Louisville Card File: North Carolina State

joaniecardOn the fourteenth of February in 1929, a half dozen business associates of George Clarence “Bugs” Moran, along with an innocent mechanic who, much to his misfortune, happened to be repairing the wrong vehicle in the wrong garage at the wrong time that St. Valentine’s Day in the Windy City, never made it home with roses and heart shaped boxes of chocolates for their sweeties.

Nor did Joe and Jerry, a couple of musicians, played in Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot” by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. They happened to be carrying their instruments through that garage at that inopportune moment, witnessing the territory clearing carnage known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. During which the minions of one Alphonse Gabriel Capone, aided by several former associates of a brotherhood known as Egan’s Rats, chose to circumvent the chances for success of their rival through the use of machine guns, rather than threeballs.

Joe and Jerry, along with their instruments, which may or may not have been crafted in Paris, France and adorned with Louisville Cardinal logos, and donated by Mark and Cindy Lynn, were more fortunate. They skedaddled to Miami Beach in the cloak of night as transvestist members of an all-girl band, which featured one Sugar Cane Kowalczyk (Marilyn Monroe).

While what happened to the Louisville Cardinals yesterday at the Yum!, a steady and stealth-bereft beatdown at the hands of Anthony “Cat” Barber and those of his fellow North Carolina State Wolfpack, wasn’t a massacre, it was also not even a reasonable facsimile to a Kiss Cam-worthy bed of roses.

The victorious visitors slipped out of town, ahead of the first bread and milk shelf clearing storm of the season, while the Cardinal’s swagger and confidence was spotted, bloodied and crumpled by the curb under the gaze of the Washington Street troll.

* * * * *

The sky is not falling.1 But the reality of this 2014-15 edition is now more in focus than ever.

The uptick in hope fostered by the midweek W over Pitt, whose own fortunes took a turn for the better when the Panthers eviscerated the Tar Heels, has now fully ebbed.

The Rick is frustrated. Which we know by observing how he throws individual players under the bus in his press conferences, and makes sure members of both the Fourth and Fifth Estate understand that, had the Cardinals done exactly what he’d told them to do, we’d be smiling this morning, savoring one more chocolate covered caramel almond with our valentine.2

And the fans — that would be you and me — are shaking our heads, realizing that a Final Four run is essentially but a pipe dream. Unless Chris Jones were to undergo an immediate game-transforming character transplant and morphed into a combination of Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier. Which, at this juncture, appears far from likely.

So, to invoke one of my least favorite aphorisms currently favored in the vernacular, “It is what it is.”

The Cardinals have proven yet again to be a better than average, perhaps much better than average, college basketball team. But one, whose flaws, like an especially nasty bacterial infection, are going to need several courses of antibiotics to be thwarted. By which time, ladies shall be wearing hats the size of beach umbrellas, while escorted to the Downs by fellows in bowlers, lime green blazers and mauve bow ties.

Which is to say, by that time, “One Shining Moment” will be a faint memory, trumped by the trumpeted call to the post.

Of course, Louisville can steady up and make a post season run.

But, uh, well . . . I dunno.

* * * * *

At the game’s second media timeout, the one during which local icon Russ Smith advised the adoring assembled he was late because he’d been “caught in traffic,” U of L led 19-14, and had connected on 8 of its first 13 FG attempts.

Wayne Blackshear, back from his hip pointer injury and playing with extra padding, not to mention serious panache, already had 11 points on 4/5 shooting. Two long balls. An old fashion +1. Plus an innervating drive and slam.

Blackshear only had to opportunity for five more field goal attempts the rest of the afternoon. Being en fuego, he hit three of them, to end up 7/10, with 19 points.

I’m going to name names here.

The fault for that can be laid at the feet of 1) Rick Pitino, who had his players continually run sets to free up Chris Jones and Terry Rozier on the strong side, with picks, double picks, reverse picks, while Blackshear was positioned, usually open, on the weak side, where he looked like the only kid in the fourth grade class who didn’t get a Valentine from his peers; and 2) the aforementioned Jones and Rozier, who apparently aren’t aware of the adage, “Get the ball to the guy with the hot hand.”

The Cards attempted 61 shots. Twenty seven of those, 44%, were taken by, yes, CJ and TR.

After that 8/13 start, Louisville hit only 12 of its last 48 attempts. Uh, 25%. During one first half interlude, the Cards missed 13 field goals in a row.

Obviously, Pitino, Jones and Rozier weren’t the only culprits. But it is their responsibility to get the offense in motion. Yesterday, that triumvirate failed. Miserably.

* * * * *

Six minutes and 48 seconds into the game, Mark Gottfried was forced to call a timeout to save a possession. His ballhandler was trapped by two Cardinals, the sideline and the midcourt stripe.

After the break, State converted, on a Ralston Turner jumper.

Louisville’s defense rarely bothered the Wolfpack the rest of the day. The Cards forced but 3 turnovers before the intermission, and only 5 afterward. State easily beat the Cards down court for easy hoops, doubling up the home team on points in the paint. State 32, U of L 16.

State also made Louisville’s weakside D look like a sham. Which wasn’t difficult, because it was only on the rarest of occasions that the Cardinals displayed any semblance of a weakside defense.

The Wolfpack guards drove the lane as if holes were being opened by the Patriots offensive line. And there was always a State big ready to take the dish and, unencumbered by any nettlesome defense, lay the ball in the hoop.

State dominated the boards, 47-37.

* * * * *

Ken Pomeroy’s computers say the Cards are still the 12th best team in the land. But the slippage is increasing by the week.

This was the proverbial Bad Loss.

Not so much that it was an L at home to a squad that, even after its win yesterday, stands 15-11 with a losing ACC record.

More so, because Louisville’s weaknesses are becoming ever more apparent. And don’t seem to be abating.

At the end of that movie mentioned above, when Jerry (Jack Lemmon) revealed to his admirer, Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), that he was a man, the latter, an accepting sort, declared, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

Cards fans don’t expect perfect. They would like improvement.

* * * * *

Next: A trip to Syracuse, where it’s balmier than here, to play an Orange team, coming off a loss to Duke, and thirsting for Ws, with nowhere to go after the regular season.

If the Cards don’t get with it, they’re going to receive a very late, and unwanted, Christmas gift.

— Seedy K

15 thoughts on “Louisville Card File: North Carolina State

  1. What team that plays in the “Association” would use a first round pick for a Ben Wallace, let alone a Ben Wallace who get 2 offensive boards in 38-39 minutes against a not more than decent front line, or a pick on someone who emulates D Wade but neither defends, nor involves teammates like their idol? Harrell has in fact tried to pass some to teammates, showing he doesn’t know how to actually throw a catchable pass, and Rozier doesn’t begin to attempt to give the rock to a mate who might have an opportunity to run the offense.
    PLAYING THE OTHER ROZIER CARD (to be used only in emergency)
    Then there is the growing concern on my part that CJ is the shorter version of Clifford Rozier who had immense talent but a personality/ego that amounted to being a malignant player diminishing the camaradie on a team with more talent than our current Cards ( Minor, Morton Wheat, Osborne, Rogers and Sims).
    Pitino has evidently tried all he can to make this emotionally volatile and extremely competitive kid, and his two “sure-fire NBA prospects” understand that this team is not their showcase, but it hasn’t worked.

    1. The majority of the problem with Harrell’s passes are that they are intended for either Nanu or Mangok, neither one of whom can catch a cold much less a pass. The former has hands of stone (for a boxer that’s a good thing, for a basketball player not so) and the latter has a terminal case of fumbleitis.

  2. Again, I repeat, never ever underestimate the ability of a bad shooting team to lose basketball games. They run no offensive sets worth talking about. The guards seem to know only one thing, throw the ball at the basket and see what happens. RP needs to stop complaining about how his players are not listening and sit their sorry asses down until they do listen. And with two of the weakest big men playing center the Egyptian should be seeing a lot more playing time. At least the kid can block shots. I am still of the opinion that this a ten loss team.

  3. A very bad loss. I could be wrong (and hope that I am), but I think you’ll be able to look back at this game as (finally) the beginning of the end of a pretty sweet three-year run for the Cards. The loss to NC State at home makes a top-four seed in the ACC tourney a little less likely. No double-bye, and a fresher and better team waiting for you, if you can make it to a semi-final game. Brutal. Also: a two- or three-seed in the NCAA tournament then becomes very unlikely. This rendition of the Cards (led by the mercenary Chris Jones) is quickly devolving into my least favorite team in memory.
    Blackshear, though, had a wonderful first-half. I was happy for him, wish the Cards had gone to him more often after intermission.
    One last thing: those basketball shoes yesterday that were created to honor Black History Month. Please. Call me a grumpy cynic when it comes to Nike.

  4. I kept watching Blackshear in the second half. Jones and Rozier virtually ignored him. Is it my imagination or does Louisville hardly ever run sets to get the ball to the “hot hand”? It’s as if Terry and Chris just run their own two man game with an eye on Montrezl, just in case. As discussed pre-game with the proprietor of this blog, our biggest flaw is we have virtually nothing at the 5 and that affects EVERYTHING…ball distribution, zone busting, shot blocking, defense in the paint, assists. Without a Georgui/David Padgett, they are going nowhere. (And oh how I miss SVT) Without shot blocking, offensive rebounding and some points in the paint, this bus is parked. And we could use a true point guard. I don’t mind a back court guy who dribbles around as long as he’s looking for someone who’s open instead of dribbling around, looking for a crease to dive through so he can flip the ball toward the backboard and hope for a foul. This is just not the year, folks. The Pharaoh needs an off season with the weights as does Double Q, Mangot and Onu need to workout with Georgui and the whole team needs to know what the 2013 crew knew: that the sum of the parts is far better than the individual cogs.

  5. This is what happens when 2 out of our 4 legit scoring threats fail to reach their scoring averages. We have NO ONE on the bench (or at the 5 spot) capable of taking up the slack. Whether this is the beginning of the end for this team, I don’t know. But aside from that, I keep thinking, what in the hell are we going to do next season when we have to replace 95% of our scoring? Can anybody say “bridge year”?

    1. If this is a bridge year it is to A Bridge to Far or the Bridge over the River Kwai as both bridges were destroyed in the end.

      We have no centers (I agree Anas should get much more playing time but probably by default). There are three players on this team who have played over 100 minutes and whose turnovers plus fouls exceed their point totals. Who would be surprised to know that all three of them play the 5 spot? I suspect no one.

      And next year looks bleak. We figure to lose four players who account for 80% or more of our scoring, rebounds, and assists. We have no bench to speak of and that group figures to be the majority of the starters for next year. Yes, we have an incoming class that is rated quite high but think about it. How many freshmen can you name who have been major contributors under Pitino? I may have to watch next year with a blindfold.

      And Seedy, Jerry/Jack told his admirer that he was a man, not a girl. Otherwise good analysis.

  6. Of course, it was “man.” Thanks. Now corrected. My proofreading prowess has diminished considerably through the decades. Not that it was 5 star quality to begin with.

  7. On to another matter. Pitino has accurately pointed out the decrease in deflections as well as steals and attributes it to missed shots at the other end of the floor causing an effect on defense. While it seems to be true, I also wonder how much has to do with the fact that since this team has such a poor collective basketball IQ, and little ability to either want to pass or realize where opportunities for assists or passes that might lead to passes for assists (triangles as in soccer, Denny’s (Wooden’s) high post or Phil’s), the current players on defense have no basis for anticipating where the opponents passing lanes might be. Last year and the year before, the kids seemed to sense where the next pass might be going and not from rote memory or from “scouting reports”. When the art of passing is not mastered the reflexive understanding of what the opposition might try next may be absent.

  8. Saturday’s “effort” was so poor that I convinced myself to “…fahged aboud ‘idt” and not respond to CDK’s obit. But with the snow day cancelling the world today and seeing that some of the readership continues to fret about the Valentines Day Massacre, I feel compelled to respond.

    First, NCS has lots of talent. Just ask Duke. They are horribly coached, as always, and I do believe that the Rick was sorely infused with heart-felt angst that such a group could prevail at the YUM! against our beloved misfits. I dare say that Billy Wilder might well be a better coach than Mark G, but caused at least in part by his long ago passing we will never know for sure. Some Like It Hot, for sure, but it ain’t Mr. G’s squad. At the first sign of enemy fire, the Pack waves the white flag and surrenders unconditionally. If you don’t believe me, rewind last years first round game in Orlando wherein a talented State threw up all over itself and lost to a quaint but challenged StL squad after having an insurmountable lead late.

    But, just as Al and Bugs set up the boys in Chicago, this was the proverbial trap game that we have all been fearing, and waiting to see all year long. Whether it was the Valentine’s Day blues, too much kiss cam, or the return of Russ and Gorg’s, the team and fans were flatter than a run over box of Russell Stover Chocolates. My daughter in O’town texted me in the first half and asked, not what’s wrong with the team, but what’s wrong with the crowd. There was no juice anywhere. Thus the visitors never had to face a firing squad until we had given them so much cushion that not even Mark’s Farts could lose the game.

    To play our style of ball, emotion is the extra ingredient and neither the team or fans had any of it until we were down by 8 mid way through the 2nd half and were staring defeat straight in the face. Now, is this caused by our most recent home games against NC and Pitt wherein the team played on Miss Monroes sedatives for 3/4ths of both games and then turned it on down the stretch to win going away in both games? Probably. But that strategy can and does come up short, in the Derby as well in collegiate basketball games.

    What this game proved is that the most important ingredient on this team is enthusiasm. Without it, we are average or a little above. With it, we are as good as anyone, even the Cayuts who have been fortunate to win 3 or 4 games against teams not nearly as talented–or better coached, (Johnny Jones, anyone? Please!)– than NCSU. Plus, it was the first game all year that Turry was not miles better than any Guard on the other team. “Cat” Barber was quicker than him; Lacey was bigger and stronger. Add in his/the teams/the fans lack of juice and a large dash of foul trouble and the recipe for our star being shot from the sky with cupid’s arrow was only a Trez flat half away.

    As for Trez, #0 on State matched him in being a stud, if not in basketball skills. Silent L could not just overwhelm him or the other athletic bigs on State and just will himself to the hoop for dunk after dunk. Add this to Ana’s 300 lbs and freakishly long arms and maybe that explains (as if it needs explaining) why Mango was 0-4 from 3 inches.

    The real question is, will the team learn from this? Or, even more important, do they care to learn from it?

    We have 2 bonafide, college experienced, NBA players on this team. We have a talented but enigmatic point guard; we have a complimentary (yes, I said it!), experienced g/f who played a fine game Saturday coupled with a bench and 5 spot that is still trying to find dry land. We have way more ingredients than last years champ and a better chef.

    So, lets not give up.

    Our record is about the same as it was in 2013 after 25 games against better competition and we did okay that year, don’t you think? I am not saying that this team is going to win it all, or even go to the F4, but to say its over, go buy the Derby hats?

    I prefer to say, “I know a guy. He’s calling the shots for us and is connected. Roots in the Old Country. He’s been there and done it before.”

    Let’s get a good seed and decent draw and take it from there, Bugsy.

  9. Being an inveterate city boy, who may know his way through the concrete canyons, I am not wise in the ways of the woods. Though I’m not a trapper, it would seem obvious to me, that, should a trap be sited, one should endeavor to make all efforts to avoid it.

    Agree on the lack of enthusiasm in the arena. Though I’m inclined to blame all such matters on the Yum!, I can’t do so here. Such has been the success of recent seasons, that fans only seem to get up for the supposed “big ones.” Even The Professor, as did I, knew it was a trap game. Unfortunately neither the team nor most of the V Day revelers in attendance did.

    What I love, jgjoyner, is your enthusiasm and optimism. I agree the season isn’t lost. Far from it. But, given this team’s lack of personality and leadership, success, i.e. meeting maximum potential, is far from a sure thing.

  10. What? You mean you didn’t love my Billy Wilder and Norma Jean references, combined with Mafia inferences?

    I will try harder…

  11. JGJ, is this what’s it come to? You need affirmation for every single thought? Know that I hang every word and morsel of your wisdom. As I do with all my loyal readers.

  12. Naw….it was meant as a back-handed compliment toward your original missive. Not many dudes can string UofL hoops, MMonroe/ BWilder, JLemmon/Tony Curtis, Al Capone/ Bugsy Moran references in a cogent and entertaining tale rehashing a piss poor basketball performance.


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