The Beak Football Breakdown: The Belk Bowl

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We are headed into the heart of the college basketball season, but before we throw our full attention to the hardwood we will celebrate another successful football season at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. This will be the 5th straight season that we have ended a football season in a bowl game and are 3-1 in recent Bowl games. For the second time in three seasons the Cardinals will face an SEC team in a bowl game. The Cardinals beat Florida in the 2012 Sugar Bowl and will now face Georgia for the very first time in the program’s history. Both teams come into this game at 9-3 with Georgia ranked 13th and Louisville ranked 20th. Two very good football teams, with former Georgia players and the former Georgia defensive coach now on the Louisville sideline this one will have it all.

Georgia entered this football season with high expectations and hopes of raising up another SEC title along with a shot at a national championship. A few tough losses to South Carolina and then to Florida coupled with the loss of Todd Gurley would dash those hopes. This is still a very good Georgia team on both sides of the ball and they won’t want to leave Charlotte losing their last game of the season to the Cardinals. The Bulldogs come into this game ranked 29th in total offense and with the nations 12th ranked rushing attack averaging 255 yards a game. They outscored their opponents 500-255 this season and racked up 455 total yards per game. They love the ground attack but have proved all season that they can win in multiple ways.

Leading the Bulldogs offense is veteran QB Hutson Mason. He has been efficient and consistent behind center all season. He has a passing attack that’s ranked 88th in the country and has thrown for over 2,000 yards. He has a completion rate of around 68% with 20 touchdowns and four interceptions. Mason’s top receivers are Chris Conley with (577 yards, 7 TDs), Michael Bennett (381 yards, 4 TDs) and Jeb Blazevich (256 yards, 2 TDs). While three others combined for around 700 yards.
But as I mentioned above on the ground is where this Bulldogs team made their mark this season with a true freshman Nick Chubb leading the way. He had 1,281 yards and 12 touchdowns most of that coming in just the seven games star Todd Gurley missed. This kid is a freshman phenom. He will be backed up by change of pace backs Sony Michel (377 yards, 4 TDs), and Brendan Douglas (225 yards, 2 TD’s).

If the Cardinals hope to win their 3rd straight bowl game they will have to slow down that rushing attack by Georgia. And there’s not a better group of guys to do it than this Louisville defense. They have been the heart and soul of this team all season and have stepped up in crucial situations in every game. Led by guys like Lorenzo Mauldin, Gerod Holliman, Charles Gaines, James Sample, and Sheldon Rankins this Louisville defense gave up only 294 yards on average and less than 21 points a game. They only gave up 95 yards on the ground per game on average. They rank #5 in the nation in total defense, and #2 in the nation in rushing defense. Grantham knows this Georgia offense and will know what’s coming and that along with a fully rested group of guys spells trouble for the Bulldogs. I think they can hold the run down and will force Georgia to go to the air attack often. And with the blitz attack that won’t work to well either. I have total confidence in our defense and think they will be the key. They got us here.

Coach Grantham’s replacement at Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has a pretty solid unit also. He has a group of talented and speedy defenders that are ranked 17th in total defense. Leading the way for the Bulldogs defense is their linebacker corps of Ramik Wilson, Jordan Jenkins, and Leonard Floyd. Wilson had 102 tackles on the season including 19 against Georgia Tech in their final game of the regular season. Jenkins had 65 tackles while Floyd had 55 tackles. They also have a great cornerback in Damian Swann who is fourth on the team with 62 tackles along with two interceptions on the year. Don’t think these guys on the Georgia defense aren’t looking forward to the opportunity to stick it to their old coach. They’ll have all the motivation they need to play an inspired game.

The Cardinals offense wasn’t as explosive this season as we had all anticipated with the return of Bobby Petrino. But it was efficient averaging around 396 yards a game. The Cardinals passing attack ranks #51 nationally averaging 246 yards a game and the Louisville rushing attack ranks 84th nationally averaging 149 yards a game. Coach Petrino has said that both Reggie Bonnafan (850 yards, 5 TDs) and Kyle Bolin (416 yards, 3 TDs) will play in the game on Tuesday night. I think it will be great to play both guys to try to keep the Georgia defense on their toes but ultimately I think it will be Reggie who could give them the most problems. Georgia’s defense ranks 76th against the run and they’ve had trouble with mobile quarterbacks all season. They gave up 400 yards on the ground at around 6 yards a carry vs Georgia Tech in their last game of the season. Brandon Radcliff (648 yards, 11 TDs) has been the backbone on the Louisville rushing attack and that won’t change in this game. He should have a good night. Dom Brown (378 yards, 4 TDs), and L.J. Scott (199 yards, 2 TD’s) will also see expanded roles in the absence of Dyer.

The receiving game with DeVante Parker (735 yards, 5 TD’s), James Quick (509 yards, 3 TD’s), Eli Rogers (444 yards, 3 TDs), Gerald Christian (359 yards, 4 TD’s), and Kai De La Cruz (294 yards, 2 TD’s) has been a very important part of the Louisville offense this season and will also play a big role in this game. This will really be the case if the running game is effective early on. DeVante will want to make his last game as a Cardinal matter. And I don’t think there will be a man on the other side who can stop him.

When breaking down this game I really think that the Cardinals have the best chance at coming out victorious. Emotions are going to be running high on both sidelines but it is the Cardinals who have the positive momentum on their side. We have a remarkable group of seniors who have turned this Louisville football program into a winner. Their legacy and what they’ve done will never be forgotten. They haven’t come this far to lose in their final bowl game as college players. It’s just not in their DNA. They may get a great challenge from the guys in the Georgia uniforms but I just can’t see them losing this fight.

It’s been a great season and I have enjoyed this one about as much as any I’ve covered. These are great young men who will be representing our Cardinal Pride in the Belk Bowl on Tuesday night. I will be in Charlotte cheering my heart out and hope you will be doing the same. Enjoy this game… Go Cards!

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 34 Georgia 27

Family Christmas, Cardinal Loss, and a Stomach Virus

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On Saturday I decided for the first time in a very long time not to attend the Louisville vs. Kentucky game in person. Instead I opted to watch it with family during our annual Christmas gathering. It was a house divided as most are in this state especially during this game. I had high expectations for our Cardinals and while they gave a valiant effort on the defensive end of the floor their poor passing and poor shooting ultimately led to their losing for the seventh time in eight games to the arch rival Cats in recent history. Not long after the game had ended I came down with one of the worst stomach viruses that I’ve ever had in my life. So to say it wasn’t a very good weekend for this Cardinal fan would be a major understatement.

As I was lying in bed as sick as I’ve ever been in my life I thought about the game and how sick Coach Pitino must be that he had just lost for a third straight time to Calipari and the Cats. And how sick he must be that his team had just lost after playing one of their best defensive games ever. But no matter how well a team plays on the defensive end of the floor they have to pass the ball and have to score points. Coming into this game the Cardinals ranked 149th overall in assist, and 151st overall in field goal percentage. A common theme in the Pitino post game press conferences this season had been about his team hunting points instead of the open man. They had one assist against Kentucky. Coach Pitino had also talked about his team making the extra pass to get the open look and the better shot. They were 15 of 58 for 25% from the filed against Kentucky. Coming into the game against the Cats the Cardinals numbers associated with assist and field goal percentage were dismal, and after this game they are disgusting. The Cardinals currently rank 207th in the nation averaging 12.3 assist a game this season, and they currently rank 217th in the nation in field goal percentage averaging 42% a game. While these numbers coupled with good defense will beat the FIU’s of the basketball world the Cardinals found out on Saturday they won’t beat the better teams in the nation.

Talk about sick.. there can’t be anyone who is as sick of losing to Kentucky as Wayne Blackshear. He lost his first game he played against the Cats in the 2011-12 Final Four by 8 points and lost his last game against them by 8 points. In total Wayne lost to Kentucky 5 times and averaged 6.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in the games he’s played against them. When he came down the lane and had that monster slam dunk in the Final Four game Cardinal Nation had high expectations of what was to come in this young mans career. It just hasn’t played out like that. I’ve been one of his biggest supporters, but time is running out for him to be that guy. All of his injuries and setbacks have really hurt his consistency and grit in big game situations.

Chris Jones had one of the better defensive performances of the college basketball season against Kentucky, but he may have also been one of their best defensive players. He did have the Cardinals only assist in the game but he also threw up 24 of their 73 total shots. Not great numbers for a point guard. He is one of the best on ball defenders in college basketball but until he learns to share and make better decisions with the ball that won’t mean much big picture. During his Juco days Chris averaged over 4 assist a game and was always making the big play for his team. Sure would like to see that version of him during the next two months.

Other than a great defensive effort for 36 minutes of the game there really wasn’t much to get excited about with the Cardinals performance on Saturday. Terry and Montrezl played hard and got their share of rebounds and points but even they could have played better from a team perspective. I was impressed with how Shaqquan Aaron looked coming off the bench. He wasn’t intimidated by the Kentucky size or talent and went right at them. He is going to be very good and will get more chances at the Cats.

The battle was lost on Saturday and I know every Cardinal fan felt the same way I did all weekend minus the stomach virus. While frustrated about being 1-7 recently to our rivals just remember Cardinal fans that we are headed into the exciting new challenge of the ACC, still have a great team and still have an excellent program. The battle has been lost for now, but the Cardinal fight lives on. It is still December and we have one of the best Coaches in college basketball. He knows what needs to be done and has told us from day one what this team lacks. He will get it fixed. And as I learned over the weekend.. Family and health are some of the most important things in this life and when it all comes down to it basketball is just a game.

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Wildcats

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We are just a few weeks removed from the Cats and Cards doing battle on the gridiron to end the regular season of college football. On Saturday they will take the battle to the basketball court.
This week we have flown our flags a little higher and wore our gear with that little extra boost of pride. This is the Cards and the Cats and it just doesn’t get any bigger in college basketball.

This will be the most anticipated Battle of the Bluegrass in years as it’s the first time ever these teams have played while both being undefeated. It has been the Cats who have won the last 9 out of eleven in this battle head-to-head, but when looking at their entire body of work these teams have had similar success in the last 30 years. A series that started in 1913 these old rivals will meet for the 48th time on Saturday afternoon. Kentucky holds the all-time lead in this series 32-15.

This game was named the #1 OOC game by Sports Illustrated. Here’s what they said:

“Two elite teams meet once again, eternal bragging rights (at least for another year), HoF coaches who can’t stand each other. It’s not always a pretty watch, but it’s compelling TV and the best soap opera in the sport at the moment.”

The Cardinals will be facing one of the best Kentucky teams they’ve ever played. They are only one of two teams in the history of college basketball to feature 9 McDonald’s All-Americans and could end up being one of the best defensive teams rivaling the 2011-2012 Cats. This UK squad has been stopping and blocking every team that’s been put before them this season. They are currently 1st in the country averaging 9 blocks per game and 2nd in the nation in points allowed at a 47.7 average per game.

Kentucky is led in scoring by Aaron Harrison (10.6PPG), Willie Cauley-Stein (10.5PPG, 6.7RPG), Devin Booker (10.0PPG), Dakari Johnson (8.8PPG, 5.8RPG), Karl-Anthony Towns (8.1PPG, 6.6RPG), Trey Lyles (7.9PPG, 5.5RPG), and Andrew Harrison (7.7PPG, 4.2APG). Tyler Ulis is shooting 53% from the three. As a team Kentucky is shooting 47% from the field, 31% from three, and 65% from the free throw line. They are averaging 17 assist, 11 turnovers and 9 steals per game. One chink in the armor is their defensive rebounding. Despite being the tallest team in college basketball they are only averaging 26.6 defensive boards a game that ranks 55th in the country. And only have a +8 rebounding margin.

Kentucky’s 2014-15 OVERALL RANKINGS



2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #1
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-82.7 ranks 1st
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-114.7 ranks 5th
-Per Kenpom game prediction he has Kentucky winning the game 64-62 based on his indexes.

If there’s one team left on the schedule that could solve the riddle to beating this UK team it’s the Cardinals. Our Cards are also on the verge of having one of the best defenses in their history. They currently rank in the top ten nationally in four key defensive categories POINTS ALLOWED 54.4 per game 8th overall, D REBOUNDS 28.9 per game 9th overall, BLOCKS 7.2 per game 6th overall, and STEALS 10.7 per game good for 4th overall. They are second in defensive efficiency behind Kentucky in Kenpom’s rankings. I think the Louisville defense will have to force this Kentucky team to beat them from deep and force them into taking quick jump shots. I know that this was the way that UNC tried to beat them and they failed miserably because Kentucky hit those shots, but it was the first time UNC had ever played zone. Our Cardinals will be much more effective using the zone to man switches along with better rotation. If the Cardinals can force Kentucky into some bad shots and rebound well defensively it will be half the battle won.

Our Cardinals big four Wayne, Montrezl, Terry, and Chris are going to need their best efforts of the season. And I think we’ll need a surprise game from Mango, Nanu or one of the other freshman off the bench. I have seen a player come out of nowhere to star in these games before and I hope that player is wearing a Cardinal uniform Saturday. Our Cardinals have been really good on the OFFENSIVE BOARDS 44.8 per game good for 3rd overall, and above average in POINTS scoring 77.3 per game good for 34th overall. Of course those things will be crucial Saturday but they will have to improve their efforts in ASSIST currently ranked 149th overall, and FIELD GOAL % currently 151st overall.

Most people think that the key to winning the game on Saturday is for the Cardinals to hit the three point shot and while they will have to hit a few to keep the UK defense honest it is not the be all end all. UK wants teams to jack up the three point shot so they can grab those long rebounds and get out on those fast breaks with their speed and length. For the Louisville offense to be most effective they must attack the UK defense forcing help side and kicking it out to the open man. Attack… Pass… We should be able to get our fair share of offensive rebounds and should get second or third opportunities.

This will be the biggest test of the year for both of these teams. Each has to play to their strengths and attack the others weakness, but as I mentioned above with the player always coming out of nowhere there will be a scenario play out that nobody expected. These rivalry games are packed with emotion and that along with the home crowd will also factor in. I’m looking forward to a great game and a opportunity to knock off a great team. To keep their hopes of a perfect season from happening would go a long way to make up for those heart breaking losses to them recently. And the Cardinals have the chance to keep the home court record in the recent series to 2-1 and on the plus side of things. You must win these games on your home court. I think our guys will be ready. Should be another great one in the series… Go Cards!

The Beak Prediction
Louisville 80
Kentucky 77

Twas the Week of the Dream Game

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Twas the week of the dream game,
And all through the state,
UofL vs UK was the topic of great debate.

Two of the top teams in the country,
Will battle for the bluegrass state,
And the fans of the Red and Blue;
Just can’t wait.
For whoever loses this game,
Will have more than enough crow;
To fill their plate.

I’m sure we’ll hear all week,
That the Cats can’t lose;
And they’ll go on..,
About those stupid platoons.

Every year we hear it,
Or since Calipari moved up the street;
This will be the UK team nobody can beat.
40 and 0 they’ll yell and scream,
But it will only turn out;
To be another pipe dream.

They recruit great players and athletes,
Sure they have some;
But they won’t know what hit them,
When they come to the Yum.

Ole Calipari will be yelling,
With all his might;
As the guys in blue,
Start to lose the fight.
With 23 thousand screaming down below:
It’s the Cards defense,
That will deal the final blow.

Get em Chris and Terry;
Coach P will scream with delight,
As he knows that this will be his team’s night.

Cards fans will throw,
Their L’s high in the sky;
As that victory horn sounds:
And it will be a rough New Year,
For those Big Blue clowns.

With the dream game victory,
Celebrated and passed,
That Bowl game will be here fast.
Another slap in the face,
For our rival in state;
As we’ve already ended their football slate.

Eat it up my friends,
And fellow Cards fans I say;
As victory will be ours:
On this glorious day.
That Big Red shadow will loom,
Over that blue spot up the road;
And the only Bowl game they’ll see:
Is in their commodes.

With this battle of the bluegrass,
Well out of sight;
We must continue to fight the good fight.
This Cardinal team has big things ahead,
And thoughts of another title;
Will be dancing in our heads.

I wish all my fellow Cards fans,
Great Holiday cheer;
And I hope all of your dreams,
Come true next year.
I’ll see you all in Charlotte,
As I write this with delight:
L1C4 and Go Cards Fight… Fight.

Montrezl is not “That Guy”

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My father once told me that a person can do a thousand things right, even ten thousand things right, but you do one thing wrong, just one, that’s all people will ever remember, and you don’t want to be that guy. Throughout my life I have watched this old cliché play out many times. I think it’s even more relevant now during the age of instant news and social media. People in the world today can’t wait to jump on their moral high horse and take someone to task. It is a hobby for some.

Saturday during a basketball game against Western Kentucky Montrezl Harrell was poked, prodded, pushed and at one point ganged up on by five of the Hilltopper players. When that happened Montrezl lost control of himself and came very close to throwing a punch during a scuffle at the end of the first half. Montrezl was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul. After watching the video for several minutes the referees in charge of the game determined that while Montrezl came very close he did not throw a punch. And it was also ruled that he did not fight. So this should be the end of this right?

While watching the game I was very critical of Montrezl’s behavior and even made my sentiment known via my twitter account. But after watching video and looking at several photos of the incident after the game was over it is clear that Montrezl was just defending himself from a mobbing by the Hilltoppers. And it was also very clear to me that the incident would have never happened if the referees had intervened effectively. It is their responsibility to make sure the players feel safe and protected while on the court. So why aren’t they being scrutinized?

Montrezl Harrell has been the epitome of class. He has always carried himself with dignity and set the right example academically, socially and spiritually. He has respect for the game of basketball and plays it with more passion, desire and enthusiasm than most of us have ever seen. When he was winning a gold medal for this country a few summers ago the announcers made comments during the game that they had never seen a player go harder. They called him “Enthusiasm Personified”. One could say that during his basketball career Montrezl Harrell has done a thousand things right.

After the game today Montrezl took ownership of his behavior during the incident. He didn’t blame anyone, he didn’t make excuses and he owned it. One of my readers shared a story of what Montrezl did after he left the locker room and it is what should be remembered.

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After the game on Saturday Montrezl spent 20 minutes signing autographs for kids and making a little time for each of them. As the reader wrote “He signed autographs until they made him get on the bus”

This made me remember the time last year when a 9 year old Louisville boy Cruz Colvin was fighting long odds for a bone marrow match. The Louisville third graders family and friends were recruiting the public to be potential donors. When Montrezl got word of this in the local news he took the time to visit Cruz and also took the time to join the National Bone Marrow Registry.

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It also made me think of that image last year of Montrezl taking the time to hug a special needs child at a women’s basketball game.

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I have seen a lot of negative things thrown out towards this young man today; he has been called a thug, and much worse. Some members of the national media are also jumping on this negative bandwagon. Montrezl has worked his butt off putting in the hours, making the right decisions, doing the right things. Are we so caught up in this punishment mentality as a society that we would take all that away for almost throwing a punch?

This young man is on pace to be an All-American this season, and if anyone deserves that title it’s Montrezl Harrell. This one time can we do the right thing by him? Can we not forget about those ten thousand things he’s done right? Hey national media can we not make Montrezl that guy? Let’s think about the guy after the game signing all those autographs with the kids, let’s remember the time he helped Cruz Colvin, let’s remember the time he took a moment to make a kids night, and write about that. Montrezl is a good guy, not THAT guy….

Cards Win a Squabble in Diddle

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The Louisville and Western Kentucky basketball programs have now played 78 times and the series is tied at 39 wins for each. After today I don’t know if we will see these teams play many more in the near future as ugly as it got in Diddle Arena. Nevertheless the Cards win a good battle in a hostile crowd and are now 10-0 on the season with a big game looming next weekend.

Would have loved to hear from Coach Pitino after the game, but he headed directly to the airport to catch a plane and headed out recruiting. It’s probably for the best. He wasn’t completely thrilled about his trip to Diddle Arena. Will be interesting to hear what he has to say this week.

I knew that the Western Kentucky team would come out today and play like a group of starving dogs, but I didn’t think they would literally be like a bunch of starving dogs. It was pretty obvious that part of their game plan today was to get into the heads of the Louisville players and especially Montrezl Harrell. In no way do I condone throwing a punch in a basketball game and think it was way out of Montrezl’s character to do it. Looking at some of the post-game pictures of that incident I don’t know that I would have done any different had I been put in that situation. He is a kid that really respects the game and himself. It was announced after the game that he was given a flagrant 2 and was not thrown out for fighting which means he will not be automatically suspended for the next game. The ACC will review the tape and determine if there needs to be further action. Even though he only played the first half he still scored 14 points and grabbed 6 rebounds.

With Montrezl out of the game in the second half it really tested the metal of this team and I really think it gave some other guys the chance to step up and prove their worth. One of those guys was Anas. He had 6 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in 23 minutes of action. I think that is the most time he has logged in a game this season. He gained some more confidence today and that could pay off later in the season. I really liked his effort, and the moxie he showed by holding Montrezl back so he didn’t get himself into more trouble.

Many of the “so-called” professionals in college basketball said in their pre-season assessments that this Louisville team would be missing a superstar and leadership. Well today a superstar and a leader emerged for this basketball team. Terry Rozier rose to the occasion under hostile circumstances. He is not a vocal leader but one that lets his game do the talking. He’s been pretty consistent all season but today he took over this game and the stage was his and his alone. He scored 32 points on 9-16 shooting from the field for 56%, 3-6 from the three for 50%, and 11-13 from the free-throw line for 84%. He also had three steals. A basketball player must have different areas of expertise. These areas of expertise include but are not limited to, rebounding, shooting, dribbling, communicating, playing defense, cheering, knowing the game, knowing the plays, boxing out, screening, and hustling. All of the players on the team must possess some ability in each, but it is only the very special player who has a vast amount of ability in all of them. Terry is that player. The running story-line throughout Rozier’s career is that he idolizes and molds his game after Dwyane Wade. He looked like him today for sure.

Those really were the biggest story-lines in the game today, but the biggest takeaway from today is that this team was put into a situation where they were forced to come together to win the game with one of their teammates not on the floor. This game was huge for this team in terms of bringing them together. Nothing brings a team together more than when that us vs them mentality plays out as hostile as it did today. It wasn’t very pleasant to watch at times and nobody wants to see a basketball game or any sport get out of hand, but it’s just what the Cards needed. One of the biggest games of the regular season looms. And it will take a team effort to beat that Kentucky bunch. Go Cards!

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Hilltoppers

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In the state of Kentucky there are two basketball programs that tend to grab most of the headlines, but the truth is that this state is full of tradition rich programs and down in Bowling Green the Western Kentucky program is one of the best in the country. The Hilltoppers basketball program has the 16th most victories in the history of the NCAA and has attained the 8th best winning percentage in NCAA history. The Street & Smith’s publication recently ranked the “100 Greatest Programs”, and WKU came in at #31.

In that rich history the Louisville program and the Western program share a common thread. In 1944 Bernard “Peck” Hickman was hired as the Cardinals head coach. Hickman was a star guard for WKU and Coach Ed Diddle during his college playing days. He was the first coach to lead our Cardinals to a championship on a national level winning the NAIB Championship in 1948. He never had a losing season in his 23 years as the Cardinals head man. The Cardinals and the Hilltoppers have played 77 times in their history and the battles have been pretty consistent through the years with WKU leading the series 39-38. The Cardinals have won the last five straight in the series including 79-53 last season at the Yum Center.

“We play them because of the amount of respect we have for their tradition and their basketball abilities. Why start a series with say a Memphis or Cincinnati when you’ve got a great school right down the road in state with unbelievable tradition. Why not do that? That is what I have always believed in and Western Kentucky is one of the great traditions in college basketball.”-Coach Pitino

The Hilltoppers are 5-4 this season winning four of their last five games. The key to their recent winning streak is their improvement in taking care of the ball. They have just 17 turnovers in their last two games after averaging 16.7 in their first seven. They are averaging 68.4 points a game shooting 43.2 percent from the field, 35 percent from three, and 68 percent free throws. Defensively they are allowing 68.8 points and their opponents are shooting 42.3 percent. T.J. Price is averaging 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds to lead the Hilltoppers. Chris Harrison Docks is averaging 12 points, George Fant is averaging 11.2 points and 7.1 rebounds, and Trency Jackson is averaging 9.9 points. Western Kentucky hasn’t played a ranked team this season and the Cardinals will be the highest ranked team to come to Diddle Arena since #2 Georgetown on December 4th 1982.

“They are a pattern team and a great shooting team. They were down 18 at Ole Miss, a very good team this year, and came back and won the game because they shoot the three great. They like to control the tempo of the game, they are playing great basketball right now. The young man Price, their small forward, is playing outstanding. They shoot the ball real well and they have Fant inside, another senior – great size. So we have our work cut out for us getting ready for this first road game.”- Coach Pitino

WKU 2014-15 OVERALL RANKINGS Offense | Defense



2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #128
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-100.2 ranks 165th
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-103.2 ranks 97th
-Per Kenpom game prediction he has the Cardinals winning the game 73-61 based on his indexes.

Our Cardinals are averaging 77.1 points a game and they are shooting 44 percent from the floor, 27 percent from three, and 60 percent from the free-throw line. Defensively they are allowing 52.9 points and their opponents are shooting 34.1 percent from the field. Montrezl Harrell has been leading the way averaging 17 points and 10.4 rebounds. He has had five straight double-double outings. Terry Rozier is averaging 15.1 points and 5.6 rebounds, Chris Jones is averaging 12.9 points, and Wayne Blackshear is averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds. The Cardinals had a dismal performance in their last game and will need to come out from the start of this one playing inspired basketball if they want to take care of WKU on Saturday afternoon.

“More than anything we had some work to do to get ready for the road game. What we like to do right before conference play is go into a hostile environment, last year it was Kentucky and now it’s Western Kentucky, to get ready for conference play. It is going to be a very difficult game, they have a senior team, they are playing great basketball right now.”-Coach Pitino

This is Louisville’s first true road game of the season, and Diddle arena will be rocking. Those guys are going to be playing like starving dogs wanting to pull off what would be one of the biggest upsets at Diddle Arena in their history. Coach Pitino has made it very clear that he wanted to send a message to his guys this week. I really hope that message was received loud and clear because this one concerns me a bit. If our guys don’t come out and match the tenacity and intensity on Saturday they will get beat. If they can come out and take care of their business in what will be a very hostile environment the experience will be valuable heading into the conference slate.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 80 WKU 69

Cards Edge Out UNC Wilmington on the Court and EGO in the Locker Room on Sunday

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The Cardinals edged out UNC Wilmington on Sunday evening 68-57 in what was a very lackluster performance. It might have been the most uninspired basketball that the Cardinals have played all season. The positives are that the Cardinals are 9-0, have won 34 consecutive games at home against non-conference opponents, and coach Pitino got his 350th win as head coach. His record at Louisville is now 350-117. With the win over coach Keatts he is also 38-10 over his former assistant coaches.

Coach Pitino was interested in any silver lining tonight and his disgust with his team was very evident in his post game press conference. It was his shortest one of the season. In his post game radio interview with Paul Rodgers he said the team “would pay tomorrow”

Montrezl Harrell had his 5th straight double-double in this game and was really the only guy in a Louisville uniform that went all out from tip to the final horn. He had 17 rebounds, 19 points, 1 assist, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots. He is putting up all-American type numbers and the Cardinals needed them in this one. As the leader of this team he was also very upset in his post game interview.

Terry Rozier hit some big shots to break up that late 15-0 run by UNC Wilmington and also grabbed a few big rebounds in the game. He helped Montrezl carry the load tonight scoring 19 points but did have a few turnovers and not a single assist. He was not happy in his post game either.

Wayne Blackshear has been playing like a battle tested senior this season, and in the first half of this game he was resembling that player a little. He grabbed 8 rebounds and scored 11 points most coming in that first half. Then he disappeared in the second half. He had 1 assist, 2 blocks and 2 rebounds in the second half.

The big win in MSG against Indiana had this team and the fans feeling pretty good, but they and the fans were quickly reminded on Sunday night that there’s always work to be done. The silver lining in this game may be the fact that coach Pitino now has the full attention of his team again. He is going to have them for one full week before they head to WKU next Saturday. It’s not going to be a fun week at that practice facility.

One of coach Pitino’s former players and current Samford Coach Scott Padgett tweeted out the hash tag #DeadMenWalking knowing what is in store for the Cardinals.

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If our guys were going to throw a clunker I’m just glad it was against a team where they were still able to get an 11 point victory. The game against WKU will be the first true road game of the season and our guys will need the focus they will gain this week. And UK is right around the corner. So the timing of this wake up call couldn’t have come at a better time really.

Looking forward to some of the big games ahead and think our guys will be fine. Go Cards!

The Beak Basketball Breakdown: The Seahawks

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Tomorrow in the KFC Yum Center the Cardinals will face UNC Wilmington. It will be a homecoming for the Seahawks head coach who is former Louisville assistant coach Kevin Keatts. Keatts is in his first season at UNC Wilmington and he has them off to a solid start. This will be the first meeting between these teams and the Cardinals will have a chance to win their 34th straight game against a non-conference opponent at home. This streak is the 5th largest in the country. This game will be part of the 13th Annual Billy Minardi Classic. Every season the Cardinals Basketball Program uses this special event to honor the memory of Billy Minardi, brother-in-law of Coach Rick Pitino who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Coach Pitino will be going for his 350th win as the Cardinals head man. He has won half of his college basketball games while in Louisville.

The Seahawks are 3-2 and coming off of a 105-47 manhandling of the St Andrews Knights. They have been scoring at a frantic pace this season, and have posted at least 80 points in every game. They are shooting 52.3% from the field (ranked 8th in nation), 43.2 from the 3 point line (ranked 8th in the nation), and are averaging 80.8 points a game. Their opponents are shooting 40.4% from the field, 33.9% from three and averaging 72 points a game. The Seahawks are led by top scorer Freddie Jackson who is averaging a very efficient 18 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2 assist a game. He is followed by Addison Spruill (14 PPG, 5.2RPG & 2.4APG), Craig Ponder (12.0PPG, 2.6RPG & 4.0APG), Cedrick Williams (11.4PPG, 8.8RPG & 1.2APG), and Dylan Sherwood (10.0PPG, & 2.7RPG). They have five guys who are averaging double figures. Coach Keatts has employed his own brand of offense at UNC Wilmington, but the defense will look very familiar on Sunday afternoon. They will use different presses to speed up the Cards and then drop back into match up zones. They are averaging 9.6 steals a game good for 17th in the nation.

UNC- Wilmington 2014-15 OVERALL RANKINGS


2014-15 Kenpom Rankings
Overall- #222
Defense Adjustment Efficiency
-100.8 ranks 187th
Offense Adjustment Efficiency
-97.1 ranks 236th
-Per Kenpom game prediction he has the Cardinals winning the game 86-60 based on his indexes.

This Louisville basketball team has established an identity of playing well rounded basketball. They play imposing team defense ranked nationally 4th in FG%, 7th scoring defense, 4th in steals, and 8th 3pt defense. And they are making the most out of their scoring opportunities currently 33rd in the country in scoring offense. This Louisville team has been glass cleaners and are second in the nation in rebounding per game.

Montrezl is playing like an all-American, Terry and Chris are playing like the best back-court in the nation, Wayne is playing like a battle tested senior, and Mango is coming around the same way Gorgui did for this UofL team. We have a solid group of freshman that are finding their way. Nanu has been a solid contributor, while Quentin, Jaylen and Anas are getting more confident every game. The game on Sunday afternoon will be a good chance for these guys to continue to gel and work on their offense and defense in preparation for the tough months of January and February.

I have no doubt in my mind that coach Keatts will have UNC Wilmington on the road to success in no time, but Sunday will not be their day. These Cards are rolling right now and they will continue to handle their business.

The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 87 UNC-Wilmington 58

The Bird Battalion Rolls Over IU

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A little late with my post game due to a great night of television. Before the beat downs on the series finale of Sons of Anarchy and before Jax Teller met Mister Mayhem it was Indiana who was catching the Beat down and dealing with the Mayhem of the Cardinal defense. Our Cardinals looked great on the grand stage of The Garden last night beating the Hoosiers 94-74. With the win the Cardinals cut the Hoosiers lead in the series to 10-7, and our Cardinals have now won 9 straight games in MSG. The Cardinals have the highest winning percentage in the nation in neutral site games at 83.3%.

For all of the talk about Platoons in college basketball I think folks need to start paying a little more attention to what looks to be a pretty good Bird Battalion in Louisville. This is a team that comes at you in waves. If they aren’t confusing teams with their multiple defensive sets they are dominating them on the glass and are currently #1 in the country in that category. Last night it was the Indiana Hoosiers who were the latest casualty of the Bird Battalion. The Cardinal defense forced 19 IU turnovers, had 10 steals, and 8 blocked shots. They out rebounded the Hoosiers 49-34.

The leaders of this Bird Battalion Montrezl Harrell, Terry Rozier, Wayne Blackshear & Chris Jones combined for 85 points and 33 rebounds last night. In my pre-game I said that these guys would need big nights and they had one of their best games of the young season.

Montrezl Harrell had his first breakout performance of his Louisville career in the Big East Title game a few years ago against Syracuse at MSG. It was only fitting that he would have a record breaking performance in his return to the Garden. Montrezl became the all-time dunk leader in school history last night. He had 7 dunks on the Hoosiers and now holds the school record with 163 in his career. He had 21 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 1 blocked shot to go along with his record breaking moment. Also his 4th straight double-double.
Montrezl Post Game

Terry Rozier led all scorers with a career high 26 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. He was a very impressive 8-17 from the field, and 5-8 from the 3 point line. Last night we all seen the Rozier that folks raved about during his summer workouts. His shot had been inconsistent through the first 7 games but last night it looked effortless for him.
Terry Rozier Post Game

Chris Jones or “Memphis Moxie” as I like to call him was 8-17 from the field for 24 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assist, 3 steals, and 1 blocked shot. Another guy who had been playing with some inconsistency really stepped up in his very first game in MSG. Jones had been criticized by Coach Pitino for staying on his phone too much. Jones got the message and said that he had taken his coach’s advice. It paid off last night.
Chris Jones Post Game

Wayne Blackshear also enjoyed his return trip to MSG. He had 14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assist, 1 steal, and 2 blocked shots. “Big Game Wayne” is showing what hard work and dedication in the off season can do for a players game. He has paid his dues and is now reaping the benefits. I couldn’t be happier for him.

My shout-out of the night would have to go to Mango.. On a sore ankle he came into the game off the bench and put it all on the line. He had 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. I really think he could be one of the best shot blockers in college basketball. He has that great wing span and has great timing.

Last night the college basketball world was formally introduced to the Bird Battalion. I think that has a much better ring to it than platoon. I know some won’t adapt this name but I like it. And like I mentioned above the way this Cardinal team comes at their opponents in waves I think it is fitting. If they don’t hurt you in one area of the game chances are they will find another way. Coach Pitino has always got a few tricks up his sleeve and he again has a group to utilize them. That game last night made a big statement to the rest of the college basketball world. Louisville is going to have something to say about how the season pans out. Don’t count the Bird Battalion out…. Go Cards!