the offensive and defensive side of the floor. I enjoyed watching this young fella play. He had 8 points and grabbed 6 boards. I hope the Cardinals stay in the mix for this kid.

Charles O’Bannon is another very skilled player for his age. He was very crafty in the game I watched and was able to create his own scoring opportunities with many different moves. He is a long and rangy kid that thrives in transition and has a nice jump shot in the half court set. Like his father he is a very savvy player who plays with a lot of energy. Really would like to see the Cardinals get into the mix here as well. I do think it will happen.

After checking out these two young prospects I headed over to court #4 to check in again on my favorite 2016 prospect Carson Williams and his Travelers squad. These guys are playing the role of the home team this weekend featuring some of the states best players. In this game Carson sure put on a show for the home crowd scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. It was one of his best performances in the EYBL and it did not go unnoticed as there were several big time programs scratching notes in their note pads while watching the big fella muscle his way to the basket on many occasions.

I sit amongst the coaches this morning and heard one of them say “I didn’t expect that” as Carson flew through the air on a big-time dunk. He was playing above the rim the whole game. Carson was rewarded for his big performance with a scholarship offer from EKU, and this is just the beginning. I really believe this kid will get the chance to play in a major conference. His Travelers lost this first game but came back to the night session and got themselves a win against Playground Elite on the main court. I noticed a lot of the same coaches back to watch this second game. Carson had a good stat game in this one with 4 points, 7 boards, 3 assist and a blocked shot. It was a great day at EYBL for the country boy from Owen County.

I finished off my night gathered around court #3 with all of the big name programs to watch rising star VJ King. Coach Balado and Coach Padgett were there scouting out King for Louisville. He will be taking his official visit to campus on May 19th. King had another very impressive performance again tonight scoring 18 points while showcasing his multidimensional game. He has growing to do and will need to add some bulk to his frame. Once he does watch out. This kid is an elite player and I’m glad the Cardinals staff is paying close attention.

I have had a great time watching basketball over the past couple of days and am looking forward to what the final day has to offer.

The Beak EYBL Review Day #1

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Went out and covered the first night of the EYBL in Lexington tonight and it was a packed house at the Basketball Academy. Coaches, fans and basketball players from all over the country were packed in that gym with a 300 capacity. They were actually holding patrons at the door and people were waiting for their chance to watch some of the most talented basketball players in the country. It is a great event and night one was an exciting one.

I started off my night at Court #2 to check out my favorite recruit in the class of 2016 Carson Williams of the Travelers. Carson hurt his foot in the first EYBL session and didn’t really get to have much of an impact during the event in Hampton. You could tell that he was hungry to get into the mix tonight. He came up big for his Travelers squad leading them in scoring with 11 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. This is a big summer for this young man and it is his chance to show some of the bigger D1 college programs that he could be a solid player for them. His game reminds me so much of Stephan Van Treese. Carson does all of the dirty work and really does all of his damage around the rim. He loves to mix it up inside and has a knack for the basketball. He is a rebounding machine. He did all those things tonight and was one of the most active guys on the court. He is set to have a big weekend and started it off with a bang. He is a great young man on and off the court.

After watching Carson I headed on over to court #1 for the 8:00pm game that featured one of the top Louisville targets in the class of 2016 Abdul Ado and his Georgia Stars team. He really strikes me as a kid that will be a solid 4 year guy and he is still a very raw basketball player. He has excellent size and a great wing span. This makes him a great defensive guy in the low post, and he showcased that tonight. He does well in transition and had some decent finishes. He is on a team with some very talented big men including 6-11 Udoka Azubuike so he doesn’t have that much pressure to be a major contributor. He did finish the night with 6 points, 5 rebounds and 1 blocked shot. I like this kid and he has all of the physical attributes to be a dominate player when he works his way to a finished product. This is just the type of kid that coach Pitino loves. I will be surprised if Ado is not wearing Red in college.

After watching Ado I went over to court #5 to check out a couple of other guy’s with potential Louisville interest in 2016 VJ King of Team Takeover and Marques Bolden of Proskills. This was a very good game that went back and forth and these kids were playing some ball. VJ King is a very nice player and was making some very nice plays. He has a great looking jump shot and can handle the ball very well for his size. His skill set makes him very hard to guard. Talk about a stat stuffer… He had 22 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. He is also a very crafty defender. Marques Bolden is another Big Man who when he fills out and hones his skills will be a beast. He is a big body kid that takes up a lot of space in the post where he is very active around the rim both scoring and grabbing offensive rebounds. I really liked his mobility and dexterity inside. He is also a very good defender and had 6 blocked shots in this game. He also had 11 points and 7 rebounds.

I finished off my evening going over to court #3 to watch the end of the E1T1 game that featured a very hot target lately in Maverick Rowan. This kid is everything as advertised and is a beast on the basketball court. He demands the ball and wants it in his hands. His jump shot is so smooth and effortless. He has all of the stuff spotting up for big threes, stopping and popping in transition and coming off the screen to score. There were several big names sitting court-side watching him put on a show scoring 23 points. Since he has been such a hot topic lately and with all the speculation surrounding his re-class decision I decided to try and get some video with him after the game.

Steve Jones of the Courier Journal started off the interview and it was the most uncomfortable 4 minutes that you could imagine. Rowan didn’t seem that excited to be speaking with the media and seemed like he would rather be left alone. In the interview below you will see a kid that seems much undecided and one that will probably stay in school for his senior season. I’m not a recruiting expert and never claimed to be one, but in my opinion Rowan will end up at a school not named Louisville and it won’t be in 2015. In the video you will also here a voice of a coach that refused to let Rowan be asked about Louisville. I have edited the video per EYBL request so as to protect the coach’s identity. You will hear Steve ask about not being able to talk about Louisville. It was a very awkward moment to say the least. I had a great night but have to admit this interview really left a bad taste in my mouth. There were several other guys around including myself waiting to ask Rowan a few questions but after Steve got finished Maverick was rushed away by the coaches.

Looking forward to getting a chance to check out some other potential Louisville guys this weekend and will have my updates every evening. Thanks for reading…

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…