Louisville football entered the offseason with a lot of questions surrounding the running back position, but by August it wasn’t a position battle that attracted the most scrutiny. The announcement that former Auburn star Michael Dyer would play in for the Cardinals in 2013 elicited strong reactions from the local media, but the constant refrain was slippery-slope hand wringing peppered with moral reproach. Critics descended upon the symbolism of an elite athlete tarnished by a history of burners and spice being welcomed into a community that emphasizes “no guns” and “no drugs” among its core tenets, displayed on official signage in the football facility. Particularly in the cynical summer of Aaron Hernandez and Johnny Van Der Beek Football, the subject of football players entitled to misconduct by virtue of their talent was, for good reason, a touchy one.
The 2013 NBA Draft came and went, and the dust has mostly settled 24 hours later. A 6’8, 280-pound Canadian was the #1 overall pick. David Stern rode off into the sunset after grimacing through a bunch of names with unfamiliar diacritic marks. The economies of Greece and Spain inched slightly toward solvency.
Both prospective former-Cardinals heard their names called, marking the end of a four-year dry spell for UofL in the draft. That point can’t be underscored enough, even if Gorgui Dieng slid a few spots below optimistic expectations (courtesy of Atlanta’s front office ignoring the wishes of their last remaining All-Star and some light sedition from Chicago). The folks at Card Chronicle and elsewhere have already compiled most of the relevant analyses, but here are a few gems that fell between the cracks.
Gorgui Dieng, #21, Minnesota Timberwolves
- On a night where the theatrical and bizarre set the tone, The Timberwolves’ mid-first round draft picks of Shabazz Muhammad and Dieng were pragmatic, and consequently seemed to fly under the radar in the ensuing punditry. That didn’t stop Matt Moore at CBS Sports from raving about the picks and listing Minnesota among the five teams that “won” the draft:
Minnesota Timberwolves: Made out like absolute bandits. Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad. Minnesota reeled in two high-value guys and managed to squeeze out some cash as well. Great start to the new Flip Saunders era. Dieng has such potential either off the bench or as an emergency starter, and Muhammad was once considered the top pick in the draft. Just a stellar job.
- In his draft pick rankings, Moore also grades Dieng’s selection as a B-plus, explaining:
Very solid pick. Maybe shooting guard might’ve been a better position pick, but I love what he brings. Kevin Love and Dieng together? All of your rebounds now belong to Minnesota. [Emphasis my own, because this needs to go on a t-shirt or a teddy bear]
I spent a lot of time last week ruminatin’ on the discussions that grew out of Kevin Ware’s injury, and the discomfort I felt seeing writers––many of whom seemed to have little prior awareness or knowledge of college basketball––rail against Ware’s exploitation absent any context. It helped shine a lot on the NCAA and temper a bit of the sentimentality with which we wash over the ugly side of college sports every March. But much of the moralizing itself seemed to toe the line between self-serving and exploitative. This was my feeble attempt to advance that discussion, posted about a week too late.
In the days following Kevin Ware’s injury in the Elite Eight, David Sirota and others took the NCAA to task for its failures to protect college players in vulnerable circumstances. Their polemics on the exploitive structure of major college sports were timely and constructive, but in focusing on Ware’s narrative to deliver an accessible argument to a broad audience, it obscures the widely divergent circumstances of student-athletes in major college sports.
This evening kicks off the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, with Louisville waiting until tomorrow to take on the twelfth-seeded upstart Oregon Ducks two hours from the UofL campus. Last weekend, in four days characterized by upsets, close calls, and defensive grinders, the Cardinals distinguished themselves by effortlessly carving up North Carolina A&T and Colorado St. on both ends of the floor. So where did Louisville’s two-game performance stack up among the Sweet Sixteen contenders?
Few teams scored as prolifically or won by such wide margins as the Cardinals did in their first two NCAA outings. Louisville trailed only Ohio State in scoring average, and they were the only two squads to eclipse 80 points per game. The Buckeyes dumped 95 on Iona last weekend––the most points in a single game thus far––before scoring 78 as they snuck by Iowa State. The third highest average was claimed, believe it or not, by Florida Gulf Coast, who posted just under 80 PPG against the top-25 defenses of Georgetown and San Diego State. Florida and Arizona rounded out the top 5 teams, of whom only Florida Gulf Coast measured lower than 16th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings.
In terms of margin of victory, Louisville posted the best figure in the Sweet Sixteen field after winning their first two games by 31 and 26 points, respectively. At 28.5 points, not only does their average margin of victory top the list for Sweet Sixteen teams, but it’s about twice the median margin of 14.5 points. Arizona and Michigan were the only other teams to win both games by 15 points or more. This is an encouraging sign for Rick Pitino’s team, who seemed to lack the killer instinct and explosive offense to thoroughly dominate quality teams for most of the regular season. On the other hand, it’s uncertain how well prepared the Cardinals will be for a late-game challenge from an elite opponent, considering they haven’t encountered a close score in the latter stages of a game since the beginning of March.
This post appeared on Rush The Court’s Big East microsite on Wednesday, but it’s still relevant after the Cardinals dismantled North Carolina A&T in the Second Round the following night. UofL will face much stiffer competition at 5:15 on Saturday in a Colorado St. team that rebounds well, scores efficiently and averages fewer turnovers than all but 12 teams in the country.
With seven regular season games remaining on the schedule in mid-February, Rick Pitino called on his team to win them all. The Cardinals had just lost a demoralizing five-overtime road game to Notre Dame, capping a precipitous three-week fall that saw his team lose four of seven games and drop from #1 in the country all the way out of the top-10. While the Cardinals’ bout with the Irish was heralded by some as the game of the year for its suspense and intensity, Louisville fans shook their heads in resignation after their team choked away an eight-point lead in the final 45 seconds. The team hyped as the strongest national title contender in the Pitino era at Louisville couldn’t seem to generate enough offense outside of Russ Smith, couldn’t seem to generate the fast breaks it desperately needed, and couldn’t seem to close out games.
As you’re most likely aware, tomorrow evening’s Selection Sunday festivities set the stage for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Dedicated fans, casual bandwagoners, and the repressed gambler who manages your office bracket pool all get their first glimpse of the official field.
I’ll be participating in the Selection Sunday live chat with ConnecTV.com tomorrow, talking about the Louisville Cardinals’ tournament outlook. Knowledgeable folks who follow Duke, Syracuse, Kansas, Arizona and Gonzaga will be weighing in as well.
If you’ve got a free tablet/phone/computer screen and the inclination, stop in to check it out and join the discussion. ConnecTV is a “second screen” app designed to complement television programming with relevant tweets, viewer live chats and supplemental information, and you can download the app for iOS and Android or simply use the browser interface. Continue reading
The biggest shocker following Saturday’s big win over Syracuse was this statistic:
Not only was last Saturday Louisville’s first March road win over a ranked team in the past decade, but it was also only the second time the Cardinals had won their first road game of March against anyone––ranked or unranked––in their eight seasons in the Big East. (Bear in mind, Louisville didn’t play a true road game after February in 2007.)
This may come as a surprise, but the Internet is full of meanies. Twitter, in particular, is a rich repository of social detritus. Its streamlined creative format lends itself well to pithy humor, instantaneous news and concise distillations of writing one might not otherwise dive into. It also gives voice to millions of people too lazy or unimaginative to articulate a thought in a space larger than a text message.
One tiresome phenomenon endemic to Twitter is the parody account. More often than not they’re formulaic, doltish and harmlessly attention-seeking enterprises. But it’s at the intersection of parody accounts and hateful assholes that one comes face to face with inexorable, profound ignorance. So it’s with some reluctance that I highlight one such example.
For the uninitiated, the auteur behind @NotJerryTipton apparently set out to lampoon the stoical Lexington Herald-Leader beat writer, and actually boasts more than three times as many followers as the genuine article. With his finger on the pulse of the Lexington zeitgeist, Not Jerry quickly graduated to more thought-provoking intellectual discourse on topics ranging from Duke to Louisville fans to Rick Pitino to, well, that’s it. Included below are a few of my personal favorites, accompanied by a little play-by-play and divided by genre. Continue reading
This entry appears on Rush The Court.
The narrative of today’s defensive match up between #1 Louisville and #6 Syracuse has already been explored extensively. A collision of defensive juggernauts: the nation’s first and third most efficient defenses, respectively. The two lead the Big East and are top-five nationally, again, in creating steals. The Cards check in at #2 in the country in turnovers generated; the Orange: #8. Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams leads the conference with a staggering 3.18 steals per game and combines with Brandon Triche to produce 4.8 SPG; Peyton Siva and Russ Smith are top-five, producing a cumulative 4.6 pilfers.
On paper it’s a push, and a juicy storyline to hype. In reality, Syracuse fields an excellent defense, but Louisville’s has the potential to be historic, and it’s just now hitting its stride. Continue reading
I first dropped this image in the 01.11.13 Edition of the Big East Morning 5 on RTC. It feels appropriate to repost here, with not only a top-10 showdown between #1 Louisville and #6 Syracuse looming tomorrow in The Bucket, but also years of tormenting the Orange in the ACC to look forward to. Rick Pitino’s Cards will follow his mentor down the ACC rabbit hole into Boeheim’s Southern dystopia of plebeian diner food, and there’s substantial comfort in that knowledge for UofL fans, win or lose.
The ever-affable Jim Boeheim is going out of his way to make new friends in the ACC. Speaking nostalgically of his final Big East road trip to Providence after his team beat the Friars on Wednesday night, Boeheim lamented that he’d have to negotiate the new physical environments in his next conference. “I know where all the good restaurants are now, and now I’ve got to go down to Clemson, South Carolina. I’m sure there’s a couple of Denny’s down there.” The millionaire coach either believes Denny’s is actually a “good restaurant” or he’s painting Clemson with the podunk brush. Knowing Jim’s flair for the cynical and alienating, it’s probably the latter. Bret Strelow and Stephen Schramm at the Fayetteville (NC) Observer provided Boeheim with a helpful map. The good news is that the nearest Denny’s is 14 miles from campus –– a veritable hop, skip and a jump by ACC scale. Closer examination on Google Street View reveals that Jim is one step ahead of all of us: