It is one of the two immutable truths of the post-season. As you know, because I harp on it ad nauseum every year at this time of year.
I mention it again, because it shall affect Louisville’s seeding in the NCAA. Adversely, more than likely.
The Cards have been on a marvelous run of late. Though, frankly, due to the quality of the competition, it is difficult to truly assess if they are, as many pundits contend, “playing better than any team in the country.”
Ws in the AAC tourney over SMU and Cincy might have provided the selection committee more evidence necessary to bump U of L up a line.Or two.
Twas not to be. And U of L had to play those cards it was dealt. Rutgers and Houston were lambs to slaughter. UConn, tired and not quite ready, for its third spanking of the season.
That Louisville is in a situation where it’s playing top line basketball, but will probably land on line three or four is a circumstance of its own choosing.
Whether Rick Pitino makes up the regular season schedule, or Tom Jurich, or a combination of the two, they made their own messy bed. With a consensus Top 5 defending national championship squad coming back, a decision was made to go for the money.
The pre-conference slate was loaded with schleppers willing to come to the Yum! for another L and pennies on the dollar, feeding the U of L athletic department coffers and the bottom line.
Well, bottom line this. Ws over Hofstra, Hartford, Mizzou KC, Fairfield and Cornell mean mo’ money, but less stature on this particular day — Selection Sunday.
The piper will probably be paid tonight. One can only hope the committee considers the eye test, which verifies the Cards are smokin’ hot, and computer rankings,1 more than the RPI, where Louisville thankfully has jumped to 18th. They were #24 before the run to the tourney crown.
* * * * *
This time of year match ups are paramount.
U of L matches up really well with UConn. Okay, they are also simply better. The result: three Ws this season.
Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright are excellent.2 But U of L’s three-headed monster of Smith & Jones and runnin’ podner, Rozier are more than a match. Plus Luke Hancock at point forward is starting the offense more and more as tournament time arrives.
The Huskies aren’t the dominating force underneath that they’ve been traditionally.
U of L outrebounded UConn last night, 38-33, with 16 off the offensive glass. Silent L snared 11, SVT, 8. Wayne Blackshear added a solid 5 boards off the bench. Louisville tallied 14 second chance points, 8 more than the defeated.
The Huskies guard combo was held to 23 points, on 7/22 shooting.
Tourney MVP Russ Smith scored 19,3 homie Chris Jones 11. Rozier went for 7, including the trey that gave the Cards a double digit lead with 2:00 to play before the break, followed by a deuce at the buzzer after a Russ steal.
That span was the game’s defining interlude.
* * * * *
Just when we thought we’d seen all the new tweaks this team has to display, there was another hearkening revelation last evening.
Montrezl Harrell’s sweet jumper from the key. He drained one at the 13:49 mark for a 20 point Cardinal advantage, 52-32. Then, :34 later, he answered a UConn trey, with another swish from the elbow, to get the Cards back on track at 54-35.
He was 9/14 from the field. Plus his stroke at the FT line was also palpably better. He went 4/6 there, which aided U of L’s 73% total (16/22).
Is it fair to mention he missed several skip pass reversal opportunities to open teammates in the weakside corner? Perhaps. But I won’t. Because Harrell acknowledged his mistake to Chris Jones after one play.
Progress not perfection.
* * * * *
The game had no flow at all. Play by play announcer Dave O’Brian called it “choppy,” later stating “it lacks artistic merit.”
The main cause of all that was two too tired teams that know each other’s tendencies really well.
It was also the woefully inconsistent, no blood no foul officiating. At one juncture, Doris Burke understated, “They’re certainly letting them play.” At times it wasn’t even Big East, but backyard basketball.4
Ted Valentine, once one of the better zebras in the game — one guy’s opinion — now in his 33d year calling Division I tilts, is on the down swing.
Plus he’s really Dick Paparo incarnate. Meaning, he draws attention to himself with the calls he makes and his manner in making the calls. It’s not a good thing.
* * * * *
Which bring me to this other reality.
In five hours and thirty five minutes, 68 teams will all stand 0-0.
Put on your dancin’ shoes, let’s get the party started.
— Seedy K