Louisville Card File: New Year’s Report/ Long Beach State

joaniecardFor better or worse, it is my inclination when opinionating to give historical perspective of various aspects and editions of the Louisville Cardinals, and apply them to current subject matter.

Sometimes the analogies are apt, germane to the topic at hand. Sometimes, I’m just trying to reiterate that I’ve been a U of L fan for six decades, and I’m showing off that my mind remains cluttered with minutiae from past seasons.

Whatever. I’m stepping into the Not So Way Back Machine again, as the topic du jour is the ’14-’15 University of Louisville Cardinals’ moribund offense.

Let’s talk Taquan Dean for a sec.

I stand by my belief that the sharpshooting guard hit more important shots at critical junctures than any Cardinal ever. More than Grif. More than DeJuan Wheat. More than the Cards’ ace prime time FT shooters, Milt Wagner and Jerry King. More than any of ’em.

During the ’04-’05 Final Four season, I sat next to NY Knicks’ scout Dick McGuire, during a Cardinal home game. I kept extolling the virtues of Dean, a junior, who averaged 14.4 that campaign, his average a smidge behind his runnin’ podner Francisco Garcia and Larry O’Bannon. “Dean’s the one to watch,” I’d extol. McGuire would nod gratuitously, but he was obviously seeing flaws in Dean’s game that I, not nearly as astute an observer as he was, or as I, delusional, would consider myself, didn’t notice.

Those holes in Dean’s game became manifest his senior year, though he led that underwhelming NIT team in scoring at 17+ ppg. Taquan was an adequate ball handler at best. He couldn’t take it to the hole, couldn’t tally off the dribble. He wasn’t much of a facilitator. When forced to take on those roles his final year, he was less stellar than in previous years.

During those first three seasons though, he was magnificent, his flaws kept under wraps. Because . . . he . . . got . . . the . . . rock . . . in . . . spots . . . where . . . he . . . could . . . just . . . catch . . . and . . . shoot. In spots off a curl, or double curl, or pick, or skip pass, where and when he’d be open. Pitino’s offense that season, and in many others, set up his shooters for success.

So, as I’ve asked in previous posts, I’m still wondering: What happened to that offense? Where is it now that we really need it?

I watch other teams and games, like the snippets I saw of UVa/ Davidson yesterday, and wonder why U of L doesn’t move and cut and screen like those clubs, why U of L seems so dreadfully stagnant on the offensive end? Too much dribbling. No crisp passing. Guys without the ball just standing in a spot.

Louisville, incredible really at the defensive end, has successfully masked those offensive woes so far. So much that the Cards remain highly regarded, a “legit” Final Four contender, despite having only the 66th most efficient O in the land. That’s right, 65 teams are better on offense than the Top 10 Cardinals.

After yesterday’s game, Rick Pitino said, “For 30 minutes, that is the best basketball we have played all year.”

Hmmm. U of L did can 21/41 from the field (51%), 6/15 from beyond the arc. They had 12 assists on those 21 made FGs.1

I’m trying to move beyond simply naysaying, but the offense still seemed to flounder about. Other than Terry Rozier going all Dwayne Wade, at will when he wanted against the “Beach.”

It wasn’t just that Chris Jones flopped his way to a seat on the bench for most of the action either. There was a little more flow. But, if the Cards want to be successful in the ACC and later in the Dance, there shall need be more movement, better picks, crisper passing and more shooters . . . getting . . . the . . . rock . . . at . . . their . . . sweet . . . spot.

* * * * *

After busting his butt for half the minutes in the post against Kentucky’s massive front line, Chinanu Onuaku didn’t take off his warmups against Long Beach State.

Guess Chris Jones isn’t the only guy in the dog house.

* * * * *

Montrezl Harrell is the paradigm of a power forward.

His engine revs at the red line.

He apparently works daily to improve his game.

I’m really, really, really glad he plays for the Louisville Cardinals.2

Yet I believe this Wooden Award POY talk is farfetched. Like, oh, say, Taquan Dean, there are some things he does as good as any player, but his game has flaws.

He is not but an average to less than average jump shooter. He should never fire a three. And he tends to make lazy passes, especially at the beginning of an offensive set, a flaw which will be exposed against ACC competition, if not corrected.

Against Long Beach State, Silent L padded his numbers by scoring the Cards last six points. Mop up points, A jumper, which wasn’t ill advised because he had the ball in his hands outside when the shot clock was about to expire. A drive and jam, followed by a driving layup.

But, in the possessions just proceeding those, he fired an ill advised jump shot and lazily turned the ball over.3

He turned the ball over three other times. Which matched his rebound total. 3 boards. 4 giveaways.

And, one guy’s opinion, he still handles the ball way too much at the top of the key. But that’s the way this year’s offense is playing out, at least so far.

These flaws need to be corrected, if the Cards are to meet expectations.

* * * * *

I know it’s puffery, a boast, but I must quote myself here.

These are words I wrote on October 20, after the first Red/ White scrimmage:

Remember this name: Anas Mahmoud.

For me, he was far and away the most impressive of the new Cardinals.

Yes he’s underweight for a seven footer. Spindly would be an apt description.

But he runs the court. He’s most coordinated. More important, his game is instinctual. He knows where he needs to be, where the ball needs to go, and he gets it there without it lingering in his paws. He’s got serious hops. Great timing around the hoop. And plays with an eery presence. He’s impassive, like those McCray brothers.

Though I might have to chew these words at a later date, I’ll take a stand.

He reminds me of young Pervis Ellison.

Which is to say, Mahmoud’s upside is H.U.G.E.

 Yesterday, Mahmoud tallied the Cards’ first four points, made any number of great passes, and generally fueled the ardor of Cardinal fans. His court presence and contributions aren’t reflected in his paltry stats.

Okay, I can’t help myself. Let’s rock.

* * * * *

Wayne Blackshear continues to be a consistent positive force on the court for the Cards, whether his shot is falling or not, whether he meets fans’ expectations or not.

Yesterday he scored 16 on 7/11 shooting, and grabbed 7 caroms.

In a game, before which, he was throwing up in the locker room, according to Pitino.

Quentin Snider was steady for 26 minutes. As usual.

* * * * *

Opening Sunday, what U of L fans have been awaiting for a long time, the ACC.

Playing league games in empty arenas against such as East Carolina and Houston is no more.

Getting in touch with my inner bracketologist, I predict #4 seed. Okay, maybe a #3, if some new, fresh, dynamic O shows up.

— Seedy K


8 thoughts on “Louisville Card File: New Year’s Report/ Long Beach State

  1. Trez is a great athlete with a great motor when it comes to running the floor, but as you point out, a limited basketball player. He seems either unaware, or nonchalant or overly confident in his continued habit of trying to make one handed catches, tossing or fipping passes begging to be intercepted and evidently having only a back to the basket move going to his Left shoulder. I cannot recall him going to his R shoulder with his left hand or an “up-and-under” when his defender would clearly bite on his up-move. Bingo on ball handling.
    Also keep patting your back on identifying Anas. His awareness of where to be on defense to thwart, block or alter shots without “smacking down on the shooter” is extremely mature. Wayne has realized that if he hangs out near Anas around the boards he can snare caroms that Anas has deflected but not yet hand-strong enough to grab. (sort of like those little fish that hang around the big guys.) I wonder if Anas’s playing time was limited in this game because Rick was comfortable and aware of what the kid could do and knew that Mathiang needed more work and get more experience in hope of being able to contribute rather than being a pause in the offense,
    I would guess that if coach P thought he had guys who could actually snap off accurate chest passes or bounce passes we’d see the “O” of old.
    Aaron who unfortunately does look lost on “D” has actually thrown crisp passes. He may be skinny and not contribute much at the defensive side of the floor, but Cheryl’s brother Reggie did pretty well for his teams.

  2. A few thoughts:
    I‘ve never gotten the constant criticism of Wayne Blackshear by others: he’s a strong student, a good man, averages nearly 14 points a game, AND he played a critical role on a national championship team. There will always be plenty of love for Wayne at our house.

    The word that comes to mind for Mahmoud’s game: “elegant”.

    I get it: the Cards cannot make a deep run without Chris Jones. I’m thinking, however, that his role has to be from off the bench. He’ll still get, say, twenty minutes a game. Louisville’s offensive efficiency will turn itself around the more we see of the solid and more creative Quentin Snider.

    When was the last time Chris Jones took ZERO shots in a basketball game? I’d bet its never happened before last night.

    The Cards, once again, shot well from the free throw line. A lovely trend over the past several games.

  3. Thanks, Blind Luck. How did I ever forget to mention legit FT % for 4th game in a row? Must be double header hangover.

  4. Excluding his last three baskets this was the worst game I have seen from Trez. And it was essentially a lack of effort. His three rebounds for the game is inexcusable. Add to that there were at least three occasions when he stood flat footed under the defensive basket allowing a LBST player to score off an offensive board. He neither contested the rebound nor the shot.

    He lost five passes because he tried to make one handed catches without concentrating on the catch. Incredibly careless. We were lucky we came up with two of the loose balls. And in my mind he had five TOs because one of these had to have been charged to the passer even though it really was Trez’s fault.

    And as for the three rebounds, I believe he had all of them in the first half. NOT ONE 2nd HALF REBOUND. Beyond amazing.

    His mind was not in the game. Maybe still thinking of UK.

  5. I am now convinced that Calipari’s best “coaching” decision of the 2014-15 season was to take his squad to play against Int’l competition in the summer. Because here it is New Year’s Eve and them Cats have their roles down to a science even after losing one of their starters. Cal even knows that it’s okay to play the better (Freshmen) players off the bench in order to maintain harmony. Meanwhile, the Cards need to reform their offense and The Rick (as you call him) is still experimenting with line ups. Sigh.

    Leave it to Cal to exploit, if not explode, a loophole.

    I second the emotion to make Jones come in off the bench. He drove me crazy during that UK game. He’s had a year and a half to get it — and he hasn’t.

    Even if Trez is limited as you say, he is too good a talent to squander with an offense that doesn’t use him to his max potential. Same with Terry and Wayne.

    Thoughts on beginning ACC play: please, please don’t let Cardinal fans embrace the moronic jumping up and down and constant jabbering of the Cam’ron cray-zees and their imitators. I have to watch those games with the sound off.

  6. Cardizen, Cal is far from the first coach to take advantage of the allowance for a summer tour. I think a school can do it once every four years. U of L has done it twice in the last decade.

  7. Chris Jones is a Faustian deal. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Overall, I do not like the person. He doesn’t seem to fit the system, the program, the culture. His D will be needed against Duke, UNC and UVA. But hoping The Rick uses Snider more and more. I agree with Ken, too, in that Shaqquan has some elements that appeal. His passing is notable.

    Seedy, I think a 4 seed is about right. Maybe a 5, if the Cards take it on the chin in the ACC beyond the expected losses. And Mr. Cardizen, I think the Yum center could use some more enthusiasm in the stands. I’ve been to Cameron, it’s electric, and a true sixth man. Trumps the booze soaked corporate crowd in Louisville who are usually late to their seats to start the second stanza, because they’re in the bourbon bunkers under the lower level.

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