Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Will Cards change leads & How wacked the Dance?

There’s not a Louisville Cardinal fan around who isn’t sad about the Malik Williams situation.

For the kid, a team leader who has been riddled with injuries, and college career may be fini.

For the current team, which isn’t as formidable without his presence in the middle and leadership in the huddle.

Hope springs eternal among the faithful that Williams might return for another season, taking advantage of the COVID-inspired one season eligibility exemption. But that’s another conversation for another day.

He doesn’t appear to have emptied his locker, and moved on. The kid’s a keeper.

Which leaves us obsessives with the contemplation: How do the Cards best move forward in his on court absence?

Which leads me to Jae’Lyn Withers, the redshirt rookie, who has spent most of the season uncomfortably out of position in the post. It’s been obvious for awhile that he’s better on O when facing the basket.

That hunch became all caps underlined when Malik returned, and Withers moved to the 4.

So, to use horse racing parlance, does Chris Mack change leads? Does he leave Withers outside, and play someone else in the pivot? Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Will Cards change leads & How wacked the Dance?

Louisville CardFile: Duke

There’s this little thing I do, a game I play with myself when I want to check my intuition about something.

It isn’t always about an upcoming game I care about. But it is a lot of times.

I’ll ask myself a question that requires a yes or no answer.

And then allow the answer to dart up from whatever deep recesses of my brain such would come. I do my best to allow my subconscious to answer without forcing the response I’m hoping for.

Which I can’t always do. Sometimes what I hear in my mind is “Yeeeeeenoooooo.” And I never trust the response, knowing I’m trying to will it.

But sometimes, the answer is not only immediate, but definitive and emphatic.

Like Friday, when I inquired of self, “Self, is Louisville going to beat Duke?”

“Yes.” Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Duke

Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame

Not to make tooooooooo big a deal about it, but U of L’s post season status was on the line.

During intermission, former FF MOP Luke Hancock had shared some analytics, which, if I remember right, went something like this. With a victory over the Irish, U of L’s chance to Dance remained in the 60th percentile. But, if they lost, that would be cut in half, to 30+% or so.

Read: Tuesday was a must, and the crucial moment came here:

The Cardinals’ once 12 point advantage had been whittled with 6:24 to the final horn to 5 at 56-51.

The Cards were wobbling. Mike Brey saw his chance, took a timeout to set up some D.

Should the Cardinals allow this one slip away, serious hair-pulling, nail-biting consternation in the Ville would ensue. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame

Louisville CardFile: North Carolina

With 8:42 left to play, and the Cards down 44-72, I closed my laptop and the app with running stats along with it. Put away the legal pad on which I was taking notes, clicked the writing tip of my Tūl pen back inside the shaft, walked in the kitchen and filled a bowl with frozen blueberries and peanut butter.

Which I ate quickly out of frustration, along with a second helping attempting for extra measure of some comfort. While watching U of L, totally shaken and discombobulated, get manhandled 10-27 the rest of the way.

Already out of sorts because my aging rescue beagle Abbey is suffering from disc issues, and feeling squirrelly already because I was blessed to get my second COVID vaccination in the morning, and the antibodies were battling throughout my musculature to let me know they had arrived, my mind drifted off to a place and time long ago, far away. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: North Carolina

Basketball Jonesin’: Diggin’ the Scene with a Viking Lean

Oh Naismithius, how you let me down.

The other day I beseeched you, the Greek God of Hoops, to ensure the Louisville Cardinals would return to the hardwood Wednesday evening.

You, and you alone — Or So I Thought — could and would make it happen, if only to assuage the angst of this long time acolyte.

But noooooooooo, you apparently used your powers to manifest the free throw shooting prowess of arch rival instead. My solar plexus throbs in pain from the blow.

You let me down. I have moved on.

In hopes that such faith shall be answered, I have now pledged my troth to Baller, Viking God of Striiingmusingnum, Brother of Balder, Viking God of Tonsorialism, Brother of Thor, Viking God of Hunkorama Popcorn Cinema, son of Odin and Frigg, the true and only (non-golfing) residents of Valhalla. Continue reading Basketball Jonesin’: Diggin’ the Scene with a Viking Lean

Cards’ Mystery Season Continues Wednesday

Why don’t you tell me about the mystery dance/ I want to know about the mystery dance/ Why don’t you show me/ ‘Cause I’ve tried and I’ve tried, and I’m still mystified

Yo, U of L hoops fans, you remember way back when there were actually games, right? Like early in the season, followed by a couple team DNPs, then some more games, then the recent two week layoff with the head coach having to take up residence in his basement?

In advance of a return to the hardwood, a noticeably gaunt Chris Mack (and Sam Williamson) zoomed with the media Tuesday afternoon.

Meaning, Naismithius willing, the University of Louisville Men’s Basketball Team will take to the Dunking Cardinal-adorned Yum! court Wednesday at 6:30 against Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange.

Fingers crossed.

And, thus shall continue — hopefully — this strangest of seasons, both globally, as in for the whole danged sport, and locally, meaning for the still-hard-to-figure-out-and-without-their-pivot, mysterious U of L Cards.

And, it shall remain so. Apparently.

I asked Coach Mack if the league was going to try and wedge in any of the lost games before the regular season ends?

He didn’t know, but seemed to doubt it.

I asked him which Cardinals will not be able to play against ‘Cuse?

He advised that won’t be revealed until game day.

So those responses are about as firm as navigating in your rear wheel drive sedan, down that snow-laden, unsalted, unplowed big hill at the entrance of your Rippling Meadows subdivision.

What we do know, from Sam, is that the Cards were able to get in some conditioning and individual practice at the gym during this hiatus.

Assistant coaches in the balcony. Two players at a time, one at each end of the court, grabbing their own rebounds during shooting drills.

Remember how Williamson was just finding his mojo, when the season hit pause? SW was asked if the forced break would cause him to lose his edge?

“Absolutely not.”

But, questions remain. And, while the Cardinals are 11-4 (6-3), the team’s identity remains a question mark.

The W over Virginia Tech is the only really noteworthy conquest.

It’s more than counterbalanced by the Carlik-less meltdown at Wisconsin.

Even more so by that disappointing visit to Florida, which was nothing like Barb and Star’s frolic in Vista Del Mar.

Team leader Malik Williams, one of only five 2017 recruiting *****s still hooping collegiately, is still out. Interesting, his name didn’t even come up in Tuesday’s presser.

Which means that the Jae’Lyn Withers’s experiment at the 5 will continue, with hopes that the Wiz and AI provide some quality minutes.

And, if mystery is the theme here — it is — the faithful still haven’t seen what they hope Charles Minlend will add to the mix.

Will Josh Nickelberry find his eye from long range?

Will Dre Davis become a bigger part of the offense?

So many questions.

With only six scheduled regular season games left to answer them.

So, having invoked Elvis Costello in the lede, is the Cards’ spot in the Dance a mystery?

Not so much now, assuming the committee follows the metrics.

U of L sits at #31 in the NET, at #30 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, and a consensus second 8th seed at Bracket Matrix. Which is pretty danged solid 8 line status.

Moving up a line or two in the next half dozen and league tourney would be swell.

— c d kaplan

A Hoopaholic’s Lament

What a long strange trip it’s been. This season.

That’s just so far. As for the destination? Who knows if there will be a there there?

Even the usually all knowing, all powerful Greek God of Hoops Naismithius hasn’t a clue. I’ve conjured a trek up Olympus to inquire. He waved me away, grumbling, “Not now, I’m still working on getting to the league tourneys.”

My Louisville Cardinals have been shut down, for what seems like forever.

So too, Baylor. And, Michigan, And more.

A couple situations come to mind to attempt to explain how this feels, the change, the uncertainty.

You’ve got a doctor’s appointment for 1:30. You check in, ask if the doc’s on schedule, and find out he’s not even in the building yet. You sit in the rapidly filling waiting room — work with me here, this is back in the old days — staring at the other folks, reading old People magazines. At a quarter past 2:00, you inquire again, to find out he’s finally arrived at the office. So, you get to see him, a mere 75 minutes after the scheduled time.

Or, it’s like you’re driving to meet some friends for dinner. And somebody on a cross street runs the light, and bashes into the front of your car. You know your vehicle’s probably a total, and you’ve got broken ribs or whiplash or something.

So, you sit there in a daze, and realize, life’s going to be significantly different for the foreseeable future. You just don’t know exactly how.

There’s this void. An emptiness that even the schadenfreude-inducing travails of arch rival don’t satisfy.

This Thursday evening was supposed to be Illinois vs. Michigan. Not happenin’. Eastern Ky vs. Belmont, and Southern Cal at UDub do not fill the empty hole in the stomach.

Good Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise, U of L will take to the hardwood again next Wednesday, taking on Syracuse. At home.

The missed tilt in the Carrier Dome is not currently rescheduled. Nor is a visit to John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. Small blessings.

The Cardinals sit at #38 in the NET rankings. At #33 on Ken Pomeroy’s charts. That’s 8-10 territory. Assuming there’s still territory to inhabit.

Sigh.

 * * * * *

OK, however it works, there are schools we cotton to, and those we root against.

It happens.

I specifically recall when I started disliking Fran McCaffery.

It was in 2009, in the Dayton subregional, when he was still coaching Siena, and the Cards beat them to advance to the second weekend.

The fellow’s not a bad coach. But he just came across ornery, irascible, contentious.

Thus I root agains Iowa, where he now coaches. The Hawkeyes have lost 4 of 6. IU’s conquered them twice. Small, if not totally satisfying pleasures.

Anyway, this morning I was reading a piece by Eamonn Brennan, one of my favorite national hoops scribes.

He was talking about Iowa’s late season swoons. In ’14, they were 19-6, then lost 7 of 8. In ’16, they stood 20-5, then lost 6 of 8. Same in ’19: 20-5, fell in 6 of last 8.

Then he shared, how the Hawkeye faithful have adopted a name for the phenomenon.

“Franuary.”

Couldn’t help but smile.

But not as much as if there was a Cardinal game to look forward to this evening.

— c d kaplan

Hoopaholic Gazette: Cardinals’ Seed Line & Who Else Could Win?

Worry wort that I am, it seems to me that my beloved Louisville Cardinals still have work to do, to absolutely, positively secure a spot in the Dance.

The current consensus has them as an #8 seed, playing somebody like Oregon or Drake or Rutgers, or Xavier in the opening round.

With, you know, one of those top line teams in the 2d, should U of L prevail.

While I’m a You Only Play Whom You Play absolutist, I’d offer, for daydreaming sake, that falling to the #10 or #11 line might provide a more manageable road to the second weekend.

It’s the kind of place the minds of us hoopaholics go, when one’s faves are on a COVID hiatus.

The first round would be tougher. But the #6s and #7s, like Purdue or Florida or Southern Cal, aren’t but a wafer thin better than the projected #8s and #9s.

But a hoped for 2d round foe — say, Iowa which plays no D, or Tennessee which plays no O — would provide a better chance for advancement.

But, Seedy, get back to reality, get back into this day.

Louisville Cardinals, get and stay healthy.

Beat Pitt.

Make the Dance.

 * * * * *

You Know Who, that team out in apple country that’s been waltzing through its schedule, and Them, that gang from Deep in the Heart of, didn’t meet when they were scheduled to in December.

So, most hoopaholics across the land have been frothing at the mouth for a matchup of undefeateds for the national crown. Everybody, that is, except for Quinn Buckner and his pals, and the citizens of the state where that battle would take place.

It’s that ’76 thing.

And, I suppose I too would cherish such a grand moment, and pray that the game itself matched the anticipation.

But, if you haven’t noticed, it’s been a strange season.

Really, Seedy?

Yes, really!

What if something odd happened on Selection Sunday? Say the Selection Committee, suffering from, oh, Zoom Fatigue Syndrome, or Pizza Toxicity, misfired on the S Curve, and Baylor and Gonzaga ended up on the same side of the bracket.

I know, improbable, but work with me here, I’m trying to keep your interest while the Cards are missing two tilts out with the COVID.

I don’t think there’s any school out there that could beat both teams in the tournament. But if the Zags and Bears met in the semis, wore each other out, somebody could maybe catch a hum that last Monday and prevail.

Like, say, ’86, when Duke and Kansas had a knock down drag out on Saturday, and Danny Ferry’s attempt to Night Train Lane Jeff Hall came too late on Monday.

Strange things happen in March.

Jump in the Way Back Machine with me, Sherman and Mr. Peabody for a quick trip to a decade ago.

I understand Cardinal fans don’t wish to be reminded of the ’11 NCAA tourney, for reasons I shall not elucidate. Nor, really does anybody else who cares about the sanctity of Our Blessed Mad Dance.

That was the year UConn, a #9 seed in the Big East tourney, prevailed over somebody or another by 30 in the Garden for the title, then slithered its way to the national championship over Butler, in what is generally considered not only the ugliest title game ever contested, but arguably the least aesthetic game ever played anywhere.

Which leads me to ask, is there a Kemba Walker out there, who with a little help from his friends, could pull it off?

Yes, Ayo Dosunmu. He plays for Illinois.

The Illini were my Dark Horse before the season began.

They remain so today.

Plus they are one of only four squads, which currently meet steadfast criteria to capture the crown. Top Twenty in Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, and Defensive Efficiency.

The other besides Baylor and Gonzaga is Michigan. But I don’t know if they have the one dude who can carry his mates on his back, like my man Ayo.

Plus Brad Underwood has Kofi Cockburn, who is starting to dominate in the paint.

And the most exciting player in college hoops, Andre Curbelo. A rookie, he still plays out of control, but at other times he reminds of, oh I dunno, Kemba Walker.

Curbelo’s a magician with the ball, a Master of Legerdemain.

Now, having found a way to use that great word, I’ll take my leave.

My name is Seedy K, and I’m a Hoopaholic.

 

 

Louisville CardFile: Georgia Tech

At some point early in the telecast of U of L’s most unusual Monday game with Georgia Tech, color announcer Chris Spatolo — who played for Coach K at West Point, then married one of his daughters — declared what a treat it was to be watching college hoops at such a strange hour.

“I’m a big fan of 2:00 o’clock Monday afternoon basketball.”

Well, me too. Especially on a cold gray February day.

For me it felt like a NCAA first round 6 vs 11 Thursday matchup in, oh I don’t know, Provo, Utah.

You don’t know which team is going to show up, which team isn’t?

Well, we do now. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Georgia Tech

Cards’ wACCky Week Ahead

So, yeah, nothing unusual going on in the Atlantic Coast Conference over the weekend past.

After adding a no-fluke 65-51 thrashing over previously surging UVa on Saturday to its earlier victory over Villanova, 13-3 Virginia Tech now has two Ws over legit Final Four/ Champion contenders.

But one of those Ls was to upside-still-to-be-determined Louisville, another to struggling Syracuse.

Meanwhile, 8-5 Georgia Tech was never really threatened, while downing Florida State by 13. That’s the same Seminole team that was the hottest in the land, not situated in Waco or Spokane. Among those Tech Ls are setbacks to Georgia State and Mercer.

You can’t make this stuff up. Continue reading Cards’ wACCky Week Ahead