Rick Pitino was not mincing words when he said postgame: “We have a lot of weaknesses we need to work on.”
They were masked in the opening half against the Knights. The visitors from Norris Place seemed blinded by the lights and the big stage.
Early on, Louisville used its superior speed, height and talent to overwhelm Scotty Davenport’s team. The Knights were spooked into 3/16 shooting (18.8%), and 16 turnovers before halftime.
The Cards ran and shot before halftime. Especially hitting half their treys. 7/14.
After the break, U of L showed how young they are, how much this edition of the Cards is a work in progress with a new O and new D to learn and execute, and what happens when they lose focus.
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The Cards only recorded 11 assists, but 3 after the break.
Remember how little scoring the Cards got from the post the year before last? Well, that problem is back. In spades. Jaylen Johnson is not a consistent finisher, though he does hit the boards. Anas Mahmoud holds the ball too low on his post up moves, and that’s going to be a problem, given the caliber of teams U of L faces. Mangok Mathiang is a steady, psychologically mature presence, but he’s never going to be a major scoring threat.
This U of L squad lacks bulk. The Rick is correct that rebounding help, especially defensive, is going to have to come the 1s, 2s and 3s.
Deng Adel is likely to be the Cards leading scorer. But he still needs major work on his ball handling. He gets stripped too often.
While the Cards have several players with exemplary form at the FT line, the team’s accuracy remains a question mark. Last night, they were only 10/15 at the line.
Both the new offensive and defensive schemes remain in their formative stages.
To run this motion offense, Louisville needs to become not a good but a great passing contingent. School is out. The team has so much O talent, so many scoring threats, that too often still the offense stops a pass or two short. Guys are being left wide open on the weak side. The proper instincts haven’t yet been developed.
The same inexperience is on display when the Cards are playing their new switching man to man. Bellarmine like Kentucky Wesleyan had guys wide open when they swung the ball.
It’s early. But, I, for one, will not be surprised if Louisville includes more zone in the plan as the season progresses.
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This team is fast. This team is quick. This team is deep.
And, to go cliché, “has lots up upside.”
Opponents, even the really top level ones, are likely to be worn down by U of L’s speed and relentless pressure.
This team can score.
Quentin Snider’s long range bombing might be the most startling development. Ryan McMahon also appears the consistent sniper. They are not alone.
Donovan Mitchell can also fire from outside, as well as take it to the hoop. VJ King began to show that same drive to the glass panache last evening. Adel can score outside and in. So too Tony Hicks. Who, if he starts to think assist first as Pitino pointed out after the game, will be really effective off the bench.
Ray Spalding is among the best defensive disrupters to don the red and black. He’s got great hands. If he ever comes close to his potential, he’ll be one of the great Cardinals ever.
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The ’16-’17 Cardinals have the potential — there is that word again — to become a legit national contender.
They are far from there now.
Watching this unit develop is going to be fascinating.
It all starts this Friday night against the Evansville Purple Aces at the Yum!.
Let’s get this party started.
— Seedy K