Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame

joaniecardIn the wake of U of L’s loss, 66-71, to the Fighting Irish in South Bend, it becomes even more fascinating that the ’86 national champions shall be feted next Saturday, when villainous Grayson Allen and his fellow Blue Lucifers come to the Yum!.

There is way more than a peripheral symmetry to the whole situation.

That title was won against the azure Princes of Darkness from Durham. This year’s squad, as we all too well know, won’t be competing for a crown at all.

Louisville’s second title winners started that quest with a 20 point W over Drexel. That Philly school whose mascot is Mario the Magnificent was famously referred to as “one of them academic schools” by star guard Milt Wagner. Who should know, since he was from Camden, just 11 miles across the state line in Jersey.

And, the Cards’ leading scorer this season is Damion Lee, a done&one from, yes, that “academic school,” which apparently doesn’t have a graduate program in Lee’s specific discipline, requiring him to transfer to U of L for his post-grad work.

Plus, as trivia-obsessed hoopaholics should recall, that ’86 tourney featured one of the great upsets in the history of the Dance. In the opening round, Bobby Knight’s IU Hoosiers were upended 83-79 by unheralded Cleveland State, which was coached by a fellow named Kevin Mackey, later busted while exiting a crack house with his mistress.

The coach-designated “leader” of this year’s Cardinal squad from his first day on campus,  Trey Lewis, is another done&one from — all together now — Cleveland State.

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It is impossible to discuss yesterday’s defeat, the second consecutive one in a now unraveling season, without going to the post game first.

There is an obvious crack in the foundation. The stress fissures are showing.

While he has been exceptionally magnanimous and complimentary about this inexperienced band of Cardinals, The Rick has too often been prone in previous seasons to ingratiously criticize players in the press. Thus it would be disingenuous not to call out Trey Lewis for his not so veiled barbs in the aftermath of yesterday’s defeat.

“It’s hard to play with a leash. That’s tough. You’re constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering if you’re going to be taken out.”

He mentioned ” . . . playing under shackles” and “not being able to play my full game.”

Lewis did not own, or even mention, how, with the Cards up 63-62, he dribbled way too long, as his his wont, then, as is his wont, drove without purpose into the paint, where his shot was blocked. Notre Dame got a runout after that botched possession, hit a three and never looked back.

Nor did Lee own, or even mention, how, moments later, he threw an awful pass on a breakaway at midcourt to Donovan Mitchell, which errant toss ND secured.1

So, what I guess I’m saying, is that it might have been nice if Lewis, who had a +/- of negative 5 for the game, who had the worst rating of Pitino’s MVP stats at -13, had displayed leadership, and not vented about his PT in the aftermath.

Lee, to his credit, took the loss like a man.

Even though he, yet again, failed to perform in a big game. After going 3/5 in the first half, 3/4 from long range, he was 1/8 after intermission. Five of those attempts were treys, most ill-advised too early in the shot clock, when, instead of stopping and popping and going for the Sportscenter highlight spectacular, he should have driven to the hoop, trying to force an old school three.

Let me be clear. I am NOT blaming the loss on Lewis and Lee. It was a team defeat.

What I am saying is this. They are both good to slightly better than average players. Mid major players. Nothing more. While their presence was a necessity, and they have contributed to the success of this year’s team, such as it is, they would not have led the Cards to a national crown.

They are chronologically mature. But their games have flaws, which have become more manifest, once the schedule got serious.

Fifth year senior transfers are a logical way to fill in a tangential need for a team. But you should not expect them to come in and lead a school on a deep NCAA run. Especially toiling for a coach like Rick Pitino, who feels kids need several seasons under his tutelage to play the game the way he desires.

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As for yesterday game, it was one of those Charles Dickens deals.

There was the best of halves, the first, which was, literally, all things considered — ACC road game, in South Bend where the greatest of teams have gone down in defeat — U of L’s finest 20 minutes of the year.

Louisville started fast, scoring on four of its first five possessions. They kept the Irish measured. The performance was punctuated by a Matz Stockman block and runout slam at the buzzer for a seven point lead.

The Cards started fast again after the break, with a Quentin Snider trey on a nifty inside/out feed from Chinanu Onuaku, then two Q’ FTs.

U of L’s lead blossomed to 11 at 53-42 . . . then slowly but inexorably it was whittled away by the home team.

Louisville gave up the left baseline time and again. The Irish, especially baby-faced Steve Vasturia, said thank you very much and took advantage, scoring 20 second half points in the paint, double their first half total.

After committing just a single turnover in the opening stanza, against 8 assists, the Cards coughed it up 6 times after the break, garnering only three assists.

From the best of halves to the least.

 * * * * *

Before you start calling me Seedy Sourpuss, allow me to mention the positives.

While they were far from perfect, Mitchell, Q, Ray Spalding and, yes, Matz Stockman all showed flashes of a bright future.

Q’s hand is most always going to be steady at the helm. Mitchell, though he still makes mistakes and needs to improve his ball handling, proved again he’s not afraid of the big stage. He goes for it. Spalding played meaner than he has before, leading U of L in rebounding. Stockman in easily the steadiest and most confident outing of his career tallied six and grabbed three rebounds in 8 minutes of action.

Louisville was 12/14 at the line, blocked 8 shots and had 7 steals.

 * * * * *

The negatives:

Blowing that 11 point advantage certainly tops the list. Until Lee netted a 2d chance trey with seconds to play and the game out of reach, the Cards had gone 6:36 without scoring.

The significantly taller Cardinals were outboarded by 11, 29-40.

Nanu was yet again in foul trouble.

Jaylen Johnson yet again missed several point blank shots, going up unfathomably soft.

Deng Adel’s lack of PT.

Trey Lewis’s postgame petulance.

— Seedy K

18 thoughts on “Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame

  1. enjoyed your pointing out the 30 year cycle of “players” in the college basketball scene.
    Great point of how the done & one’s such be augmenting pieces to a team, rather than the “Moses shepheding the flock to the promised land.” As a recognized JJ doubter, he again managed to play without being drawiing a foul. If one was attacking the glass in earnest, I’d expect maybe drawing 1 or two, or if hustling to rotate on “D” being whistled for alleged blocking. You’ve already pointed out his missed shots, but of the one’s attempted, how many should have been attempted? He does appear to hustle at times, but his “contribution” at the offensive end is potentially only in the low post as e has not shown himself to be an able passer from wing or high post.
    How many times did we see the ball actually move from wing to wing ? Too much weave at the top to nowhere and then a forced dribble into the paint.

  2. Since your Cardinal season is in the tank Seedy, you are more than welcome to hop on the Greg Gard Bucky Badger Bandwagon as it steamrolls toward an 18th straight trip to the Big Dance for the team in red and white. Knocking off Number Two Maryland last night confirmed that the New Era has begun.

  3. I agree that it is very difficult-as a point guard-to play for Rick….a 5th year guy coming from another program has fairly good ideas of what is what-BUT it’s still fairly difficult unless your one hell and athlete.. Speed is what we need there and Trey has problems there. He’s tough and he hustles but it’s night and day from what we’ve had at that position and Q-if he ever gets it going (which I think he is getting it) is sort of similar to Trey in quickness and ability….so I can see why we need to share there because we’ve got to get more quickness out there…..Johnson is getting there-but I see him to be the key-if he plays better we’ll be really good…right now he;s another year away…..we really need a scorer in that position-take pressure off Onuaku and makes everything work better…Ray is getting it also–needs weight…..this team has potential….too bad the 5th year guys won’t be here next year

  4. Seedy, sometimes the compassionate thing to do is to put a sick dog down. It’s time to let go of Pitino and find ourselves a new dog.

  5. I get up this morning and pulled out the CJ sports section,anxious to read about two things: one, what did Cal have say about getting tossed, and two. what did Rick have to say about the loss in South Bend. So I open the sports section and there, covering 80% of the front page is a story about…The Derby? You gotta be f****g kidding me. The middle of February, the stretch run for the conference championships, both Cats and Cards with afternoon games well ahead of the CJ deadline, and the story is the Derby??? Then, there is nary a word to be read from Cal except on his Twitter account. Did he leave by back door? Then, in Jeff Greer’s story -I’m guessing that he was at the game – there are NO quotes from Pitino. Did he resign? There are now several articles on line about the game but still no comments from Rick. I found out about the Trey Lewis comments from the proprietor of this blog YESTERDAY but this morning, Greer doesn’t even mention it. I swear to John Wooden I struggle to find reasons to continue subscribing to this rag. The Derby? The Derby? What sports fan in Kentucky -Cats or Card – gives a shit about the Derby in February?

  6. Is it too early for the cheer: “Lamar Jackson, he’s our man. If he can’t do, two or three other QBs probably can!”

  7. Boys–get on the girls’ bandwagon. Tonight they beat a very good team, South Florida, Hines Allen got 29 [points on 14 shots and the teamwork was impeccable. Only 11 or 12 turnovers and a pleasure to watch their teamwork.

  8. Seedy and Blindluck, who would this “new dog” be? Let got of a hall of fame coach, two years removed from a championship, with a pretty good players and a pretty good recruiting class coming in for an up and commer or just another “old dog”? No thanks.

  9. Mr. Fusion, I have no idea whom Tom Jurich might tap as our next coach, but I trust it will be the best choice legitimately available. Hofstra’s Jay Wright was next on the list when he chose Pitino.

    The reality is Pitino’s career is winding down. He may stay for the duration of his contract, but I doubt it. I’m just tired of the drama, the transfers, the injuries, the scandals, year after year. He got us a championship. It just seems time to open up the windows, let some fresh air in and let the chips fall where they may.

    Louisville’s been very, very blessed. How many schools have had two national champion, Hall of Fame coaches in succession??? The chances of Louisville hitting the jackpot thrice in a row is slim. We’ll be fine. I loved the Cards when they were just part of the pack, not in the upper echelon, and I’ll still love them if that should happen again.

    1. Fresh air would be good in a few years after all this settles down and we are back on track. Not now though, good years are just ahead in my opinion.

  10. The coaches I admire include Tony Bennett of UVA, Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall (Wichita St.), former Butler coach Brad Stevens. They develop good players, their teams compete at the highest level, no drama.

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