Let’s just get Past this first round

(photo courtesy of @LouisvilleMBB)

We missed out on the fun last season but the wait is almost over. Our Cardinals will literally kick off the 2019 NCAA Tournament when they play Minnesota at 12:15 pm. First round games have a history of being a topsy-turvy of events especially in games where the Seeds are more evenly paired. As a Louisville fan, I have some horrible memories of first-round games. I don’t want this to be one of those occasions.

As a fan you want this first game of the NCAA Tournament to be as drama free as it can be. Watch your team cruise to an easy win and move on to battle for a spot in the second weekend. The NCAA Tournament Committee did their part to make sure this first game was anything but drama free for Louisville. Speaking of Past. Louisville can’t seem to get away from theirs.

I have intentionally tried to stay away from all of the ”Pitino” rhetoric this week. Coach Mack said that he had tried to keep it away from his team this week. Listening to some of the comments from the open practice yesterday it doesn’t sound like these players care to much about it either. They appear to be in the moment. This team has been good at staying in the moment all season.

The Cardinals had the misfortune of facing some tough opponents in the tail end of their season, but they really didn’t get blown out in any game and held their own against the top-tier opponents for the most part. They overcame some tough losses along the way but were able to take on the season one game at a time. They’ll have to do that over the next few weeks to survive and advance.

I don’t expect this to be an easy one against the Gophers. They play hard for their Coach. His teams are known for their effective offense, and they make opponents earn points on defense. I can assure you that they will press and press some more. I respect their X’s and O’s and they also have some pretty good Jimmys and Joes. Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy are a great one/two punch for them. Murphy averages a double-double per game with 14.8 points and 11.5 rebounds. He is the kinda dude that can take one over.

Louisville will have the best player on the floor in this game. I hope that Jordan Nwora can rise to this occasion. It will be his first appearance under these bright lights. He has managed the pressure of being the ”go-to” guy this season but being the ”go-to” guy in the NCAA Tournament is a different pressure. I don’t think Minnesota has anyone that matches up well with Jordan but they’ll have a plan to slow him down.

This Louisville team has done a better job of cultivating offense in other ways than just launching bombs from the outside. But they are a live by the three and die by three type of team. It’s just who they are. Hitting that outside shot effects every aspect of their game and can even dictate their defense at times. We just have to hope they hit em.

It would be nice to see someone emerge from nowhere and get some important production. I feel like a great Tournament team always has this guy. For Louisville, I think that guy could be Akoy Agau. Wouldn’t be shocked to see him impact the game in some way. A big rebound or shot. At this point, it is so cliche to say that VJ King could have a big game. He really could have a big game and a good Tournament. He’s been playing with more confidence lately. This team is only one impact wing player away. Just sayin.

Back to Minnesota… They really didn’t look great against Michigan, but otherwise, they’ve performed pretty well lately. Still, the Gophers have had some trouble against the more stout defenses out there. This Louisville team has been solid on the defensive end of the floor lately. I think they match up well.

I just want to get past this first round game. I think this team needs to get past this first one. This game could also go a long way of moving us past that other stuff. It really is time to bury it. The program has moved on.

I love the NCAA Tournament and am glad that my Cardinals are back in the big dance. It’s going to be an event filled with drama as 65 games are played over the next three weeks. There will only be one team left standing. I hope that team is Louisville. I can hope.
Can’t I?

Go Cards!


Let the College Basketball Postseason begin…

Our Cardinals will start postseason play against Notre Dame in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Louisville was able to defeat Notre Dame in their only match-up of the season as the Cardinals won by a 75-61 margin in the last game of the regular season.

15-seed Norte Dame kept their season alive after defeating the 10-seed Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 78-71, on Tuesday afternoon. The Irish came into the ACC Men’s Tournament on a 7-game losing streak. They showed some signs of life against Tech in the first half of this game but the Irish team we’ve seen for most of the season showed up in the 2nd half and had trouble holding on for the victory.

Our Cardinals struggled down the stretch, however, they’ve clearly established themselves as one of the toughest teams in the country. We have one of the best players in the country and in the ACC. I feel like Jordan Nwora was overlooked in the ACC accolades announced Monday. But screw em. I think Jordan and this Louisville team could make a deep run this week.

I do think there is still a chance for Louisville to move themselves up a couple of lines if they have a successful ACC Tourney, but don’t think they can hurt themselves much. I do think this team would benefit from some good momentum heading into next week. Some of these guys haven’t experienced the NCAA Tournament. Would like to see them enter with some confidence.

I don’t think they’ll have any trouble in this one as I expect Notre Dame to be out of gas. They gave it all they had just to reach this game. Hope we see a lot of guys score and a lot of smiles. I’m already smiling because I love this time of year. Nothing like College Basketball in March. Just gonna take it all in.

Enjoy folks! Go Cards!


Knock knock. Hoo’s there? Virginia again!

It’s been too long since our Cardinals have had a win over conference rival Virginia. The Cavaliers have made their way up my shit list of College teams over the last few years. Not only do they make you set thru their deliberate and frustrating approach on offense and defense for 40 minutes they usually win. The Cardinals have lost the last eight games in this series.

During that time the basketball Gods have been pretty unkind to Louisville with that devastating one-point loss to them a year ago this week. Enough is enough. It’s the Cardinals turn for a win in this game?

A few weeks ago I jumped the gun and pulled out my VJ King prediction. Haven’t we all made that prediction? I had saved it up and really thought the last game against Virginia we might see something. But this team was in the midst of an offensive funk.

A funk so bad that it seen Louisville have some of their worst totals in a while scoring 59 points and a low of 49 over that three-game stretch. It was really encouraging to see them put up 75 against Notre Dame. They scored points and scored in different ways. Oh, and VJ King made his return.

VJ really looks like he has regained some confidence. He has had success playing against Virginia averaging 11.8 points and 2.8 rebounds. He scored a career-high 24 points against Virginia during his freshman season. I think he’s capable of a big game today.

Jordan also returned to form with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Notre Dame. It was good to see Malik Williams double-double for the Cardinals in that one with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Think these guys could play a big role today.

This is like a final exam for this Louisville team. They had moments this season where they looked really good and here lately have looked really bad. The live by the three die by the three mentality is fun to watch when it works out. Not so much when it doesn’t.

Maybe this team learned during that losing streak not to rely so heavily on the outside shot. Maybe they ”just learned” during this brutal conference stretch. This team should be pretty tough at this point. They’ve had a week to prepare for this finale.

Today is our day Louisville fans. VJ King will Beast out and will be proclaimed the King Slayer. This Louisville team has been solid on the road. Today we see the return of the Road Dogs. Please, basketball Gods!

Go Cards!


Cards need a win on Senior Day

Kinda hard to believe that there are only two games left in the regular season of College Basketball. Our Cardinals came out of the gate strong but have really struggled down the stretch. At one time they were riding a six-game conference win streak and had won those games by an average of 18 points.

In the past few weeks, the wheels have fallen off, which includes losing five of their last six and being outscored by an average of eight points. A drastic turnaround since that great run in January. The difference? During that great run, they were shooting 46.7% from the field. In the last six games shooting just 33.4 percent from the field. Things have really gotten stagnant on offense.

The good news is that we know these guys are capable of walking into any gym in the country and beating anyone. They have at least shown the ability to play at a high level. They can turn things around. Offensive woes come and go and let’s hope we left them in February.

You can’t say the same thing for Notre Dame. The Irish have pretty much been the same team all season. They’ve lost 10 of their last 12, are shooting under 40 percent from the field on the season and are shooting 38.4 percent from the field on the road.

On Sunday afternoon three Cardinals will lace them up for the final time in the Louisville locker room. They are not seniors of the traditional type but there will be a ceremony for Graduate Students Akoy Agau, Christen Cunningham, and Khwan Fore. They had some big shoes to fill following some great grad transfers from past seasons and lived up to those expectations.

In successful programs tradition never graduates and these three guys have added to that great Louisville tradition. Each playing some role in getting the program back to the NCAA Tournament. I want to thank them for deciding to spend their last season of college eligibility playing for the Cardinals. They are all great guys.

I hope they get to walk off Denny Crum Court winners. And this team needs a win. They have secured their spot in the postseason but could really use this game to get back some of that momentum they had early on. I’m ready for March Madness. Go Cards!


Can Louisville find an unlikely Hero on Saturday

It’s been over 1400 days since Louisville has beaten Virginia in basketball. You have to go all the way back to March of 2015 to see the Cardinals in the win column in the series led by Virginia 13-4..

I knew the Cards were gonna hit the game-winner that day. That’s why I started taking this video. That was one of those days in the Yum Center I’ll never forget. I just knew they’d win but was just as surprised as everyone when an unlikely hero emerged.

Mangok Mathiang is a Louisville basketball player that had his ups and downs on the court. In the game, before he hit this big shot he had played just 4 minutes fouling out. He was a player that took a lot of grief from the fans so it was good seeing him have his moment. The players were enjoying it too.

Reminds me of another guy who has been struggling…

As Coach Mack was pouring over old game footage preparing for this game he had to notice how VJ stood out against the Virginia pack line D. I think that he could really impact this game and hope he gets some clock.

VJ King has had a tough season and has had a career of ups and downs. But Virginia hasn’t been able to stop him. VJ is averaging 11.8 points and 2.8 rebounds against the Cavaliers in his career. He scored a career-high 24 points against Virginia during his freshman season.

Virginia is one of the best teams in the country but they have shown a chink in the armor over the last few weeks. Including a clunker that almost cost them a home loss to Notre Dame. Our Cardinals have struggled on offense as of late, however, they are still a solid club and can be especially tough at home on the defensive end. Louisville is an impressive 13-3 at home this season.

I think an unlikely hero will emerge on Saturday. I think this Louisville team needs an unexpected outing from someone. Not only for this one but to make any kind of serious run down the stretch. There have been a lot of ”the game VJ King shows up” predictions and this is mine.

Go Cards!


Time to build some momentum

With just five games left in the regular season, I think it is important for teams to build some momentum heading into the postseason. At this point in the season a team should know who they are and if they don’t they have a pretty good idea. This is the time of the year where you do those things that have made you successful and avoid slipping back into the things that aren’t so good.

This Louisville team has battled the turnover bug all season… Over the last couple of weeks that has manifested itself into late game collapse. This team has to try and put that behind them and at this point, it might be just as mental as it is fundamental. I bet Coach Mack and his staff have gone over out of bounds plays a few times this week.

Protecting the basketball won’t get any easier tonight in the Dome. Coach Boeheim’s teams are known for that stingy two-three zone defense and having those very athletic and explosive wings on offense. Things aren’t any different this season as Syracuse ranks 20th in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.397), 21st in blocked shots per game (4.9), 24th in scoring defense (64.3) and 21st in turnover margin (+3.6).

I’d love to see this Louisville team find some consistency and build some momentum after splitting their last 6 games. This team has done a good job of putting things behind them. They are resilient. They need to put the last three games behind them. Finishing this game tonight would be big. Hope our frontcourt comes to play. They will have to be active on the baseline and good passers against the zone.

It’s never a good time to go into Syracuse for a basketball game, but it gets even tougher this time of year. Cuse always has a strong kick to finish the year. The Cards will get their best effort tonight. I thought this would be one of the toughest games on our schedule and still believe that.

I’m optimistic. It’s easy to feel good when you have the best player. Tonight we have the best player. Jordan Nwora leads Louisville with an average of 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He will be playing in front of some home fans tonight. Hope he gives them a show.

Go Cards!


Can the Cardinals seize Big moment at home

Make no mistake about it this Louisville Basketball team has had some great moments this season. They have won some games and had some success that they weren’t supposed to. But I don’t feel like they’ve been able to capitalize on the one big moment. The statement victory…

They’ve had the gym busting at the seems full of Cardinals fans a few times this season and have fallen just short of the big victory. For me, the Kentucky and North Carolina games come to mind. Both times were an opportunity to seize a big moment but it didn’t happen.

They’ll get one final chance next weekend with Virginia coming to town but have a chance tonight not only to seize a big moment but to pull off what would be the biggest upset of the College Basketball season with Duke in town.

From the opening tip of the season, there has been one question in College basketball: How do you stop Zion Williamson and the very talented Blue Devils? Only two teams have been able to solve that riddle this season. Since that second loss Duke has been dominant.

They are playing their best basketball of the season right now, which includes seven straight wins and outscoring teams by an average of 20 points in their last five games. On the road this season a perfect 5-0 winning by an average of 14.2 points while shooting 51.4 percent from the field.

I tried to think back when Louisville played a team this dominant in basketball. I’m reminded of the NCAA Tourney game in 2013 when the women’s team played against Brittney Griner and that Baylor team. They said that there was no way Jeff Walz and his team could pull that off but they did.

Coach Walz used what he called the ”Claw and One” in that game to stop the 6-8 Griner. He had her surrounded the whole game while the Cardinals hit a barrage of Three-Point shots.

You have to think the Men’s team has a similar strategy planned tonight and that Coach Mack has installed some kind of gimmick D to slow down Zion Williamson. The trouble with Duke is if you slow him down what do you do with RJ Barrett who is averaging 23.1 points and 7.2 rebounds a game.

Our Cardinals have split their last four games and are still looking for that statement victory. They got a wake-up call on Saturday in Tallahassee. Players mentioning after the game that they had got ”too comfortable” breaking team’s pressure. They will play against a long, athletic, fast, physical defense tonight.

The turnover bug can’t show its ugly head tonight for the Cardinals to have a chance. You have to think it’s going to take a lot of scoring and every possession will be important. Gotta think that we’ll need a lot of three-point buckets as well.

Tonight it’s about stepping up to the challenge and executing a great game plan. Would love to see Jordan Nwora have a big night. He’s been great but just like this team don’t think he’s had that one big statement this season. He’ll have to be big for the Cardinals to have a chance.

Here we are again. Primetime College Basketball game. Another chance for this Louisville team to get a bigtime win and seize a big moment for the Yum Center crowd. Let’s hope the blackout doesn’t end up a somber occasion. I can’t wait for the tip. Enjoy it, folks!

Go Cards!


The ACC Gauntlet Continues for the Cardinals

Our Cardinals are playing their 3rd Top 25 team straight and 2nd straight Top 25 team on the road Saturday afternoon. #22 Florida State has a four-game winning streak and the Seminoles have won 10 of their last 11 home games.

This Florida State team is playing some of their best basketball of the season. They play solid on the defensive end of the floor ranked 79th in FG% defense and 55th in steals per game. They are a physical team and crash the glass ranked 57th in rebound margin.

When you have to play a hard-nosed defensive and physical team on the road it’s going to be a challenge. To add to that challenge Florida State is also pretty good at getting the ball to the basket. They got six guys who can score consistently at every level.

Florida State is running into a pretty good Cardinal Basketball team. They have been really good on the road this season where they are winning games by an average of 12 points this season. They have won 4 of their last five ACC Road Trips.

The Cardinals defensive numbers have been trending upward over the last few weeks. Now up to 71st in the country in FG% Defense and up to 98th in the country in 3pt FG% defense. They have also become more consistent on the offensive end of the floor now one of the Top 55 teams in the country in scoring offense…

Our guys are finding ways to score even when Jordan is being kept in check by teams. Dwayne Sutton has been a beast. And CC has been running the offense like the seasoned veteran he is. I really don’t know where this team would be without these guys. Steven, Malik, and Ryan are also averaging 8 points a game during this stretch.

This Louisville team seems to play much looser and freely away from the Yum Center. For some reason, this team still gets the Home Game jitters. They have been all business away from the Yum Center and I really think they’ll match up well with FSU on Saturday afternoon.

Louisville has been the more consistent team and the Seminoles have failed a few times this year to raise their game against quality competition and is just 4-7 against the spread this season at home. I expect a battle but one that the Cardinals will win. Enjoy it, folks!

Go Cards!


Cards have a tough road ahead…

Over the next few weeks, our Cardinals are going to be playing some of the best basketball team’s in the country. There are no days off in the ACC and things only get tougher on the road. Tonight Louisville heads to Blacksburg to play #13 Virginia Tech. The Hokies have won three straight and are 11-0 at home this season.

Virginia Tech embodies the personality of their head coach in their man-to-man defense: intense, tireless, and in your face. They don’t play a ton of zone, but if they see an opportunity to use it to their advantage, they won’t hesitate to exploit an opponent’s weakness.

This Hokie defense just held NC State to the lowest scoring output in the shot-clock era. Virginia Tech held the Wolfpack to just 16.7% shooting from the field and 7.1% shooting from beyond the arc. In their own gym.

The Hokies are ranked 66th in the Country and holding their opponents to an average of 62.1 ppg on 41.2% shooting from the field. They are also ranked 13th in scoring defense, and 19th in turnover margin.

Virginia Tech has been outstanding on both ends of the court as the Hokies rank 56th in scoring offense, 5th in FG% and 2nd in 3 point FG%. In Buzz’s offense, he will emphasize the paint touches, using their guards to slash to the lane and work the ball through the paint to find the open man. They will get to the free-throw line and kick it out for the bomb.

I don’t feel like our Cardinals took a step back on Saturday but they did fail to capitalize on another big moment. I felt like the toughness just wasn’t there on Saturday. The Cardinals have been tough on the Road. They have won 4 of their last six and is outscoring teams by an average of 10.7 points on the road this season.

Tough is the keyword tonight. It’s really going to take a gallant effort to get a win. Our guys have responded well this season after setbacks. Coach Mack has created a competitor culture since being in Louisville. These guys have lost games but not once have they quit. They keep competing. Jordan Nwora and Steve Enoch struggled in the last one. I think these guys will be key tonight. Nwora needs to own the perimeter and Enoch needs to own the paint.

Virginia Tech fans and their players have had this game tonight circled on the schedule. A 14 game losing streak to Louisville will be on the line tonight. They don’t get us this year that streak may get much bigger. With that in mind, I’m not overly confident in this one. I am confident our guys will play hard.

Enjoy this one folks. This is one of those college basketball rivalries I remember from my childhood. Some of those old Metro battles were great. The game tonight should be a good one. Go Cards!


Things are much tougher The 2nd Time Around

Conference play is tough but it is much tougher the second time around. 21 days ago this Louisville team walked into Dean Dome at Chapel Hill with a lot of questions. They found some answers to those questions that day and have had all the right answers since.

The Cardinals are riding a six-game win streak beating UNC, Boston College, Georgia Tech, NC State, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest in that time. Winning those games by an average of 18 points. Its the longest conference win streak in the Cardinals’ five years in the ACC.

This Louisville team has been able to build off of each win. Becoming more consistent on the offensive end of the floor and more deliberate on the defensive end of the floor.

The Cardinals have scored 80 or more points in 13 of its 21 games are 14th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency by Kenpom and second in the ACC in scoring offense. Louisville has allowed less than 55 points in three of its last four games and held nine opponents under 40 percent shooting on the year. The Cardinals are 24th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency by Kenpom.

Things have just continued to get better for the Cardinals since that win in Chapel Hill. It’s like this team used that game as a springboard.

The Tar Heels are currently sitting on a four-game winning streak of their own, taking out Notre Dame, Miami, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech in that stretch. And I think they have probably used that home loss to the Cardinals as their springboard.

Their biggest challenge of this season so far is getting their pieces all working together and finding their identity. Roy Williams is known for playing a certain style, one characterized by a fast tempo, offensive rebounds, exceptionally tall front lines and shooting a lot of free throws, to name a few. They’ve been using their athletic advantages and doing those things more consistently currently ranked 12th in KenPom’s offensive efficiency they are also 13th in defensive efficiency.

The Cardinals are 28-2 since March 1, 2003, in home games against teams faced on the road earlier in the same season, as it will be when UofL plays North Carolina on Saturday. The Tarheels are currently 4-0 on the road in the ACC this season.

This is all set up to be one helluva a game. The Cardinals might have caught the Tarheels sleeping a little in that first matchup but you can bet they’ll be wide awake this time around. With nothing but payback in mind.

The Louisville Basketball program will pay homage to The Great One with the White Out theme on Saturday. Ali was at his best when facing his toughest challenges. One of my favorite Ali quotes:

“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”

Louisville basketball fans and the guys on this Louisville Basketball team all know what it’s like to be defeated. We’ve been beaten to hell and back over the last couple of years. We have all waited for a big game like the one on Saturday. Top 20 matchup, big atmosphere, a battle for conference supremacy. The Program has made its way back.

A looming factor here will be Louisville’s 83-62 victory over the Tar Heels back on January 12, and the result of this game will tell us a lot about each team as we head towards March. Enjoy it, folks!
Go Cards!