Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng the Key to What Could Be a Historic Defense

Posted by Will Tucker on January 19th, 2013

The narrative of today’s defensive match up between #1 Louisville and #6 Syracuse has already been explored extensively. A collision of defensive juggernauts: the nation’s first and third most efficient defenses, respectively. The two lead the Big East and are top-five nationally, again, in creating steals. The Cards check in at #2 in the country in turnovers generated; the Orange: #8. Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams leads the conference with a staggering 3.18 steals per game and combines with Brandon Triche to produce 4.8 SPG; Peyton Siva and Russ Smith are top-five, producing a cumulative 4.6 pilfers.

Gorgui Dieng is the final piece of Louisville's defensive puzzle

Dieng elevates Louisville’s defense from very good to great

On paper it’s a push, and a juicy storyline to hype. In reality, Syracuse fields an excellent defense, but Louisville’s has the potential to be historic, and it’s just now hitting its stride.

Team defense: a body of work

Heading into today’s game, Ken Pomeroy reports an adjusted defensive efficiency rating of 79.5 for the Cards. To put that in perspective, Anthony Davis’ imposing defense at UK finished their title run with an 88.2 rating––in other words, those dominant Cats gave up almost 9 points more per 100 possessions than this Louisville team has thus far. Matt Norlander points out, “No team has finished a season by cracking the 80 barrier,” and the 82.2 Kansas posted in 2007 remains the stingiest finish in the past decade (h/t @loverofthegame_). Certainly, the regular season is barely halfway over and several potent offenses await Louisville in the Big East schedule, but they’re off to a good start.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 18th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The top teams in several conferences go head-to-head and a non-conference mid-major battle in the midwest should provide a spectacular weekend of college hoops. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

#6 Syracuse at #1 Louisville – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again...

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again…

  • The cream of the Big East crop lock up in what should be an epic defensive battle. This may be the best defensive match-up we will see all season. Jim Boeheim’s match-up zone versus Rick Pitino’s press will be fun to watch. Louisville is known for its ability to create lots of turnovers, but Syracuse is almost just as good at causing teams to make mistakes. Additionally, Syracuse blocks a bunch of shots and locks down the perimeter. Louisville counters with its own shot-blocker deluxe in Gorgui Dieng. The question for Syracuse is how they will break the Louisville press — look to see if they use their length to make passes over the top of the Cardinals’ defense to get down the court.  Also, watch the guard match-up between Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse and Peyton Siva and Russ Smith of Louisville. Triche and Carter-Williams have a significant size advantage that could make scoring from the Louisville backcourt limited, although Smith just seems to find ways to score anyway. Ultimately, this game will come down to whose defense plays better, but this game is shaping up to be a classic.

#17 Missouri at #8 Florida – 2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Florida is coming off a dominant win against Texas A&M and is beginning to separate itself from the rest of the SEC. A win by Missouri on the road would be huge for the Tigers as they head into a stretch of games against the bottom tier of the league. Missouri needs to find a way to control the offensive boards without Laurence Bowers available if they are going to have a shot at winning this game. The Gators have been one of the toughest teams to shoot against this season, so don’t expect the Tigers to get a lot of great looks. However, as one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country, the Tigers have a chance if they can get put-backs and tip-ins. The key will be the battle down low between Alex Oriakhi and Patric Young so pay close attention to those two big men battling inside. Also, keep an eye on Missouri’s perimeter defense. Florida is taking 40% of its total shots from three — if the Gators’ shooters  are hitting from the outside, it’s going to be tough sledding for Missouri in its first SEC trip to Gainesville.

Oregon at #21 UCLA – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (****)

  • The Pac-12 is looking like a three team battle between Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon. With the Ducks already knocking off the Wildcats, they can make a huge statement early in the conference season with a road win against the Bruins. It won’t be easy, however, as UCLA has quietly put together a 10-game winning streak including back-to-back road wins against Utah and Colorado. Keep a close eye on turnovers in this game. Oregon is turning the ball over frequently at a rate of over 21% of its possessions. We have seen road teams get down early recently because of multiple mistakes in a hostile environment. If the Bruins can create turnovers early with some tough defense, it will make things very difficult for the Ducks in Pauley Pavilion. Also, watch the rebounding numbers. The Ducks are a far superior team on the glass at both ends. UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and the Wear brothers need to box out. Rebounding will keep Oregon in the game and could prove to be the difference if they are able to avoid turnovers.

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RTC Top 25: Week 9

Posted by KDoyle on January 14th, 2013

And then there were none. We entered last week with four undefeated teams — Duke, Michigan, Arizona, and Wyoming — but all faltered. Michigan was technically the last remaining undefeated team, but that lasted for less than 24 hours as the Wolverines lost Sunday afternoon to Ohio State in Columbus. Due to the crazy week that was, Louisville now moves into the #1 spot for the first time this season. The Cardinals’ lone loss came against Duke in the Bahamas back in November, and they hold the slimmest of edges on the Blue Devils in our poll (more on that after the Qn’D). It was also a tough week for two Big East teams while the Pac-12 is experiencing a resurgence with two teams entering the RTC25.

The Quick n’ Dirty after the jump…

Week 9

Quick n’ Dirty Analysis.

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Big East M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 31st, 2012

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Early in the season, one of the things that the 2012-13 Syracuse Orange seemed to have on the 2011-12 edition was reliable three-point shooting. James Southerland and Trevor Cooney can both act potentially as knock-down shooters for Jim Boeheim. Syracuse has struggled to score recently, and poor outside shooting is one of the main reasons for this lull. The Orange are now shooting 32% from behind the arc this season, and are just 5-of-33 since halftime of the win over Detroit. Boeheim acknowledges this issue, but doesn’t offer up much in the way of a detailed solution after Syracuse’s win over Alcorn State: “Well, it is what it is… Whatever the stats are, they don’t lie. Shooting stats don’t lie. Some people think they do. But they don’t.”
  2. With a dwindling lead against archrival Kentucky, Louisville’s Russ Smith started doing what he’s done all season – he made huge plays. Pat Forde describes how strange it is for Cardinals fans to think of Smith as their star, even this far into the season: “The improbable rise of Russ Smith as a s-s-s-star (hard to type with a straight face) has keyed everything Louisville has done last March and so far this season.” Louisville is right about where most people expected they would be, but Smith’s breakout has shifted the focus off of Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng, the players that people expected to lead the Cardinals to a great 2012-13 season.  Siva, Dieng, Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, and a slew of other Cardinals are still very dangerous college players, and when combined with the dynamo Smith, who is averaging a shade under 20 points per game, Louisville is set to make major noise come March.
  3. GoLocalProv sports writer Scott Cordischi thinks that Providence coach Ed Cooley needs to ‘cool’ it down with regards to calling out his players after games. When asked a question about LaDontae Henton’s stretch of 24 straight points for the Friars in a loss to Brown, Cooley ignored Henton’s offensive outburst and put down his defensive performance, calling it “awful.” Cordischi also notes that Cooley alluded to the team as soft with regards to Bryce Cotton’s injuries, and earlier in the year diminished a 13-assist effort by Kris Dunn in his first collegiate game, calling it “gross.” While many coaches in all sports use the media to motivate their teams, I can see where Cordischi is concerned that Cooley is being too negative with respect to his players. Losses to teams like Brown are frustrating, but those thing will happen with a young, raw team like Providence.
  4. The transfer of Malcolm Gilbert from Pitt to Fairfield may be disconcerting to some Panthers fans, but it isn’t coming as a huge surprise to Jamie Dixon. Gilbert has always wanted to play with his brother Marcus, who is a freshman forward for the Stags, and he will have a chance to do that next season by leaving between semesters. Pitt fans may worry about this becoming a trend for Dixon’s program after losing Khem Birch last season, but the guys at Pitt blog Cardiac Hill don’t seem to be too worried, as this transfer seems to be more about an opportunity elsewhere rather than an issue with Dixon or the Panther program.
  5. USF star Anthony Collins was taken off the floor on a stretcher after being kneed in the head while diving for a loose ball during a 61-57 win over George Mason. After the game, Stan Heath said that Collins had feeling in all of his extremities, which is obviously a positive sign, but it is always jarring to see a player taken out of a game like that, especially in today’s sports world where concussions and head injuries are so prominent in the public consciousness. The Bulls also lost Victor Rudd to a concussion in the second half, and are very banged up heading into Big East play.
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Big East Burning Question: Who is the Conference’s Best Team?

Posted by mlemaire on December 11th, 2012

We admit it. We blatantly stole this topic idea from our colleagues over at the Pac-12 microsite but hopefully they’ll view this as somewhat of an homage to their creative topic ideas rather than lazy theft. Anyway, the season is more than a month old and there is a logjam near the top the Big East conference standings. Cincinnati and Syracuse are the last unbeaten teams, but are they truly the best?

 

Mike Lemaire: While I recognize that Cincinnati and Syracuse are the last two unbeaten teams in the conference, I still find myself gravitating to Louisville when I think of the conference’s best teams. The Bearcats have played almost nobody of note (does a buzzer-beating win over Alabama count?) and while the Orange throttled a solid San Diego State squad in the season opener, I wonder whether all of that young depth will hold up as the schedule gets more difficult and players start to wear down. Pittsburgh’s depth and incredibly efficient offense make them an excellent team, but their best win is against Lehigh and with the exception of the game against Michigan, their non-conference schedule has been embarrassingly easy (No. 257 in the country, according to KenPom). I recognize that Georgetown’s only loss was to the best team in the country and that Notre Dame has been excellent since losing to Saint Joseph’s, but the Hoyas’ offense is a mess and the Fighting Irish don’t play defense the same way that the Orange and Cardinals do.

Russ Smith Has Been Superb This Season (C. Hanewickel, US Presswire)

Meanwhile, Louisville boasts the nation’s most efficient defense, a top-25 offense in terms of efficiency, and its only loss came against Duke, who has been soundly beating everyone, and they were playing without defensive star Gorgui Dieng. Of course it hurts the Cardinals’ case that one of the best defensive players in the country will miss some time, but coach Rick Pitino expects him back before the new year, and a broken wrist, while probably painful, is not nearly as bad as an ACL or another knee injury. Even without Dieng, the Cardinals have depth on par with Syracuse and their bench is far more battle-tested. If mercurial scoring guard Russ Smith comes back to earth a little, Pitino’s offense might see a bit of a backslide, but until the Orange can sustain their success against better opponents, the Cardinals remain the class of the Big East.

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Big East M5: 12.10.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on December 10th, 2012

  1. After Georgetown edged Towson 46-40 on Saturday, the dust still settling from a tedious 37-36 decision over Tennessee the week prior, Daniel Martin at CollegeBasketballTalk says it’s time to start questioning the Hoyas. He points to streaky outside shooting in particular as the element that makes it most difficult to predict where John Thompson III’s team will end up in March. Against Towson, leading scorers Otto Porter, Markel Starks and Greg Whittington combined to shoot 2-14 (14%) from beyond the arc, and the Hoyas’ bench contributed but a single point. The team has racked up the most inefficient offense in the Big East, and it seems that an off night from Porter and Starks is all that separates the team that took Indiana to the wire from the one that couldn’t score 40 on Tennessee.
  2. Syracuse played this past Saturday as well, scoring more points than Georgetown and Towson combined as they stormed past Monmouth, 108-56. Sean Keeley at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician points out that it was the team’s most prolific offensive display since hanging 125 on East Tennessee State in 2007. This team certainly looks more talented than that NIT squad, a point C.J. Fair, DaJuan Coleman and Michael Carter-Williams each asserted with double-doubles. Carter-Williams in particular tallied 16 assists –– the third most in Syracuse history –– and is unquestionably playing better than any point guard in the Big East right now.
  3. Ed Donohue at VU Hoops crunched some numbers and reached some frightening conclusions about Villanova’s penchant for second-half collapses in the past two seasons. Since the beginning of 2011-12, ‘Nova has suffered a negative second half scoring margin in 66% of its 41 games, and has gone on to lose 10 games in which they’ve led at halftime. It’s an ominous statistic that certainly doesn’t improve the outlook on Jay Wright’s job security.
  4. Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Tim Sullivan writes that Russ Smith is burdened by the reputation for volatile play he earned in his first two seasons. Despite having cultivated that style beyond anyone’s expectations to the point of becoming an elite college guard, it’s difficult to transcend the “Russdiculous” moniker bestowed affectionately upon him by Rick Pitino. “Any mistake I do –– one mistake –– keeps that perception,” said Smith. Before the season, it was hard to imagine Smith becoming more essential to Louisville than Peyton Siva or Gorgui Dieng. Even the most unorthodox dark-horse advocates would have scoffed at the notion that Smith might receive All-American hype in December. But that’s exactly what Sullivan suggested after Smith poured in a career-high 31 points, seven boards, five assists and five steals against Kyle Korver’s little brother and a hapless band of UMKC Kangaroos on Saturday. The junior two-guard is now second in the Big East with 20.3 PPG (on a surprisingly efficient 45.4% from the field), and fifth in the nation in steals.
  5. Speaking of Louisville, Rick Pitino broke with convention to answer a reporter’s phone and coordinate cocktail hour during his post-game press conference on Saturday. It was a bizarre moment that fortunately appeared on YouTube almost immediately. More importantly, it represents a levity that you wouldn’t expect to see very often from Pitino prior to this past March, as he seems to really be enjoying his job again after several years where nothing seemed fun for the volatile head coach.

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What Does Gorgui Dieng’s Injury Mean for Louisville and the Big East Race?

Posted by Will Tucker on November 27th, 2012

After hanging tough with Duke for 39 minutes without Gorgui Dieng, Louisville only trailed by three as the Blue Devils milked their last possession. Thirty-two seconds and six ticks on the shot clock remained when Quinn Cook baited Russ Smith into lunging for a steal beyond the three-point line. With a head of steam and the middle of the floor cleared out, Stephan Van Treese was the only thing with a pulse separating Cook from the basket. The 6’1″ Duke sophomore charged a responsible distance into the lane, pulled up, and effortlessly delivered a floating dagger that put a nail in the coffin of the Cardinals’ comeback.

Winning without Gorgui Dieng will require creativity from Rick Pitino

Simply put, that shot from Cook isn’t there with Gorgui Dieng in the game. The 6’11″, 245-pound defensive juggernaut had broken his wrist the night before in Louisville’s win against Missouri –– appropriately enough, taking a charge. Though Peyton Siva was the preseason favorite for Big East Player of the Year, Dieng is the safety valve that makes it possible for Siva and Smith to play tenacious, often reckless, defense, which yields 5.8 steals per game between them. Louisville’s guards had grown accustomed to being bailed out by Dieng, and on Saturday night they got a taste of life without one of the country’s pre-eminent big man around to anchor its defense. Without Dieng lording over the paint, the psychology of his shot-blocking reputation looming larger even than his 194 career rejections, Quinn Cook pulled up without hesitation, and the rest is history.

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Big East M5: Thanksgiving Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on November 22nd, 2012

  1. Happy Turkey Day. What better way to escape the more unsavory members of your extended family and digest a few grams of sodium than by parking it in front of the tube for 10 or so hours of college hoops? The Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas has you covered, and Run The Floor compiled a very thorough primer to the event. Top-seeded Louisville takes the floor in the evening against a very prolific Northern Iowa offense that averages 1.25 points per possession and shoots 51.5% from the field, ranking them at the top of the field in both categories. Although the Panthers are 3-0, they’ve played dubious defense against a very weak schedule, spotting 81 points on 45% shooting at home to a 1-3 Toledo team that averages 62 PPG. It will be an interesting opportunity to determine if Louisville can generate enough offense outside of its transition game to overcome the most highly efficient shooting team they’ve encountered. It could also give fans some idea of what to expect in a future Louisville-Missouri or Louisville-Duke match-up later in the weekend.
  2. This is subject to change, with several of the national leaders playing after the M5 was filed last night, but Nick Coffey at Louisville blog The Cardinal Connect points out that Peyton Siva is quietly leading the nation in assists per game. Siva’s nine dimes per contest is likely to taper as the Cardinals’ competition steps up, although it’s plausible he could continue producing at that level after he sustained a 6.0 APG through the last postseason against elite competition. It’s interesting to note that four of the nation’s top 10 assist leaders come from the Big East, with Anthony Collins (#4, 8.2 APG), Michael Carter-Williams (#8, 7.5 APG), and Tray Woodall (#10, 7.0 APG) all joining the Cardinals’ point guard (according to StatSheet.com).
  3. Despite ultimately falling to Indiana in overtime of the Legends Classic championship game on Tuesday night, Georgetown’s performance in the Barclay Center this week earned them the adoration of pundits and almost assuredly a spot in the upcoming Top 25 polls. Hoya fans who had scoffed at the Shabazz-centric national coverage of Georgetown’s upset of UCLA in Brooklyn on Monday night were no doubt assuaged by the rave reviews of Otto Porter and company that circulated among major media outlets yesterday morning. Luke Winn wrote for SI.com that Georgetown had “established itself as a top 20 team,” and called Porter a legitimate first-team All-America candidate who had, on consecutive nights, “outplayed the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft (UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad) and the preseason favorite for the Wooden and Naismith awards ([Tyler] Zeller).” Despite the media praise heaped on Porter following the two complete games he put together in Brooklyn, he was puzzlingly left absent from the All-Tournament Team. Adam Zagoria yesterday pointed out the injustice that Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, whose squad went 0-2 in New York, earned tournament recognition in his stead.
  4. Villanova’s blowout home loss to Columbia on Tuesday agitated a fan base already made anxious by Big East instability and the increasingly obvious importance of football to college athletics. Yesterday, Nova blog VU Hoops posted a history of Villanova athletics, and posed the question of whether the program that Rollie Massimino built can survive within a crumbling conference, without a major football program, and in an era when the national relevance of college hoops is dwindling. Author Brian Ewart presented a bleak outlook: “If that [Big East television] revenue source comes tumbling back to earth due to realignment and the basketball program continues to struggle, will the Wildcats be able to compete at a level that can earn 19 or more nationally-televised games as they have in the past?… Another disappointing season and Jay Wright will be worried about his employment status, but the Wildcats may not have the big time basketball brand or TV-money resources to find a big-time replacement.”
  5. Filed under the truly bizarre and slightly horrifying is the promotional holiday video for Providence athletics, which comes to us courtesy of Friarblog: 

    At first glance, it’s a totally innocuous pitch to sell season tickets. A contemplative Ed Cooley is interrupted from humming Christmas tunes at his desk by a miniaturized Cooley, decked out in Santa gear, who somehow wordlessly reminds him to peer at some hockey highlights through the lens of a paranormal tree ornament. All well and good, nothing to see here. Upon closer examination, some sinister implications bubble to the surface. For example: Is mini-Cooley housed cozily in a snow globe, or is it more of a millennia-old spiritual prison constructed to keep humanity safe from his prehistoric bloodlust, a la The Keep? Cooley is initially dressed in run-of-the-mill coach garb, but when his psychedelic hockey highlight montage subsides, he grins suggestively at us, draped in the Santa outfit of his thimble-sized doppelgänger. What happened to Big-Cooley? Has some interloper summoned his malevolent double, thereby imprisoning Big-Cooley in the snow globe in his place? Can Bryce Cotton save the day? Can Evil-Cooley do something to speed up Vincent Council’s rehab?
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Can Louisville Adapt to a Life Without Threes?

Posted by Will Tucker on November 15th, 2012

Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent and a Big East microsite writer. He filed this report after Thursday night’s Louisville-Samford game.

Louisville overwhelmed Samford in all facets of the game tonight, 80-54, to advance to 2-0 and defend their #2 ranking. The box score and postgame highlights will depict a dominant display befitting of an elite team, replete with a 53-28 rebounding margin, a punishing 38 points in the paint, and numerically terrifying double-doubles from Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng. But any Louisville fan that watched the game and knows a lick about basketball (read: almost all of them) will temper the glowing conclusions you’d reach from a brief recap. Their team shot 1-8 from three in the first half, but elected to judiciously move the ball into the paint more often than jack up threes. When Samford finally packed the paint with a zone defense and served up wide open looks from beyond the arc in the second half, the Cards took the bait and went 6-23, finishing at a 23% that elicited increasingly frustrated collective groans from the 20,016 on hand at the KFC Yum! Center with each successive brick.

Louisville needs to utilize Chane Behanan to score more efficiently

Despite all the things this Louisville team does well (and several things they already do great), their first two games of the 2012-13 season have exposed just how badly they lack a reliable three-point threat. Tonight’s contest refuted any notion that this Louisville team may achieve even average outside shooting. Rick Pitino had displayed uncharacteristic concern over his wings’ jump shots in his postgame press conference last Sunday, after former McDonald’s All-American Wayne Blackshear and transfer Luke Hancock combined to shoot 3-14 from beyond the arc against Manhattan. Tonight, they delivered a dismal 2-18 (11%) performance from outside, while streaky shooter Russ Smith (4-7 3FG) was the only one who salvaged Louisville’s team stat of 7-31 from long range. Blackshear and Hancock, both billed as capable jump shooters, have looked noticeably frustrated in the first two games of the year. Pitino tonight related Hancock to a hitter in a slump, forcing his shot in a fruitless effort “to make contact.” Blackshear, for his part, seems headed in the right direction, appearing much more assertive and confident as he built a somewhat inefficient stat line of 13 points and five rebounds tonight.

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Big East M5: 11.14.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 14th, 2012

  1. The first Naismith Award watch list, comprised of 50 players, was released yesterday. While it is difficult to take a ton of stock in a list that is so long and backed by so little in terms of on-court results, it’s always interesting to see who is highlighted. Seven current Big East players have been chosen for this first watch list.  Louisville has three players included, with guard Peyton Siva, center Gorgui Dieng, and forward Chane Behanan all named. Syracuse point guard Michael Carter Williams, Notre Dame center Jack Cooley, Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick, and Georgetown forward Otto Porter were also included.
  2. Villanova‘s Jay Wright and Purdue’s Matt Painter each look forward to their teams’ upcoming match-up in the 2k Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden, as they believe the two programs are in a similar place early on this season. Jay Wright explains how the two teams, who are generally known for quite different approaches, mirror each other: “We’re similar to Purdue in that we have a lot of young players, and a lot of returning players who are taking on new roles… Right now, we are an inconsistent team, probably like a lot of people are early.” Villanova has started the year 2-0, but wins against the District of Columbia and Marshall aren’t enough to get people excited about Wildcats basketball again. A win over a quality Big Ten opponent surely would be.
  3. Marquette got a big boost from an unlikely source in its 84-63 victory over Colgate Sunday: sophomore Juan Anderson. Anderson has been a bit of a forgotten man in the Golden Eagles program, at least he had been before coming one point and rebound short of a double-double in the game against the Red Raiders. Anderson missed much of last season due to surgery and an NCAA suspension, and he was supposed to miss the beginning of this season again after undergoing another surgery, a fact that makes his performance all the more impressive.  Buzz Williams was impressed with Anderson’s play as well, and indicated that we’d see more of the forward in the future: “His energy level is what helps us… He had energy last year; he just didn’t have purpose to his energy. I think now he better understands how to play with that energy and have purpose in what he’s doing… I’ve been telling him the last few weeks that he needs to put me in a position where I can’t keep him off the floor, and the way he’s going to do that is by doing the things he did today.”
  4. Many basketball pundits are high on Notre Dame due to their experience — the Irish return four players from last season’s starting line-up. The prestigious Rush the Court: Big East Microsite preseason rankings place Notre Dame in at #3 after perennial powers Louisville and Syracuse. For all of the experience that Mike Brey returns, there are lingering questions about the team’s depth. Enter: Garrick Sherman and Cameron Biedscheid. Notre Dame was very sluggish in the first few minutes against Monmouth on Monday, until Sherman and Biedschied entered the game and sparked a 12-0 run. Sherman led the Irish with 22 points, while Biedschied added nine points and five assists. If Notre Dame can count on consistent performances like that off the bench, Brey’s squad may be more dangerous than originally thought.
  5. Many former college basketball players who aren’t lucky enough to carve out careers in the NBA are long-forgotten, but many of these athletes have long, fulfilling careers overseas. DePaul athletics highlighted former Blue Demon stars Will Walker and Krys Faber, a pair who are playing exceptionally well in Bulgaria and Uruguay, respectively.  Walker plays guard for BC Beroe, while Faber has become a 20/20 machine for Atletico Welcome. While both players certainly have NBA aspirations, they’re making the best of their current situations. It is refreshing to see Walker spreading an important message to up and coming athletes: “no matter what, always remember it’s a blessing to be playing professionally. Don’t take any of it for granted because there are hundreds of guys wishing for a spot.”
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Cards Roll After Slow Start: Notes and Observations

Posted by Will Tucker on November 11th, 2012

Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent and a Big East microsite writer. He can be found on Twitter @blrdswag

The Louisville Cardinals officially kicked off their season this afternoon with a decisive victory over Steve Masiello’s shorthanded Manhattan team. There were several intriguing narratives heading into today’s game, in which Rick Pitino’s squad sought to validate their lofty preseason ranking and answer some lingering questions about their player rotation and offense. Here are a handful of the most compelling storylines and some conclusions we can draw from the Manhattan game:

The Cards Scrapped Their Way to a Big Victory on Sunday

  • Manhattan’s odds of pulling off an upset in Louisville took a major blow hours before tip off, when it was revealed that star senior George Beamon (19 PPG) would sit out today with an ankle injury. This made it even more difficult to gauge the Cardinals. The overwhelmed Jaspers turned it over 27 times under the duress of Louisville’s athletic full-court press –– the most Louisville has forced since 2004. Masiello admitted after the game that even had Beamon played and everything had gone right for them, his team would have still lost by a comfortable margin.
  • The most anticipated competition heading into the season was at the power forward position, where embattled sophomore Chane Behanan returned today after serving a suspension for both of Louisville’s exhibition games. Pitino opted to start promising freshman Montrezl Harrell, who played extremely well in both preseason contests, but both players split minutes and spent much of the first half on the court at the same time after Gorgui Dieng picked up two fouls in the first two minutes. Harrell certainly didn’t appear eager to forfeit his place in the starting lineup, recording six points, four rebounds, a block and a steal, all the while exhibiting the unrelenting motor that recruiting analysts had raved about during his high school career. For his part, Behanan seemed to respond well to the challenge, grabbing a team-high nine rebounds, eight points, and a career-high three steals in 24 minutes. The game didn’t definitely determine the picture at the four spot going forward, but it seems unlikely Behanan, the MVP of last season’s NCAA Tournament West Regional, will tolerate the indignity of being displaced by a freshman for long. That kind of motivation can only be a good thing for Louisville fans. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #1 Louisville

Posted by mlemaire on November 11th, 2012

It is truly a testament to the coaching ability of Rick Pitino that last season’s offensively challenged Louisville team made the Final Four after finishing the regular season seventh in the conference. The Cardinals had trouble scoring and dealt with a rash of injuries all season, and yet when most of the dust had cleared, there was Pitino and his team, scrapping with an overpowering Kentucky team in the Final Four. In the end, Kentucky was too much, but now the roles have reversed. The team in Lexington has a lot of questions to answer, while the team in Louisville returns four of its top six scorers, including the reigning conference defensive player of the year and one of the favorites for this season’s conference player of the year. Assuming some of the team’s underclassmen progress as expected and most of the team can stay healthy, there are very few squads in the country who can match the Cardinals’ combination of talent and depth. Now it will be up to Pitino and his staff to put all the pieces together. There are still plenty of questions about where the offense will come from and the roster’s one weakness may be its lack of an accomplished outside shooter. But the Cardinals’ defense was the most efficient in the country last season and it should be almost as good if not better this season. Anything less than a return trip to the Final Four will probably be viewed as a disappointment, especially if that team in Lexington makes it back instead.

2011-12 Record: 30-10, 10-8

2011-12 Postseason: NCAA Tournament Final Four, lost to Kentucky 69-61.

Rick Pitino Has Louisville Poised To Make A Repeat Run To The Final Four

Schedule: Just a quick glance at the Cardinals’ non-conference slate should make it plainly obvious that Louisville will have little trouble with the opposition in the early part of the season. A December trip to Memphis and the home bout with Kentucky right before the New Year represent what should be the only two challenging non-conference opponents Louisville will face. As for the conference schedule, aside from a four-game stretch in the middle of January where a home date with Syracuse is sandwiched between road games at Connecticut and Villanova and then Georgetown, the rest of the conference slate should be manageable for a team as experienced, deep, and physical as the Cardinals.

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