Saturday, February 27, 2010
I mentioned the word swagger last week, and I expressed reservations about the Cards lack of urgency. Well, now we face one of the hottest teams in the country on their court. An opportunity to regain our killer instinct is staring us in the face.
Shall we consult Charlie Strong for more wisdom? His maxim (paraphrased) about facing tough opposition on the recruiting trail: "You're going to have to play them when we get where we want to be, why wouldn't we recruit against them?"
If you translate that into our current basketball situation, the sentiment is appropriate. This season isn't going to be stamped a success at the mere mention of our name on Selection Sunday. Once we make it in, there are plenty that recognize this team's potential and still want to turn some heads in March, or dare I say it, April. So stop lamenting your luck and finagling the figures and go out and play the kind of basketball an entire city is aching to see.
It's crunch time. A pair of teams, a single gym. One will seize their destiny and walk out with more selection committee cred, the other will go crunch RPIs and hope for mercy from the basktball gods. Tomorrow we find out which we are.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Griffith. Ellison. Tyra. Unseld. Butch Beard. Junior Bridgeman. Derek Smith. Milt Wagner. LaBradford Smith. The McCray brothers. Dejuan Wheat. Reece Gaines. Dean and Garcia. T-Will. Wade Houston. Jerry Jones. Bill Olson. Scotty Davenport. John Tong. Hickman. Dromo. Pitino. Crum.
The long walk to the front entrance. The stench of livestock. The smell of caramel popcorn. The band. The Ladybirds selling calendars. The red banners, plain. The hanging walkway. The mystery booth at the top section. Pregame social hour. Halftime social hour. Postgame rushed departure (contingent on margin of victory/defeat). Cigar smoke (back in the olden days). The Plexiglas ventilated smoking sections in the corners. Fans who reeked of smoke. Beer stands. Bourbon. Ice cream. Three-stall bathrooms. Long lines. My Old Kentucky Home. The postgame press conference. Ring Road. Game day traffic.
Cheerleading guy. Running back and forth guy. Acrobatic/Handstanding guy. The Birdchirper. Boogie-cam guy. Cardinal fight song guy. Beer-in-each-hand guy (Godspeed Jack Copeland). The free throw girls. Crazy old guy. The Cardinal Bird flying in from the rafters. Red sport coats. The rolled-up program. Athletes-in-Action preseason games. The Billy Minardi Tournament. The Metro Conference tourneys. The program with Denny's signature. The suspicion it was in Denny's hand. Never-Nervous Pervis. Cool Hand Luke. The Cisco Kid. Dr. Dunkenstein. The Doctors of Dunk. High-fives. White-outs and Red-outs. The White Suit. "Goooaaalll byyy Wheat." "Steps called." "Go -- Cards -- Beat -- Purdue." "It's not the refs' fault... it's like an ice rink out there!" "And time is OUT on the floor." "We're gonna beat the hell out of you!"
When the Cards beat up on hated Memphis State in '86 and fans jingled their keys at William Bedford. When they put away #6 North Carolina with the 10-0 run in '99. When they hit three three-pointers in thirty seconds to beat Tennessee in '01. When the unranked Cards knocked off #4 Cincy in '02. When Sosa hit the dagger against Kentucky in '09. When the Cards beat #1 Pitt in '09. When T-Will kissed the bird. When Pervis blew out his knee. When Samaki slapped Kentucky with a triple-double. When Marquette Coach Mike Deane gave us the "up yours" gesture. When Whitehead hit the floor hard. When "Denny Crum Court" was unveiled. When Sparks double-shuffled. When Griffith slammed home a 360 degree dunk. When Denny said goodbye.
Host to six Final Fours. Ten NCAA tournament games. Eleven conference tournaments. Home to the 1980 national champions. Home to the 1986 national champions.
Freedom Hall. Farewell.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The point is, it soon becomes white noise. But the Karen Sypher Saga, inadvertantly, has granted us a watershed event to separate the wheat from the chafe, one to spotlight the hacks amongst the talent.
There's plenty of comedy at hand, and sometimes I read a Sypher Joke that truly makes me laugh. But more often than not it's just more hackery, a fan trying to pry another fake-laugh at the mere mention of the word Porcini's.
From the beginning, at CL we've been clear that we care not a wit about Rick Pitino's personal life. We care only about his ability to coach the Louisville Cardinals to great heights. His professional business is our business, we couldn't care less who he sleeps with.
I can comment on bad comedy though. And the more I web-surf, the more I read, the more I understand why Jay Leno is returning to The Tonight Show.
That's why I hate it when Pitino does his own bracketology through the media, saying "we need to win 2 of the last 4" to make the tournament. I think it puts it into the players' heads that losing is likely, and perhaps to some degree, acceptable. How about the attitude that we're going to win them all?
Think I'm reading too much into it? Here's Edgar Sosa's post-loss quote...
"We came into this game with the mind-set that we had to win two out of four. Unfortunately, we lost this one. Now we have to win two out of three. The road doesn’t get easier, but it’s nothing that is impossible."Now, maybe he's just trying not to sound panicked, but the tone of those words scares me. Nevertheless, his math does seem to be accurate. Now it has to be 2 out of the last 3. On the road against a UConn squad playing like a team possessed, on the road against always pesky Marquette, and at home against a Syracuse team looking to exact revenge and shore up a #1 seed.
Last night's loss has me very worried, not the outcome, but the second half manner of play that brought it about. The three game winning streak that put us back on the good side of the Bubble also resulted in lack of urgency on the court in the last 20 minutes. It really looked like they were playing on cruise control. It's a sprint to the finish across the nation to snag the final at-large bids, especially in the Big East. How you finish the season is important, and teams like UConn and Seton Hall are charging hard. That's why I grimaced when I heard Pitino's 2 out of 4 comments. It sounded complacent, and that's the wrong attitude to have at this point in the season.
The Cards better snap out of it, starting this
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Confucious couldn't describe the Yin and the Yang better than was illustrated in the two halves of basketball tonight. If I had an Iphone, and could have sent a half-time update, it would have been this...
It's clicking. Playing as a team, confident, developing, dare I say it, a swagger???And it was true. The first half displayed what the Cards could be. An unselfish and scrappy team with dangerous ballers, incapable of being shut down when focused and smart. Led by Edgar Sosa, the Cards imposed their will on the Hoyas. Sosa was getting to the basket, making the extra pass, and Louisville took (from my memory) only two "contested" shots in the half, to use Pitino-parlance. When the gangly Swopshire, who was playing phenomenal and aggressive basketball, picked up a hustle foul that sent a Hoya down hard to the hardwood, I thought to myself, "swagger....!...?"
Then halftime. Then our yin got yanged. Look, Georgetown is a completely legit team, disciplined and competent at every position. You're facing a good team if you're playing great basketball, but are incapable of opening a sizeable lead. Nevertheless, I do think the game had more to do with the Cardinals' Mr. Hyde than their Dr. Jekyll.
You can even split tonight's team this way...
The Tails Never Fails Team
*Edgar Sosa - Played as well as he is capable, and that is quite a compliment. Unselfish with the ball, finding the open shooter, getting to the hole when it was there, and not forgetting that he has one of the better 3-point strokes on the team. A remarkable game from Sosa.
*Terrence Jennings - You don't realize how physical Jennings is till you watch him live and pay close attention. He went toe-to-toe with a future NBA first rounder. Sure, he got beat on some possessions, but Monroe had to earn every inch of court battling for position.
*Reginald Delk - Reliable on defense, reliable shooting stroke from the perimeter. When he is aggressive on the glass, he's invaluable to the team. Sosa's drive and dish is meaningless without Delk being there to knock 'em down from that spot in the corner.
*Swopshire - he already is, but in the next two seasons he will be a tremendous asset for this team. Something has changed in his outlook, he is playing fearlessly. Maybe he's just playing ball, and not worrying about the rest. Swop hit the glass hard.
*Rakeem Buckles - He brings it every second on the court, has a knack for putting himself in good positions, and is gradually beginning to assert himself on offense.
Heads Play Like We're Dead Team
*Samardo - I had reservations after Samuels 36 point game that it would have some negative backlash. Tonight we witnessed it. His offense was abysmal, he was in great position down low all night, but had zero finishing touch. As his frustration mounted, his play worsened, and he had a terrible turnover that squashed the Cards final chance at a run.
*Preston Knowles - an inexplicable whiff from Mr. Reliable. Bad touch from the field (what was that airball??) and careless with the basketball. Pitino had to yank him at one point he was becoming such an anchor. A really bad outing.
*Samardo - his lack of defense is becoming a true liability. He just gets abused in the post, and gives up ground without much fight.
*Jerry Smith - I love him to death, so it pains me to type it, but he's a ghost out there. He plays good defense, the reason he still merits PT, but is bringing nothing to the table on offense. I seriously cannot recollect such a dramatic disappearing act from a once-solid player.
*Peyton Siva - I didn't realize how much better Edgar Sosa is at this point in his career than Siva till tonight. It's been said by everyone by now, but Siva has to get stronger. He doesn't look to have the strength of any other player on the court. Sosa has the muscle to absorb contact and finish drives. Siva is a waif by comparison.
Even Harvey Dent thinks this team has split-personality issues.
Samardo had his first really bad game since emerging this year as our best and most consistent player. With almost all his patented post moves rimming in-and-out, he fell out of the flow, fell asleep several times defensively (Georgetown center Greg Monroe had 16 points and too many looked easy), and became tentative under the basket late in the game. Not all performances were subpar. Edgar Sosa played outstanding, cutting to the basket from tipoff to the final buzzer for 24 points and 8 assists. On a discouraging night, it was absolutely encouraging to see Sosa continue to play well as tourney time approaches. It has become obvious this year that for better or worse, whatever this team's fate will be, it will necessarily depend on the play of Sosa (Cannot say the same of Jerry). When he plays well, we can beat anybody; if he doesn't, then odds are we can't. Unfortunately this game struck against that logic: Sosa played great, but we still lost.
In addition to taking multiple shots at fellow Louisville blog Cardchronicle, they also make some of the lamest Karen Sypher jokes and for some reason decide to start a pissing contest over the performance of former Cardinals in the NBA. A strange tactic, since I've seen T-Will tear down the goal several times on Sportcenter Top 10, but have yet to see the same from recent Hoya greats like Roy Hibbert and Michael Sweetney.
Also, here's Georgetown point guard Chris Wright's twitter post from this morning...
Good morning...feeln good feeln great, smh louisville in for it tonite...#wecominJust like the aliens did to Washington D.C., let's beat some Hoya ass tonight Cards. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh C! A! R! D! S! CARDS!!!
I should have Georgetown on the brain, I know, but something about the UConn situation has me feeling uneasy, that's all I'm saying.
Two games remain at Freedom Hall. A strong home court advantage is needed now more than ever.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Earlier Mr. Red admirably tried to avoid passing off Matt Jones' hatchet job of Rick Pitino and the Louisville basketball program as legitimate, network-level analysis by not calling attention to any specific, quoted passages. It's probably the better tack for this kind of garbage. But for whatever reason today, I can't help myself. Here's a "representative" sample:
The Pitino we see today is one that is presiding over a team with lackluster talent and performance that can see it lose by 20 to dismal St John's one night, win at Syracuse the next and struggle with DePaul the week after that. Rick still paces the sidelines, but the urgency seems lacking, and the performance is not where it should be. This will be Rick's ninth Louisville team and his career taking over one of the elite programs in America has seen one Final Four, only three trips to the Sweet 16 and two NIT berths. Not a terrible record by any means, but not what one would have expected from the King of College Basketball in the 90s.A few points worth making here based on this passage alone, which essentially sums up the theme of the article (minus the obligatory Karen Sypher references):
1) As far as "lackluster talent" is concerned, we are exactly one year removed from arguably having had the most athletic team in the country (which Pitino still failed to get into the Final Four, but that's a different argument now, isn't it?). Does that sound like a guy whose best days are behind him?
2) One of the NIT berths that Jones takes such pleasure in repeating came in 2001-2, Pitino's first year at Louisville. Pitino took a squad that went 12-19 during Denny Crum's last season and improved it to 19-13. I think most objective observers would forgive Pitino the sin of improving a team by seven wins. (Thanks for that one, Mr. Red)
3) Interesting that Jones decides to describe Louisville's postseason success (or lack thereof, according to him) as three trips to the Sweet 16 (presumably he's including Louisville's Final Four run in this number even though he had just mentioned it before), rather than one trip to the Final Four and two trips to the Elite Eight. Could it be that multiple Elite Eights sounded a little too impressive for the point Jones was trying to make? No reason to let full disclosure and accuracy get in the way of a rollickin' good anti-Louisville argument.
That Jones would play loose with the facts to satisfy his own prejudices and biases is to be expected. But why is CBS allowing him to air this crap on its web site?
It was about 10 games ago, during that stretch when the Cardinals were flirting with the NIT ... when guys were handling the ball as if it came with an expiration date.I remember thinking exactly the same thing. For long stretches of the game the Cards would play hot potato with the ball hoping someone else would step up. That's probably the most notable difference in the team as it has willed its way back into contention. Samardo wants the ball, Swopshire and Marra want the ball, Sosa (of course) wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line.
DePaul is a bad team, but they're not a blowout team. I wouldn't lose a moment of sleep over the margin of victory. At this point in the season, in a bizzaro sort of way, Louisville fans do know what to expect. A flawed but fierce team with 12 capable players on the roster. If this formula is giving you fits, it's understandable. But more importantly, our opponents share your frustration.
What he should not have earned, however, is a platform on a national media outlet to spread his biases while pretending to be just another observer. Jones is an unabashed Louisville basher and hater of Rick Pitino. One can only imagine the genuine journalistic integrity Jones had in mind while writing one his first CBS pieces, "Pitino plodding along at Louisville without his former mojo".
I understand it's an opinion piece, and Jones is entitled to his opinion. But, at the very least, he misleads by omission by not including a giant disclaimer stating, "Hey, by the way, I HATE Rick Pitino and Louisville basketball. You should be aware of this fact as you read my opinion of the situation."
I'm familiar with Jones' stuff, so when I read the article and the way he passes up no opportunity to take little digs at our program and our coach, I can just shake my head and mutter. But most nationwide are unfamiliar with Matt Jones and his UK background. It is irresponsible for CBS Sports to give free reign to a UK homer to pursue his own vendettas disguised as another run'a'the'mill observer of college basketball. Stay tuned for his next piece: "Tobias Harris' UT recuitment? Was it on the up-and-up?"
Many UK fans believe there exists a vast, Bristol-wing conspiracy against UK basketball. Hardly a day goes by without some comment (many from KSR) on the latest slight from ESPN, Pat Forde, Bob Knight, etc. (culminating in a surreal KSR poll not long ago, asking its readers "ESPN or UK. Which one needs the other more?" I'm sure the results were quite scientific).
The point is, Jones has used his "outsider" status to promote himself, and his site, as an alternative to the "mainstream" sports media. Railing against the latter and its biases is partly a reason for his site's popularity. It's a shame, though not surprising, that he chose to join the problem the moment his ship rolled in.
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About the Bloggers
Mr. Red is also known as Timothy Johnstone. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville.
Mr. Black is also known as Christopher Cunningham. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville.