It is a Big Monday for the Cardinals

Big Monday for our Cardinals. It really is big. Tonight’s second matchup with Florida State could very well determine who ends up with the ACC regular-season title. Whichever team wins tonight will also be able to carry all that momentum into the conference tourney here in a few weeks.

The Louisville team that the Seminoles will see tonight is not the same one they beat 78-65 back in January at the Yum Center. That Louisville team was just a shell of what it is now. Over the last month, our guys have found their roles and each of them knows what they are supposed to do in order for the team to be successful.

And then there is David Johnson. He has been a spark plug for the offense over that last couple of weeks since being injected into the starting lineup. 20 assist to just 4 turnovers in the last three games. The Cardinals have been reenergized as a result. In the back to back losses to Georgia Tech and Clemson, the offense scored 120 combined points. Since then Louisville has bounced back with 90 versus Syracuse and 72 in the North Carolina game.

Another guy who has seemed to find his groove again as a result of the reenergized offense is Jordan Nwora. A lot of folks have been very critical of Jordan this season and his struggles have been well documented. The biggest gripe from fans is that Jordan disappears in big games. I think he redeems himself tonight and will have a good game. Not going to be easy for him as he will draw all of their attention. Just think he’s ready for that performance.

Malik Williams has been the most clutch player in college basketball down the stretch stepping up and hitting big shots, hitting key free throws and getting some big defensive stops. He was still finding his way back from injury the last time these teams played. He has scored in double figures in five of his last six and grabbed 13 rebounds on four other occasions. He just had his fifth career double-double against Cuse and was two points shy of a career-high against UNC. This dude is balling. Will be big tonight against FSU. Maybe the X-factor.

Things seem to be taking shape for this Louisville team to make a big run to the finish. As I pointed out in my last pregame it’s starting to be more about their execution and less about who their opponent is. I don’t think it matters what FSU does tonight or how well they play. Team 106 is on a mission. I think the Cards win a great battle here and claim that ACC regular-season crown.

Go Cards!


Cards need to come ready to play UNC not their record

If this college basketball season has taught us anything it’s that anybody can lose to anybody. You can lose even if you have a significant talent advantage and a significant coaching advantage. There has never been so much parity in the sport.

This is the time of year when the best teams in the country have learned that lesson. I think this Louisville team has learned that lesson. They are starting to understand they aren’t playing the competition. They are playing against the standard that they have set for themselves. At this point, it comes down to execution.

I read today this Louisville team is the best in the country at getting late-game stops. According to their 0.729 points per possession allowed in the final four minutes and OT of games (adjusted for opponent strength) is far and away from the best mark in the nation. Give me a team that knows how to finish in March.

The 2005 Final Four team will be honored at the game on Saturday. That was a team that knew how to finish. The finish against WVU that year is one of the best in Tournament history. It’s awesome that they are bringing those guys back in because this current Louisville team reminds me of them. Not so much defensively but offensively for sure.

That 2005 group could shoot it from deep finishing their season as one of the best three pointing shooting team’s in the country at over 40%. The current team is ranked 11th in the country shooting 38% from deep. Before Nwora and Mcmahon, there was Cisco and Dean.

Coach Mack has been great at making adjustments throughout the season but made his best one in the last game by starting David Johnson. For the first time in several games, the offense was effective from whistle to whistle. If this team is gonna make a run Johnson is going to be a big part of that. Looking forward to seeing him face UNC’s size and athleticism.

North Carolina likes to play an intense man-to-man type of defense and you will hardly ever see them in a zone because Roy Williams’s philosophy is that it slows down the game too much for him to run up and down as they do.

This UNC team has struggled to defend against the high screens. Williams has his big men step out around the screen causing enough hesitation by the dribbler for their guards to catch back up into a defensive position. Due to their issues defending the high screen teams are getting a lot of open looks from deep. UNC ranks 207th in the country defending the three-ball allowing teams to shoot 33% on average. Good news for Jordan and Ryan.

This UNC team has had a rough go of it lately losing their last six games. But even with all of their struggles, they have battled. Five of their six losses during this recent skid coming by 6 points or less. I’m not going to be surprised to see them play out of their minds on Saturday. This Louisville team has got everyone’s best shot.

UNC is better than their record but our Cardinals have been tough at home, outscoring teams by 16.8 PPG and holding opponents to just 61.3 PPG this season. Hoping it will be just another day at the office. Think Cards end up winning big here.


Cards need to get back to basics against Cuse

Tonight we get back to basketball and after days of the ”sky is falling” nonsense in the Louisville media and elsewhere I welcome it. I’m hoping that our team realizes that their season is nearing the end and can get back to playing with a sense of pride and with the sense of urgency to finish this season strong. Just get back to the basics.

Despite all of the doom and gloom side talk this Louisville team is still at the top of the ACC standings, in third place sitting at 12-3 in conference play. They can still win this league outright owning a head to head victory with Duke and a trip to Florida State left on the schedule.

Jordan has had two rough outings. Maybe the two worst of his Louisville career. It’s not easy carrying the weight of a college basketball program on your shoulders. Especially one with a passionate fan base. The grind of a college season alone and getting everyone’s best shot. I think he gets back to that 18.2 points, 7.3 rebounds per game player tonight.

Steven Enoch is 2nd with 9.9 PPG and Dwayne Sutton is 3rd in scoring and tops in rebounding with 9.2 PPG and 8.4 RPG this season. These guys will have to bring their games tonight also along with Malik Williams. It’s always a frontcourt battle with Syracuse.

Coach Boeheim’s teams are known for that stingy two-three zone defense and having those very athletic and explosive wings on offense. The Orange are in a logjam in the middle of the ACC, sitting at 7-7 in conference play after losing 4 of their last 5 games. The Orange just stepped up against Florida State, taking the Seminoles down to the wire. We all know that Cuse teams usually come alive this time of year.

This is a very important game as far as team morale is concerned. Lose this game tonight and we could see this team spiral downhill for the rest of the season. Things are sensitive right now with this group and a three-game losing streak is not what the doctor ordered. Win this game and carry some much-needed momentum into that big game with North Carolina on Saturday. I would love to see this team have a strong finish to this crazy regular season. I hope that starts tonight.


Changing the trend

There are two teams that this Louisville Program plays where they just can’t seem to get on the winning side. One of those teams I won’t mention and the other is Virginia. The Cardinals have won 9 in a row but it is Virginia that has won their last 9 against Louisville.

This is not the same Virginia team of years past, as teams have been able to figure out the Cavaliers pack-line defense. Teams that have been able to produce some consistent offense in games against the Cavaliers have been able to get the lead and keep it. Exposing the Cavaliers offense that is near the bottom in scoring offense, field goal percent, and 3-point offense.

The Cardinals should have enough firepower to take advantage of this one. I think another thing that will help this Louisville team against Virginia is that they understand the principles of the pack-line defense now that they themselves play a Coach Mack version of it. They go against this version every day in practice.

In order for the Louisville program to really arrive in ACC play, they’ve got to level the playing field in this rivalry. With a return trip to Charlottesville coming at the end of the season, it is also important to at least split one in this series for a chance at an outright regular-season ACC Championship.

This team wasn’t able to buck the trend in a game with that other team this season but have another chance to change another trend today. I’m tired of losing to the Cavaliers. I think this Louisville team is as well.

Change the trend today. Go Cards!


Things will only get tougher after this one

Our Cardinals head into the Yum Center tonight looking for their 20th win of the season. It will be the first time a team has reached 20 wins this fast since back in 2004-05. That team finished 33-5 and lost to Illinois in the Final Four.

That team like our current team had some guys that could flat out shoot the rock. The current Louisville team is 6th in the country in three-point field goal percentage and 49th in field goal percentage. Thanks in part to guys like Jordan Nwora who is shooting a cool 47% from deep in the last nine. And Ryan Mcmahon who hit seven three-point shots his last time out.

This team is also getting it done on the defensive side of the floor ranked 5th in the country in field-goal defense. Behind players like Malik Williams who has six blocked shots in the last five games and an energized Darius Perry who has had five steals over the last four games.

This team is doing everything pretty good right now and the reason I think Wake Forrest will be running into a buzz saw tonight. Wake is a team that has got some pieces back but one with a defense that ranks 200th in field goal defense and 251st in scoring defense. The Deacs have been poor on the road, having gone 1-6 in true road games this season.

I told a guy on the Fan Page this week that I don’t think this team looks back now. I think they are past blowing games like this one. If not it would mean taking several steps back. Not what you want to see a team do in February.

It doesn’t get any easier after tonight with the heavy part of the schedule still ahead. Cards need to come out take care of this one and get themselves ready for the final push.

It should be a night with no drama. But as confident as I am in this one I wouldn’t be surprised at anything. Go Cards!


Wolf Pack down…

My son and I were at a Louisville Football game two years ago. It was during the Petrino debacle and NC State beat our brains out that day. Towards the end of the game, the NC State mascot came over by our section. My son who was 6 at the time ask me if he could get a photo with it. I said “Sure!” He ended up getting that Wolf good. I ask him after the picture “what was that?” He said, “I wanted to do Wolf Pack down Dad”. We’ve had an agreed dislike for NC State since. It’s always Wolfpack down at our house.

We will be watching on Saturday afternoon as the Cardinals take their seven-game win streak and best-ever conference start into Raleigh. The Wolfpack will be a hungry team after losing two in a row including a tough one to their arch-rival UNC. They are going to see this game as pivotal to their NCAA resume. And it probably will be.

I have seen that some of the talking heads are predicting the upset here. I guess they haven’t seen what we have over the last few weeks. This Louisville team has stepped up and has rolled through their conference schedule at this point. Guess it just comes down to proving it again. I think folks are waiting for this Louisville team to show their flaw.

I think they are beginning to become one of those teams that can win despite some of those flaws. I don’t think there is a team in the country that doesn’t have a chink in the armor. It will be the team that has the ability to grind through tough ones and overcome that who will be raising the trophy in April.

Coach Mack has talked about how his team is starting to fill into roles and how they’ve been playing together. One of the most impressive things about this current win streak is how it has featured different guys each week.

The emergence of David Johnson, the resurgence of Malik Williams, Sam Williamson coming into his own and Darius Perry’s recent contribution. And got the best player in the country Jordan Nwora who just had a career outing with 37 points, 9 rebounds, while adding 1 assist. Who will be the guy on Saturday?

The Cardinals converted on 12 3-pointers in their last game against BC. They are currently ranked 12th in the country in 3-point percentage, while NC State ranks 130th in defending the three. I think the long ball will play a role in this one as it always does especially on the road.

This NC State team got beat up pretty good on the boards against UNC 42-31. This is another area where Louisville can pounce. Our guys have rolled up their sleeves and have been owning the glass. Currently ranked 19th in defensive rebounding and 45th in total rebounds. Have to look way down the list for the Wolfpack ranked 176th in defensive rebounding and 162nd in total rebounds.

There is a reason why this Louisville team is winning. They are winning the hustle stats. I can’t remember a team that got after it on the glass-like this bunch does. Prolly would have to go back to that 2013 group. If they keep doing the dirty work they will win Saturday. And got a shot to win it all.

This Louisville team is on one of the best runs in college hoops and that just puts a bigger target on them. Just like at BC in the last one I expect NC State to come out and play out of their mind. With a rowdy home crowd in tow. Same recipe as the last one for the Cards. Just go prove it. Wolfpack Down! Go Cards!