Sleeping with the Enemy: The Cardinals of Louisville

@Rubie_Q

Under the covers with the Cards.

Your Fighting Hoyas of Georgetown are back in action tomorrow at Verizon against the mighty Louisville Cardinals, and as usual we here at THE AWARD WINNING GLOBAL PHENOMENON are bringing you everything you need to know about Georgetown's next opponent. Here to enlighten us on all things Louisville are our friends at Card Chronicle, your destination for all things Cardinals on the internet AND our good friend Big East Coast Bias, the premier source for all things Big East. Gentlemen, this bomber of CasuALE is for you. Let's get to it!

Wow, coming off back to back losses to Syracuse to Villanova, suddenly we aren't so tough, are we? What's going on?

CC:
I had a completely different answer in my head before the Wednesday night massacre in Miami and the other upsets and bizarre results Mike wrote about here. The Syracuse loss was an "everything went wrong and we still had to completely throw the game away to lose" game, and then Nova was just a weird game from start to finish. Echoing the CBS Sports piece from the other day, and Mike's review of the Georgetown-Louisville series, teams that randomly get hot from 3 against us beat us, and it seems like that has been happening more often than not over the last few weeks.

And then the Nova game, after getting up 6 with 8+ minutes to go, 9 out of 10 games, it's over we win. But we missed like 7 free throws in a row, Nova made a couple tough shots and all of a sudden it is a different game. Nova's strategy of fouling literally every possession really paid off because we couldn't get into a rhythm, couldn't get good shots and then missed the FTs. About as perfect outcome as that strategy can hope for.

Anyway, I really wish I could tell you what was going on, but this seems just like random results and actions that sports fans try to read too much into, especially when they come in back-to-back games.

BECB:
Not really one overarching "thing" that's wrong, but a cluster of things that have bit them in back to back games. For the first time this year, they seemed to tighten up and show signs of feeling the pressure to win and be the #1 team. Prior to this week, I hadn't seen that from them. Also, free throw shooting just killed them down the stretch in both losses to Syracuse and Villanova.


Would anything less than a 2nd straight Final Four appearance satisfy you this season?

CC:
A week ago, I would have said unequivocally, absolutely yes, and gone one further: if we aren't playing in the last game of the season, the season has been a letdown. After this week, I'll say that I still think that we are one of the best 5 teams in the country, but now I'll be paying way more attention to match-ups and draws than I was last week. The book on how to beat us might be out there, but it's not something every team can do. And if a handful of bad calls or bounces or shots go the other way in both Cuse and Nova, we are still ranked #1 in the country and not 10th or 15th depending on the outcome of this game.

BECB:
With the talent added to the number of guys that returned from last season's run, I think most Louisville fans would be extremely disappointed if this team fell short of the Final Four. In college basketball, you just don't get many teams with talented players that have played multiple years together. You have to capitalize on years where you have that.


Rick Pitino is obviously a great coach, but he hasn't really developed players at Louisville that have gone on to succeed at the next level. Even on this year's squad you have a lot of nice players in Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan, but even if they make an NBA roster, none of those guys are likely to be anything but a role player. Am I wrong?

Pitino_medium

via cache.deadspin.com

CC:
How you can ask this question while Earl Clark is becoming this year's Jeremy Lin is the sign of a bad basketball fan. Or one with a newborn. But seriously, the success Pitino has had at Louisville without NBA players should be getting more focus, although I think that might actually hurt recruiting. The college and NBA games are so different, I've really stopped trying to predict who will be an NBA player and who won't. Pitino has had a ton of success with guys who are too small to play their position in the pros. And despite all the hype, you'll have to go to the D-League to see a bunch of UK's recent NBA draft picks playing basketball. And other than maybe Doron Lamb and Darius Miller, those guys all would have been NBA draft picks regardless of their 6 month run at the Lexington Basketball Academy.

As to this year's team, I think Gorgui will be a good NBA player because of his size and skill, and the fact that he is still improving. Russ will be an NBA player because he can do two things really well (score and steal the ball) and his speed both with and without the ball is crazy. Chane needs to develop an outside shot to have a chance to be a 3 in the NBA because I think he's too short to be a 4, but, again, I don't really watch the NBA so I have no idea. Same with Siva - he is fast and strong, so in a more wide-open game, his ability to get to the rim and score or create should be useful in an NBA offense and against teams that don't just plug 4 guys into the paint like we seem to play against all the time.

BECB:
I think that's a reasonably fair assessment of Rick's coaching career. Just tonight I was looking up NBA All-stars by school/coach and the only All-star he's ever coached at either Kentucky or Louisville is Jamaal Magloire. Rick is extremely demanding as a coach. He always has been. I think, in some ways, he thrives when he's coaching the three and four star guys that actually accept coaching instead of more of the superstar recruits. He'd much rather have a team of Russ Smiths than a team of Derrick Caracters.


One more Pitino question. Let's say for whatever reason Pitino decides to leave Louisville. Who would you like to see as the next coach of the Cards?

CC:
There are four candidates: Richard Pitino (his son) who is a few years away from serious consideration. Billy Donovan, who would be Pitino's choice, but who I think is a few years past serious consideration. So really, the fanbase is probably equally divided between Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens. Actually, I'd say it's probably closer to 65/35 Stevens.

Personally, I would like to hire BOTH Stevens and Smart, with Charlie Strong as Director of Basketball Operations.

BECB:
I think virtually everyone would answer this question by saying Brad Stevens at Butler. He's cerebral, has a pristine reputation, and succeeds in some of the same ways Pitino does by getting more out of some of the off the beaten path guys. He'd really be the perfect foil to John Calipari. But, personally, I would love Shaka Smart. His teams play crazy defense like Pitino's do, he's very well established in what will be ACC country for Louisville, and is an excellent recruiter to a place like VCU. You'd have to think he'd just kill at Louisville.


I have one night in Louisville. Where am I eating and what am I ordering? (Note: Obviously I know I am going to the Italian joint where you can apparently have relations on tables after hours, but besides that place)

CC: My house, of course. We'll grill up some steaks, I make a mean broiled mushroom app. If you insist on a restaurant, I'd say Jack Fry's is probably the safest pick there. I'd hate to compare it to the Tombs because it's much more open, but the sort of local feel, old pictures, dark, loud, big bar area, etc. vibe is similar. The two differences are the clientele (not many sophomores with fake IDs and seniors doing the 99 day thing) and obviously the food at Jack Fry's is 4-star, very good food, although they don't have double fried wings so that's a negative.


BECB:
A little, cramped place called Hammerheads. Fantastic restaurant with fresh food near downtown. I've only had the chance to eat there twice because it's almost always jammed from the time they open the door, but it's well worth your time if you can squeeze in and get an Elk Burger and sweet potato fries cooked in duck fat. It's incredible.

Hammerheads_medium

Documented. via heavenisabuffet.files.wordpress.com

Louisville Cardinals, Sugar Bowl Champions. Weird!

CC:
Pretty much the best football game ever played. The sick thing is we left 14-17 points off the board, and Florida only scored with a gimmick play at the end of the first half and against our prevent defense late when the game was pretty much over. Could have easily been a 50-10 type beatdown, which is even stranger. And for those saying that Florida was disinterested, they knocked off guys helmets on THREE different plays on our opening drive.


Louisville has sort of been this giant nomad program of late, heading over to the Big East from CUSA and now departing for the greener pastures of the ACC. 1) Are you going to miss us? 2) Does a lack of a true conference identity for the Cardinals bug you at all? 3) Do you think it makes it tough for you to build rivalries outside of your annual showdown with Kentucky?

CC:
1) I will not miss the Big East in the slightest. The heyday of Big East basketball was glorious, but the game has become such a grind, with teams like Pitt and Nova essentially playing football and slow down, possession basketball being the current default style, it is almost unwatchable on a night-to-night basis. Villanova stormed the court after beating us! It's time to move on.

2) Not really, because outside the SEC and I guess the original Big East schools, conference identity is an overrated and relatively recent phenomenon. I rarely root for Big East teams unless it somehow helps Louisville, and I'm sick of defending the Big East's tournament let downs, and frankly am happy to see certain schools lose.

3) We've managed to keep Memphis and Cinci as rivalries even though conference affiliations have come and gone, so I think going forward we'll be able to. Honestly, the UK rivalry is so exhausting and omnipresent (my wife and her family are all UK fans and I have cousins I see on a regular basis who are UK fans, not to mention co-workers I see every day) that I'm fine with just that one. And look at West Virginia: we got that rivalry into tip-top share pretty quickly, and then they got sick of us beating them so often in big games that they fled to the Big 12.

BECB:
I'm absolutely going to miss Georgetown and really all of Big East basketball the way that it was. Tom Jurich has said a number of times that the Big East was only good to and for Louisville and he's right. As for lacking consistent rivals, yeah, it's a bit of a bummer that not having a consistent home has kept Louisville from developing true rivalries, the ones that are really only forged over a long period of time. I am extremely happy, however, that Syracuse will be there because almost all of those games recently have been very good. There's no substitute for time when it comes to building the kind of hatred that fuels the best college rivalries.


Speaking of which, let's say I am a 5-star recruit from the great state of Kentucky who wants to play college ball at home (and also assume I'm not on the take). Convince me why I should attend Louisville over Kentucky.

CC:
Jack Fry's and my grilled steaks. No, honestly if you are a 5-star recruit who wants to spend his required year in the NCAA and then jump straight to the NBA, and you are obviously one of the best 15 guys who will be available in that draft, it's hard to argue against going to UK over any school. We have not had any of those, and I don't expect we really ever will. Rick Pitino is paid to win basketball games, and he tries to get the most out of his players and make them better basketball players. He has a system, and 1-and-done 5 stars really just don't fit into that. Now, if you could find a kid like that who was able to fit in for 1 year and add him to a veteran and talented college basketball roster, you'd have something. Any year now......

BECB:
It's basically the inverse of the argument you'd make in football. I think there's no question that Rick is one of the best coaches of all time and you're going to win games and succeed if you buy in. Louisville plays in a sold out, NBA arena every night, and the practice facilities are second to none. And you don't want to play in the freaking SEC, do you? You want to go play basketball for three months against Texas A&M, Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Georgia? Kentucky fans are incredible and so is Calipari. I wouldn't dream of taking anything away from either. But if you're going to go to college for one year, play for a good coach, and in front of good fans, you might as well play against some good opponents. Come to Louisville and play against Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, NC State, etc in the conference that ESPN adores.


Talk to us about the human rollercoaster ride that is watching Russ Smith play basketball.

CC:
I've always liked his game, and it seemed to fit perfectly with Pitino's system of a point guard getting into the lane and having lots of options. Pitino tried forever to force Russ to understand that that is options plural, as Russ believes his only option at all times is to just shoot. Last year we sorta realized that Russ has no idea what the score is, how much time is left, who the other team is, whether the game is on TV or not...and one of his high school coaches basically confirmed this in the run up to the Final Four. This year he has played way more under control and seems to recognize the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. And, when he has a bad game (like the worst game in like 2 years he submitted against Nova the other night) we can get in bad trouble. National people didn't really make as big of a deal about it last year, but he almost singlehandedly won us a bunch of games in December when the offense was crappy. Now, when he plays bad and we lose, people are noticing the connection more.

BECB:
Russ Smith is an Atari controller. Any direction, one button. He's blisteringly fast, sometimes to your advantage, sometimes to your detriment. You watch him long enough and you learn that you'll have to endure some stuff that makes you want to pull your hair out, but in return, he'll make the opponent pull his hair out, too.


We here at THE GLOBAL PHENOMENON pride ourselves on our ability to predict horse racing outcomes, and as you are no doubt aware
such insight led to the production of CasuALE, our very own beer! Simple question here: Can you get me tickets for the Kentucky Derby?

CC:
Yes, of course. Good tickets? We'll see. I forced about a dozen Hoyas to come to Louisville for Derby and some of them are still coming years later.

BECB:
As a matter of fact, I am a member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, I most certainly could get you tickets to the Derby. But not if Georgetown wins again, damnit.

(Casual Note: YES!)


How do you see this game playing out? Final score prediction?

CC:
Like always, Georgetown makes a ton of shots, we struggle to score and Georgetown wins by 10.

BECB:
I think it's going to be extremely low-scoring and come right down to the wire. I think Louisville will actually benefit from the losses because they'll get to play with a little bit of an edge as people begin to doubt them and I think they'll squeeze out a very narrow win. I mean, you guys lost to South Florida for God's sake.

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