BOZICH | Monday Muse: Pitino, Calipari, Forde, Sudfeld, Crawford, Lane
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – International basketball rules are funky. Prepare to see players swat basketballs off the rim. The clock stops after made field goals in the final two minutes. The lane is jumbo-sized.
Here is one similarity: Five players start.
Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino has taken his team to Puerto Rico for a string of exhibition games that begin Tuesday. Pitino has committed to two starters – Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, his fifth-year transfers.
That has stirred a guessing game among Cards’ fans. Who fills the other three spots? It’s also a perfect leadoff item for this week’s Monday Muse.
1. Lee, Lewis and … and …
My WDRB sidekicks Eric Crawford and Tom Lane departed for Puerto Rico Monday morning. They are not candidates at center and point guard (well, maybe Lane, a slick passer and ball-handler). But they’ll be reporting on the trip for WDRB News and WDRB.com all week. Don't miss our daily newscasts or web reports.
But until we have answers, we can play along with Pitino. Here are my picks for the other three starters:
A. Quentin Snider. He’s the team’s most experienced player. He finished well last March. He’s a solid kid who plays with poise.
B. Mangok Mathiang. Had a splendid summer in international ball. Pitino has praised his improvement and leadership skills.
C. Ray Spalding. This one could go to three or four others, but whenever Pitino praises a guy creating deflections, pay attention.
D. Lane. I told you he can pass and shoot. Not so sure about the deflections.
2. What a Relief It Was
Sometimes University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari needs an editor. He can’t really be saying what he means.
Last week qualified as one of those times. Speaking to Fran Healy of Fox Sports, Calipari said that after the Wildcats lost to Wisconsin in the national semifinals he sensed some UK players were "relieved" when he entered the locker room after the defeat.
Later Calipari tried to add context to the interview. The only context necessary would have been to say "relieved," was the wrong word.
I didn’t sense relief. I sensed shock and emotional pain. Karl-Anthony Towns pulled his hood over his forehead and looked down throughout his interview. Other guys looked as if they had been crying when the media entered the room. Understandable.
The next time Calipari talks about the game, why not just say this?
"Wisconsin was a terrific team, champions of the Big Ten. Had two guys drafted. We played great basketball. They played better. It happens."
Was that so difficult?
3. The Sudfeld Show
Word is percolating in Bloomington that Indiana senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld is primed for a monstrous season, throwing darts across the practice field.
At least one 2016 NFL Mock Draft board projects Sudfeld as a first-round pick. Indiana was sitting at 3-2 last season when Sudfeld injured his left shoulder against Iowa. The Hoosiers finished 4-8 without him. Any pass longer than four yards was a mess.
"This is the best I have ever seen Nate right now," IU receiver Ricky Jones told Terry Hutchens of the Associated Press. "I even wrote it on Twitter.
"He's throwing dimes on every ball. Even if we had run a bad route he's putting the ball right in the pocket. It's going to be special. I like how he is throwing the ball right now."
With Tevin Coleman taking his 2,000 yards rushing to Atlanta, Sudfeld will need to be great for Indiana to end its bowl drought.
4. Richard Pitino's Future
The chatter last spring was that Richard Pitino was open to move from the University of Minnesota, even after his second season.
His name was mentioned with the Alabama job that went to Avery Johnson. You heard it again at St. John's, which hired Chris Mullen.
Minnesota is a second-tier Big Ten job. Typically, the Gophers have only won big when they have broken NCAA rules. Minnesota slipped from 25 wins to 18 last season, missing post-season play. There was grumbling about the future of the program.
The Big Ten is loaded this season. Minnesota will be picked no higher than ninth.
And this has happened: Norwood Teague, the guy who hired Pitino, has been fired as the athletic director after sending an embarrassing string of sexts to two university employees.
It's even worse than that: Teague was also pursuing a female sports writer who covers the team for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, despite her repeated requests that Teague stop that nonsense. (The link.)
If Pitino needed an opening to leave Minnesota, Norwood Teague just provided it.
5. The Next Great Hoosier
This is the most difficult sentence that I will write this month. The Chicago Cubs are going to make the National League playoffs.
Here is one reason why: Former Indiana University star Kyle Schwarber.
Cubs' manager Joe Maddon knows a big-league bat when he sees one. Maddon sees one in Schwarber. He's plugged him into the second spot in the Cubs batting order. He is playing him in left field, even though Schwarber was primarily a catcher when the Cubs drafted him fourth overall in the 2014 MLB Free Agent Draft.
Schwarber is the guy who hit the longest home run at Patterson Stadium. Big-league pitchers are not giving him much more trouble. He’s hitting .341 with six home runs and 21 runs driven in while getting only 91 big-league at bats.
Look for Kyle Schwarber in the National League post-season now that the Cubs have swept the World Champion San Francisco Giants and taken a 3 1/2 –game lead in the Wild Card race.
6. Remember the Name, Part I
Dan McDonnell has had a string of Louisville baseball players drafted, but no position players have established themselves in the big leagues.
Adam Engel wants to change that. After playing center field for the Cards' 2013 College World Series team, Engel was drafted by the Chicago White Sox, a team that has cried for offense all summer.
Engel knows offense. He leads the High-A Carolina League in runs scored (77) and stolen bases (52 in 63 attempts) while playing for the Winston-Salem Warthogs. He knows the value of taking a walk. He has solid lead-off man skills and is considered a plus defender.
Engel has a chance of landing in U.S. Cellular Field in 2017.
7. Remember the Name, Part II
The powerful Lakeside swimming program guarantees that Louisville-area swimmers are always in the mix in the national scene. Here is the name of a breakout performer at the Phillips 66 National Championship meet in San Antonio:
Only 16, Forde will be a junior at Sacred Heart Academy this year. But the beginning of her school year will be interrupted by a trip to Singapore, where she could represent the U.S. in two events from Aug. 25-30 in the Junior World Championships.
Forde was the fastest 18-and-under American at the U.S. National Championships Saturday in the 400 IM to earn one spot. She likely will swim the 200 IM as well as the second qualifier in that event.
Her 400 time (4:45.84) is No. 1 in the nation for 16 year olds for the 2014-15 season. She's also No. 1 in the 200 IM (2:14.36). She broke both Kentucky state records in those events, both held by Stanford signee and Sacred Heart graduate Leah Stevens.
Her times in San Antonio rank in the all-time American top 30 in the 400 IM and top 20 in the 200 IM.
Eventually, she could be the subject of a column written by her father, Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports. Brooke’s mother, Tricia, was an outstanding swimmer for Lakeside and Northwestern.
8. Whistling Straits is No Valhalla
The most interesting e-mail I received Sunday was from the PGA of America. They announced that the Saturday and Sunday rounds for the 2015 PGA Championships at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc. were officially sold out.
Four days before the start of play? What's the rush?
Wasn't the 2014 PGA at Valhalla sold out about 17 seconds after tickets went on sale?
9. Kentucky Makes the Top 10
Bruce Feldman of has ranked the 10 softest non-conference schedules played by teams from Power Five conferences. The winner (the link)?
North Carolina State. The Wolfpack have scheduled their way to 4-0 with games against Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion and South Alabama.
Kentucky made the list at Number 10, even though the Wildcats finish their season by hosting Louisville on the final Saturday in November.
10. Exit Poll Results
I ask questions. You give answers. I plan to close the Muse every week with results from the poll from the previous Monday.
Last week I asked this:
Who is your leading candidate for the top sports person in 2015?
The winner? American Pharoah at a solid 55 percent. (Link to results.)
Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth finished second at 25 percent. Serena Williams 7 percent, Stephen Curry 6 percent and Ronda Rousey followed them at 5.
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