Posted by CD Bradley on January 21st, 2014
- Louisville, Cincinnati, and Memphis were ranked in both the AP and Coaches Polls released Monday, while Connecticut was among those also receiving votes in both polls. SMU also received votes in the AP Poll for the first time this season and for what we’ll assume is the first time in many years. Louisville was ranked the highest of the three in both polls, at #9 in the Coaches Poll and #12 in the AP Poll. Cincinnati, despite being the only undefeated team in AAC play, came next at #15 and #16, respectively. Memphis, which lost at home to UConn last week, dropped to #22 and #23, respectively.
- Louisville coach Rick Pitino had a pretty nice 2013 as you have no doubt heard. Hall of Fame election and induction. Horse in the Kentucky Derby and winning a Breeder’s Cup race. Son hired at Minnesota. The centerpiece of all of that success was a national championship team that, except for a bumpy week in January and one weird February night in South Bend, was pretty clearly the best in the country all year. This season has proven to a be a bit more of a challenge, but Pitino isn’t slowing down a bit. The latest piece of evidence was an impressive road win Saturday at Connecticut led by a stifling defense. It’s that defense that has been the hallmark of back-to-back Final Fours for Pitino and the Cardinals, and if they are to make it three in a row, the defense will have to approach the unmatched efficiency of those teams.
- The other major reason for Saturday’s win was the play of Montrezl Harrell, who had 18 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Courier-Journal‘s Jeff Greer (the new Louisville beat writer, and a great Twitter follow) broke down the sophomore forward’s offensive game and how it is evolving. Of major interest is the recent increase in jump shots, particularly around the free throw line; Gorgui Dieng’s ability to hit those shots last year was a key component in making the national championship offense run. If Harrell can consistently knock down those shots as well as remain effective on the block, it should open up the Cardinals sometimes stagnant offense. That could be crucial come March.
- UConn hosts Temple tonight, and might have to make due without starting guard Ryan Boatright, who traveled to Illinois after a family death. If he is absent, it might mean more playing time for freshman Terrance Samuel, who along with senior Lasan Kromah and sophomore Omar Calhoun would have to fill in for Boatright’s 31.6 minutes per game. Samuel, by comparison, has played six minutes in the Huskies’ last five games. Still, it can’t hurt to provide a little experience to a young player, and it’s not likely to make much of a difference against a 5-11 Temple team rising a six-game losing streak.
- Larry Brown didn’t have much interest in junior college players when he was the head coach at Kansas in the 1980s, and had success without them, winning a national championship in 1988. Both times and Brown have changed; a quarter century later, he’s now the head coach at SMU, and junior college players are playing a key role in the program’s renaissance. Yanick Moreira, an Angola native who couldn’t speak English when he received Division I scholarship offers in 2010, went the junior college route and said it was the right choice. It has certainly worked out for SMU, which is blending Moreira with Division I transfers and top-ranked high school recruits into the school’s best team in 20 years.