CRAWFORD | Delayed dozen: Catching up from a weekend away - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Delayed dozen: Catching up from a weekend away

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Back on the clock from a weekend away (the reason for my absence, here). Playing some catch up on a few items below.

1. CARDINALS SHOOTING WOES. I believe I've heard this song before. But not quite at this volume. Over the past four years, the University of Louisville has won more games than any program in college basketball, earned a national title and been to two Final Fours, while twice winning the Big East, during some of that league's toughest seasons ever. It did so by shooting an average of 45 percent from the field and 34 percent from three-point range. That is to say, it wasn't setting the world on fire with its shooting. This year's team, however, is failing to reach even those thresholds. It's at 42.7 percent from the field, 29.4 percent from three-point range. And its inability to hit open shots against Duke and Kentucky leave an impression so lasting that it gets hard to remember the good this team does. Frankly, it looks like a team that lacks confidence against such competition. Particularly at home. Is there a fix? That's why you play a season. A team gets a chance to learn to win with what it has. In 2012, on this date, U of L was shooting exactly 43 percent from the field and 29.5 percent from three-point range. It had lost three out of four games and five out of seven, including a 31-point drubbing at Providence. It shot 32.3 percent from the field against Kentucky, 4-18 from three-point range. Rick Pitino generally has been very good at taking a team that's down and re-inflating the balloon. He's going to have to do it again. My main thought is that it is going to have to really become adept at mid-range shooting. The 10-15-foot jump shot should become its staple. Getting into the paint and making the mid-range jumper is about the only thing that's going to free up Montrezl Harrell for more decent looks in close.

2. WHAT DID MIKE KRZYZEWSKI DO? Granted, I didn't watch the game live and haven't heard any of the commentary, but apparently he invented a new defensive scheme called a “zone” for the Louisville game? In all seriousness, coaches deserve credit when they depart from their normal mode of operation to try different things when their team is struggling. Playing a zone against Louisville is a slam-dunk, but not every coach is willing to depart from his comfort zone like that, so Krzyzewski does deserve credit for a smart coaching move. The great ones have that flexibility. Nobody hated zone defenses more than Adolph Rupp. But even he was convinced to try a trapping 1-3-1 with his “Rupp's Runts” team in 1966. He just didn't call it a zone. When asked what it was, he said it was a “transitional and shifting man-to-man backed by a hyperbolic paraboloid between the ball and the basket.”

3. LOUISVILLE HAS A BIGGER PROBLEM THAN SHOOTING. Pitino has plenty of bodies to put in at the center position, but none of them were effective against Duke. Nor were they effective against Wake Forest. Nor could they do much to keep North Carolina from scoring in the paint. It's one thing to be dominated by the best big man in college basketball. But the Cardinals need to find a way to shore up their interior defense in a hurry. The Cardinals played a solid defensive game against Kentucky, but in their two ACC losses have struggled to stop superior offensive teams. Jahlil Okafor made 8 of 10 shots. What's the answer? There's no magic pill. All Pitino can do is keep working with his guys, have them learn from these things they're experiencing, try to stay positive. Every season, particularly in January, there are bumps in the road. Louisville has stumbled over worse teams than the three they've lost to this season, far worse. 

4. LOUISVILLE SHOULD KEEP ITS UNIFORMS FROM THE DUKE GAME. I know, it was a rough performance. But those are the only uniforms the Cardinals should wear, pretty much ever. Old man opinion over.

5. KENTUCKY JUST NEEDED TO FIND ITS DEFENSE. John Calipari wasn't thinking about the short term when he spent nine days of “Camp Cal” drilling his team on offensive sets. He wanted to see his team put more pressure on opponents with efficient offense. In the two games following that break, the Wildcats were taken to overtime twice. It's fair to say that they've regained their equilibrium, however, after defensively dominating their past two games, including Saturday's pummeling of Alabama. Defense is what makes this team special. The constant defensive pressure it applies is a game-long body-shot to the opponent. Eventually, it not only frustrates them, but kills their will. It'll take a pretty special effort to beat Kentucky when it is on its game defensively. That's the key to this team, more than any platoon or individual player.

6. HERE COME THE HOOSIERS.  Tom Crean hasn't caught many breaks lately, and the loss of big man Hanner Mosquera-Perea for perhaps a month with a knee injury was yet another blow. But the Hoosiers keep pounding away. They earned a big road win at Illinois on Sunday, and are 4-1 in the Big Ten in the midst of a tough schedule stretch. They get Maryland at home Thursday night before traveling to Ohio State and Purdue. They're a dangerous team offensively, and if they can keep hanging tough until Mosquera Perea returns, it could be a fun finish in Bloomington. A little more defense wouldn't hurt. 

7. U OF L's WOMEN QUIETLY BUILDING A BIG SEASON. The Cardinals are 17-1, and ranked No. 4 in the nation. Home attendance is down about 600 per game. They don't shoot threes at anywhere near the pace of last year's team. Yet in their first season in the ACC, they're beating teams by an average of 22.7 points per game and shooting nearly 47 percent from the field. How? By passing the ball and running good offense. They rank in the top 10 nationally in field goal percentage and assists (18.3 per game). They are led in scoring by a pair of freshmen — Mariya Moore (13.7 points per game) and Myisha Hines-Allen (12.4). They are at Florida State on Thursday before returning to Louisville for home games against Miami this coming Sunday and Syracuse next Thursday. Then they head to Duke.

Walk talked about developing his team's offensive attack without having the three-point shot as a major weapon.

“We do a great job of getting into the paint,” he said. “We're not a great three-point-shooting team. And I know that and we can accept that, but we do a really nice job of penetrating, we work so hard at getting into the middle, jump stopping, and whether elevating for a shot or dropping it off to the post, and that's where our bread and butter is going to be. We're going to have to continue to shoot and make 10 or 15-foot pull-up jump shots, and if we can do that, then the posts have to come up and help, and then we can drop it off. And then we'll continue to work on shooting, there's no doubt. We have to be able to stretch some people out.”

8. BELLARMINE MAKING BIG NEWS. Coach Scott Davenport's program got some bad news last week when it learned that transfer Yasin Kolo won't be eligible to play during the 2014-15 season. The school had hoped to receive a waiver from the NCAA's multiple transfer rule for the 6-10 center. The native of Goettingen, Germany, will be eligible to play a full season next year, but would've been a big help this season. The Knights, ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division II, gave up some big offensive rebounds late in a 66-62 loss at No. 4 Indianapolis, but bounced back to pound St. Joseph's 71-51 two days later. The Knights will visit the University of Southern Indiana tonight at 8:30. The school received the NCAA's Division II Award of Excellence from the NCAA last week, for its efforts to honor Patrick McSweeney. It also played host to The New York Times in practice last week, which took a break from the Knicks' shooting woes to look into how Bellarmine manages to be among college basketball's field goal percentage leaders annually. If you like great offense, you're really cheating yourself if you don't get to Knights Hall to see Bellarmine play. Read about them in the New York Times here.

9. WNBA COMING TO LOUISVILLE. Not for good, but for a pretty good exhibition. Angel McCaughtry, Shoni Schimmel and the Atlanta Dream will headline an exhibition doubleheader in the KFC Yum! Center on May 23. I'd wager it may be the largest crowd some of those players get to play in front of all season.

10. DEFLATED FOOTBALLS? It wasn't the reason New England pounded the Indianapolis Colts, but the NFL will have to take some dramatic action if the Patriots were found to have intentionally altered footballs during the AFC Championship game. It's ridiculous, and an edge the team didn't even need in a 45-7 win. But if true, it's a disturbing indictment. Kudos to Bob Kravitz, a fellow newspaper veteran who moved to Indianapolis TV station WTHR, for breaking the story.

11. HAPPY TRAILS. Courier-Journal columnist and enterprise writer Adam Himmelsbach has left town to become a Boston Celtics beat reporter for the Boston Glob. Congrats to him, and best of luck. Sources say that The C-J will replace him, though perhaps not with another columnist.

12. LOUISVILLE'S DOMINIQUE BROWN WAS THE LEADING RUSHER in the East-West Shrine game, carrying 19 times for 69 yards, while scoring the game's only touchdown. Brown carried only one time (for four yards) in U of L's final six games of the season. Kentucky defensive end Za'Darius Smith was a force in the game, spending much of it in the opposing backfield.

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