CRAWFORD | What the Adel and Mathiang suspensions mean for Louisville against Virginia
WDRB's Eric Crawford and Katie George are in Virginia for Louisville's game tonight against the Cavaliers. Crawford breaks down what losing Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang means for the already-depleted Cardinals.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — No Deng Adel. No Mangok Mathiang. No hope for Louisville in its Big Monday matchup with Virginia?
I wouldn't go quite that far. But Adel and Mathaing being suspended for breaking curfew certainly hurts the Cardinals in their quest for a high-profile road win in Atlantic Coast Conference play. They are down to seven scholarship players facing one of the nation’s most efficient teams on offense and defense.
If you put any stock in Vegas oddsmakers and bettors, the line on tonight’s game has doubled in the two hours since news broke that Adel and Mathaing would not play. Virginia went from a consensus three-point favorite to a six-point favorite.
What does losing Adel and Mitchell mean? First, a look back. Louisville’s three leading scorers when it lost to Virginia 61-53 in the KFC Yum! Center on Dec. 28 were Tony Hicks, Quentin Snider and Adel, with eight points each. That trio accounted for just under 40 percent of the team’s scoring. All three are sidelined for tonight’s game.
Not coincidentally, they are also three of the best players on the team at scoring off the dribble — though Donovan Mitchell (who had seven points in the last Virginia game) probably has emerged as the best on the team.
Pitino is planning to play differently in tonight’s game, asking his better offensive drivers to be aggressive with the ball and try to beat Cavaliers’ defenders one-on-one off the dribble. Instead of ball screens and pick-and-roll pays, he planned to use isolation to beat defenders, then look for open teammates after breaking down defenders.
Adel has had more success scoring in isolation situations than any player on the team this season, but advanced metrics don’t measure how well a player finds teammates out of those situations. His ball-handling can be shaky at times. Still, he was one of those players who figured to have a prominent role in the offensive plan at Virginia.
There is some good news, at least offensively, in that his replacement, V.J. King, was almost as productive in 13 minutes against Virginia in December as Adel was in 27. King scored six points and went 2-3 from the field. He and Hicks (4-5) were the only players to shoot better than 50 percent in the game.
So this game figured to be a chance for King to shine, anyway. And he has been making strides, averaging 10 points and 5 rebounds in his past two games.
But no one is going to replace the defensive things Adel does.
Mathiang, in December, did not score in 15 minutes against Virginia. He did have five rebounds, but didn’t take a shot.
But he’s been a different player in the last three weeks. He has averaged 12.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and shot 67 percent from the field over the last five games, scoring nine or more points in each game. He scored a season-high 16 points at Boston College in the Cardinals’ last game. He had 13 points, matched a career-best with 13 rebounds and blocked two shots at Florida State for his first double-double of the season and second of his career.
In the absence of Snider, the team’s other co-captain, Mathiang had stepped forward. Now, he steps aside. Not only will he miss tonight’s game, Pitino has replaced him as captain with Mitchell.
This team, now, is Donovan Mitchell’s. It has been anyway, since Snider’s departure. But this move makes it official.
On the interior, Anas Mahmoud takes center stage. Offensively, he’s been outstanding, and he’s the team’s best shot-blocker. But he’ll have to avoid foul trouble, and Matz Stockman will need to step in and provide valuable minutes.
Pitino had this to say about the suspensions of Adel and Mathiang.
“After we returned to Louisville (from a win at Boston College), I boarded the team bus and told them how proud I was of them, but the most important thing now is to get their rest as we had an early morning practice and had to travel,” Pitino said in a statement released by the athletic department. “For some reason, Mangok and Deng chose to break curfew and were out very late. This is an extremely big game for our basketball team and it would be an understatement to say that I am extremely disappointed in both young men. . . . Mangok is no longer a captain of our team. Donovan Mitchell has now been inserted in that role.”
Pitino’s team has been riding high, albeit against the bottom of the ACC. It has risen to the No. 3 spot in the Rating Percentage Index and expects to be in the Top 5 of the Associated Press poll released Monday.
But this decision by Pitino will get his team’s attention. He has had nothing but praise for his players all season. This kind of adversity will force players like King and Anas Mahmoud to step forward even more.
“We will move forward,” Pitino said, “and put forth a great effort with a depleted team.”
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