Denny Crum loved a road challenge at Louisville. That's not how it works in college basketball any more.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Ten Great Items to Consider While Stuck in Shelbyville Road Traffic:
1. During the University of Louisville basketball glory days from 1980-1986, Denny Crum played November and December road games at Tennessee, Utah, Tulsa, Oklahoma State, Western Kentucky, Purdue, DePaul, Santa Clara, UCLA, North Carolina State and Indiana.
This Louisville basketball team, the defending national champions, will play on the road for the first time Saturday at Florida International.
Welcome to College Basketball 2013-14, where coaches have lost that Neil Armstrong urge for adventure. Rick Pitino is hardly the only coach whose team has completed roughly a third of its schedule without playing a true road game. Everybody wants to write a guarantee check and avoid any suggestion of a loss or even a struggle.
Check the rest of the Associated Press Top 10. Three other teams – Michigan State, Duke and Connecticut – have not played road games. Neutral site venues. Yes. Road games? Hahahaha. In fact, only two Top 10 teams have played twice on the road – Arizona and Wisconsin. Syracuse, Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Villanova have been road opponents one time.
Denny Crum loved a challenge. Now the challenge is getting today's head coaches to take a challenge.
2. Don't confuse Saturday with what Louisville will face while playing at Memphis or UConn. It won't be a three- or four-point disadvantage. FIU's U.S. Century Bank Arena seats 5,000 but the Panthers have yet to fill half the place this season.
Their largest crowd has been 2,254 with an average of 1,553. Sunscreen and splashing trump dribbling in South Florida. Always has. Always will.
3. There will be plenty of talk about former Cardinal forward Rakeem Buckles, who is averaging a double-double for FIU – 14.7 points and 10.5 rebounds.
But here is a more remarkable stat. Buckles has already made 11 of 31 three-point shots. Buckles made 14 threes during his entire injury-interrupted 59-game career with Louisville. Buckles was a hard worker, who deserves to go out happy and healthy.
4. I have a proposal for anybody who believes that renovating Assembly Hall is a better idea than flattening the place and building a new basketball arena at Indiana University:
Spend an entire season watching games from one of the 4,000 or so dreadful seats in the Assembly Hall balcony.
Pack your binoculars -- and your hiking boots.
Pretty sure you'll come around to the new arena concept. I've always been convinced that the Assembly Hall architect was a Purdue fan.
5. Sorry, Andrew Wiggins. Jabari Parker of Duke is the best freshman in college basketball. Julius Randle of Kentucky is the runner-up. Aaron Gordon of Arizona would be my third pick.
I'm not saying he's selfish, but Wiggins has nine assists in 10 games for Kansas. He's shooting less than 49 percent. And he's scored 20 or more only three times. He's good. Sometimes he's really good. But Parker, Randle and Gordon have absolutely been better.
6. One of the staples of Ken Pomeroy's college basketball web site is that he ranks teams by their offensive and defensive efficiency, how effective they are scoring and defending per 100 possessions.
Only two teams rank in Pomeroy's Top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency -- Louisville (first on offense, fourth on defense) and Oklahoma State (sixth on offense, 10th on defense).
That's a good thing.
7. It was a better night for Southeastern Conference basketball Thursday night – until you look at the turnstiles. Auburn delivered its best victory, handling Clemson. Mississippi State took down the Florida Gulf Coast program that made the 2013 Sweet Sixteen. Georgia and Arkansas also won. Only South Carolina stumbled.
Not that many in the SEC actually noticed. The five programs filled only 57 percent (38,460 of 67344) the available seats. Apparently bowl-game confidence picks were due.
8. Former Pleasure Ridge Park and University of Kentucky left-hander Scott Downs keeps going and going and going. Downs, who will turn 38 in March, will play his 13th big-league season in 2014 for the Chicago White Sox. They signed him to a deal that will guarantee Downs at least $4 million next season.
Downs has played for the Cubs, Expos, Blue Jays, Angels and Braves and earned more than $27 million.
Remember: Teach the Little Leaguer in your house to throw left-handed.
9. Guess who's having a nice bounce-back season?
Former Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow. Georgia State is definitely more Harrow's level than the SEC – and he's proving it by averaging 19.8 points and 4 assists. Harrow scored 34 against Elon and 33 against Old Dominion.
Harrow wasn't the answer at Kentucky, but he is the answer at Georgia State. That's the way it is supposed to work.
10. The line for the Louisville-Kentucky game, eight days out:
Ken Pomeroy's numbers still favor Louisville, 77-76.
Jeff Sagarin's numbers still favor Kentucky by 1.38 points.