BOZICH | Tuesday Muse: How many Cards would start for the Wildca - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Tuesday Muse: How many Cards would start for the Wildcats?

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Rick Bozich presents the Tuesday edition of the Monday muse. Rick Bozich presents the Tuesday edition of the Monday muse.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – When the Monday Muse gets hit with a delay of game penalty and does not arrive until Tuesday, you must begin with an outrageous concept.

This concept qualifies as borderline outrageous:

If you were drafting a team from players on the rosters built by Rick Pitino and John Calipari this season, would your first five picks all be from Kentucky?

The telephone lines are open. It’s time for the Tuesday edition of the Monday Muse.

1. KENTUCKY VS. LOUISVILLE

OK. Here were go. You’re John Wooden Jr. You’ve been asked to draft a starting five from the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky rosters. Who do you take in your first five?

Here’s my list: I start with Skal Labissiere, Calipari’s latest greatest lottery pick at center. He’s not as dominating as Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns but he is better than Nerlens Noel.

Second is point guard Tyler Ulis. Love his pass-first, team-first approach and his enthusiastic body language.

Third? Give me Jamal Murray. You can never go wrong with a shooter, especially a shooter who is also a scorer.

Fourth pick? I’ve always been a major fan of Marcus Lee. He’s a force on the glass at both ends of the floor. He’ll beat his man downcourt on the fast break. He blocks shots. He brings energy the way Ulis brings it. All he needs is a signature offensive move.

And, with the fifth pick of the U of L-UK draft, I’ll take … ummm … hmmm … errr ...

Give me Damion Lee of Louisville.

I’ve heard the arguments for Isaiah Briscoe, the Kentucky freshman whose goal is to become the nation’s best defensive guard. But give me Lee, even though he did not shoot the ball well against Kentucky Wesleyan Monday night.

He’s more experienced, stronger and an eager team leader. My prediction is that Lee was in the Yum! Center practice facility early Tuesday morning trying to repair his shot. Until Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell mature, Louisville will need every point the Cards can get from Lee.

2. VANDERBILT – A CLASSIC MUST WIN FOR KENTUCKY

Here is what history tells us about Kentucky football: The Wildcats (4-5) need a victory against the Commodores to deliver a winning season.

Not just this season. Any season.

The record shows that beating Vanderbilt was one constant ingredient in nine of UK’s last 10 winning seasons.

The exception was 2008 when Wildcats finished 7-6 after beating East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Rich Brooks coached that team to four non-conference victories and the Wildcats earned a pair of one-point victories in the Southeastern Conference against Arkansas and Mississippi State. They lost to Vandy but still finished with more wins than losses.

To get to where Kentucky wants to be in the SEC, the Wildcats have to beat Vanderbilt.

The money in Vegas has upgraded Vandy to a 3-½ point favorite for the game the schools will play Saturday in Nashville. Sagarin likes the Commodores by 4.24. ESPN’s power rankings index puts UK’s win probability at 41 percent.

3. WHAT DOES THE SCHEDULE SAY (Football Edition)?

The schedule matters. Always has. Always will. It shouldn’t be an excuse. It can be an explanation.

Check the records of the five teams that have beaten Kentucky this season. All five have won more than they have lost. The Wildcats don’t have a win against an FBS opponent with a winning record.

UK has beaten the teams it was supposed to beat and lost the games they were supposed to lose.

Louisville? The story is similar. The Cards have lost to a pair of unbeatens (Clemson and Houston), seven-win Florida State and 5-4 Auburn. Louisville has one victory over an FBS opponent with a winning record – North Carolina State.

Indiana fans have the most reason to howl. The Hoosiers likely lost their chance to win six games by blowing that 25-point lead in the second half and stumbling against Rutgers. You could argue that IU’s 38-35 victory over Western Kentucky is the best victory any local team has registered this season.

4. WHAT DOES THE SCHEDULE SAY (Basketball Edition)?

Ranking college basketball teams before conference play begins is tricky terrain. Some coaches (paging Tom Izzo) schedule as if they love watching their guys get their lips bloodied. Others schedule as if their courtesy cars depend upon a 10-0 start.

I checked the outlook for Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana for the first 10 games this season.

Indiana is likely to have the most demanding opening stretch in the group, although you could certainly argue for Kentucky. Louisville has more breathing room than the Wildcats or Hoosiers.

Indiana’s schedule is the most difficult to gauge because it’s uncertain which teams the Hoosiers will play in their second and third assignments at the Maui Invitational. But if IU opens with a victory over Wake Forest, they’re likely to face Vanderbilt. Then, they’d likely meet Kansas or UCLA in their third game.

Add a Big Ten/ACC Challenge assignment at Duke and the Hoosiers’ first 10 should feature three Top 25 opponents, five teams that delivered winning records last season and two teams that made the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky plays only one of its first 10 against a top 25 team (Duke) but the Wildcats face three teams that made the 2015 NCAA Tournament and seven that finished with winning records.

Louisville? The Cards play eight of their first 10 at home. Their only road game is their only early meeting with a Top 25 team – at Michigan State. Of U of L’s first 10 opponents, two (Sparty and North Florida) made the tournament last season and six finished with winning seasons.

5. POOR ANTHONY DAVIS

Ask NBA wise guys who’ll be the league’s best player after LeBron James exits the stage and former Kentucky star Anthony Davis will collect as many votes as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant or James Harden.

But even Davis needs help.

Check the NBA standings. Two weeks into the season and the New Orleans Pelicans are one of three winless NBA teams. Nobody expected much from Philadelphia or Brooklyn. But the Pelicans and Davis made the playoffs last season and were expected to upgrade from their eighth-place finish in the Western Conference.

Not yet, even though Davis is averaging 25.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks. New Orleans lugged an 0-6 record into its game with Dallas Tuesday night.

Get the man a power forward.

6. COLLEGE HOOPS INJURY REPORT

Last season Kentucky had to overcome an early injury. The Wildcats lost forward Alex Poythress for the season after knee surgery.

This season, two of the nation’s top three teams are already down one player as the season begins. Maryland is missing guard Dion Wiley. He was expected to miss only six weeks, but the Terps announced Tuesday that Wiley will miss the entire season. Wiley was probably the Terps’ fifth best player.

Top-ranked North Carolina has this challenge: Point guard Marcus Paige will miss at least three weeks with a broken hand. Considering Paige made more three pointers than the rest of the Tar Heels’ team last season, North Carolina will miss Paige if he is not available when UNC plays Maryland Dec. 1 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The injury, it should be noted, is to Paige’s non-shooting right hand.

7.  PLAYOFF FAB FOUR

These are the four teams that I expect to participate in the playoff, not the four best teams today.

  1. Clemson: The Tigers have to survive a rivalry game at struggling South Carolina and then likely an Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against North Carolina. That is manageable.
  2. Notre Dame: Howl if you like, but Notre Dame’s only loss was by two points in the rain at Clemson. They’ll beat Wake Forest and Boston College at home and then be forced to win at Stanford to qualify.
  3. Alabama: The Crimson Tide officially overcame their burp against Ole Miss by overwhelming LSU. Now they have to win two SEC road games (Mississippi State, Auburn) and beat Florida in the SEC title game.
  4. Ohio State: Nobody is gaga over the Buckeyes’ schedule, but they’ve won their last four by at least two touchdowns. If they finish out the season by beating Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa as the defending national champion, the Buckeyes will not be excluded.

8. KEN GRIFFEY JR – FIRST BALLOT HALL OF FAMER?

Ken Griffey Jr. will have his day in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The only question is whether that day will be in the summer of 2016 or the summer of 2017.

Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America create drama every year with this debate about a candidate’s worthiness to enter the Hall on the first ballot. Only the best of the best are supposed to enjoy that honor.

I think Griffey qualifies. One MVP. Ten Gold Gloves. Thirteen all-star games. Sixth on the all-time home run list (without the steroid discussion baggage that surrounds some candidates). Fifteenth all-time in RBIs.

But, as outlined in this New York Times story, Griffey played remarkable baseball during his 11 seasons with the Seattle Mariners. Then, he struggled to stay healthy and contribute at a championship level during the nine seasons Griffey played for the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox.

Should those struggles force Griffey to wait an extra summer before he celebrates his Cooperstown moment?

I don’t think so. But will the BBWAA agree?

9. ADAM ENGEL – HE’S ON FIRE

Nobody in minor league baseball has done more to improve his status as a big-league prospect this month than former University of Louisville outfielder Adam Engel.

Nobody.

As the Arizona Fall League moves into the second half of its season, Engel leads the AFL in hitting (.420), hits (21), runs (14), doubles (9), on-base percentage (.538) and extra-base hits (10).

Engel played center field and hit leadoff for the West Division stars in the AFL all-star game Saturday and reached base four times – two singles and two walks.

Look for Engel to start the 2016 season in Birmingham, the Class AA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. But the White Sox need offense. If Engel keeps contributing, he'll get his chance.

10. POLL RESULTS

What grade would you give the Louisville football team after eight games?

C   .... 33.6 percent

C-  .... 21 

C+ .... 17.3

B-  .... 11.6

D   .... 9.3

B   .... 5.8

B+ ..... 0.9

A-   .... 0.5

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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