The name is Ken Pomeroy. (Not to worry, I’ll get to the Cardinal stars in a bit.)
Pomeroy is the hoops computer geek whom I and other scribes locally and nationally are referencing this season with increasing frequency. He’s risen to guru status.
We adore him around here, because he’s valued the Cardinals higher all season than the humans who actually watch games and vote in polls. Pomeroy considers many variables, way too many for me to understand them all.
What I do know is they add up to #3 national ranking for U of L, behind Oklahoma and Iowa. Though the Cards’s defensive efficiency ranking has slipped from #1 to #5, its offensive ranking has been steadily improving in league play, and is now 21st best in the land.
Anyway, my point. Yesterday I dug deep into Pomeroy’s subscriber site for explanations of his many stats. Most, I frankly didn’t understand.
What struck me though was this admission. He acknowledges that his system is slightly biased in favor of teams with weaker schedules. U of L’s overall schedule is the 144th toughest in the country, but its non-conference slate was ranked #301. Which is perhaps a reason why his computers so admire Louisville.
The only Top 40 teams U of L has played so far are Michigan State and Kentucky, both losses. The highest ranked team U of L has beaten is #53 Pittsburgh.
Which I mention to temper my own increasing enthusiasm about the ’15-’16 edition of the Cardinals. While even I have bandied about the term “legit contender,” I feel compelled to maintain some perspective. Until, that is, U of L charts some Ws over other legit contenders.
As we know, the rubber hits the road this very weekend, with the toughest Sunday/ Monday home double down in memory. Virginia. Carolina.
I have a theory, which is merely intuition, and, more than likely could not stand even the most cursory computerized investigation. Which theory is that legit contenders — there’s that phrase du jour again — do not lose at home after February 1.
So, should Louisville sweep this big time basketball bonanza, smite the Wahoos and Tar Heels, I shall be shorn of my skepticism, and intend to sweep all my chips into the middle of the table. I’ll also need to commence a regimen which includes not only Prilosec, but Tums for the Tummy.
The higher the expectations, the greater the acid reflux.
I gotta tell ya, after those dastardly performances in Puerto Rico, I sure wasn’t expecting this kind of success.
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What so encourages me about last night’s victory in Blacksburg is that U of L won despite playing its most poo poo kah kah D of the season. The Hokies, who get to the line a greater % of the time than anybody else nationally, had a great offensive game plan and executed it damn well.
When they weren’t heading to the foul line, they were netting wide open layups.
Remember that FT% of total scoring algorithm thingie just mentioned, and that Tech is best in the country? Well, last night their number was 74.5. The national average is 36.7.
In simple English, that means U of L couldn’t stop the home squad from getting to the line, which the Hokies did with impunity.1
Louisville’s rebound advantage was miniscule, of no consequence. The Cards committed more turnovers than they forced.
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Which brings me to one of The Professor’s pithy aphorisms. And, yes, finally, to Lee and Lewis, last evening’s co MVPs.
Prof has been known to opine this so much one is inclined to punch him in the mouth when the phrase slips through his lips: “You look good when you make your shots.”
As I advised him last night post-game, the win at Cassell might have been the exception that proves the rule.
Because U of L didn’t look particularly good, especially on defense, except . . .
. . . except on offense when they were moving the ball like a race-calibrated Beemer engine, to the RPM of 19 assists on 27 made FGs.
. . . and except when they were shooting the rock.
U of L was 27/52 (51.9%) from the field for the game, 13/22 (59.1%) in the second half. The Cardinals’ effective FG% — It recognizes that a trey is worth 50% more than a deuce — was 63.5%.2
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Damion Lee, playing his best game at Louisville for the second time in a row, was in the zone from the get go. Seconds after the opening tip, he bullseyed a three on the game’s first possession. He kept firing, and didn’t miss from downtown until five minutes into the second half. None were forced.
Lee missed his only attempted deuce, was 6/7 from beyond the arc, including a dagger just before the first half horn. He drained 11/12 FTs. He also snared 5 rebounds, dished out 6 assists and grabbed a steal.
For Trey Lewis it was a Tale of Two Halves.
Before the break, he was 1/7 from the field. On one awful miss he looked like a fourth grader, trying to throw it in from underneath against his older brother’s college pals.
He was 5/7 after a rest and lecture from Coach. He converted four treys in 7 attempts on the night, and all six of his FTs. He also corralled 5 boards.
Jaylen Johnson also had his career game. 11 points. 9 caroms. 3 assists. A block, and one turnover. He netted a monster trey from the corner midway through the opening half. Tech was 8 points up at the time, pulling away.
The rest of the Cards, despite committing way way way way too many fouls, were steady, not to be denied in a hostile environment against a team ready and itching for a breakthrough W.
Louisville showed its mettle to begin the second half. A Quentin Snider triple, another by Lee and an old fashioned +1 three point play against a couple Hokie tallies doubled the Cards lead to 8.
They kept Tech at bay, measured the rest of the way.
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— Seedy K