Louisville Card File: Seton Hall

Before we get to the Cards, an observation about the Pirates. Actually about Coach Kevin Willard.

Watching his woeful, injury-depleted squad, a team still trying to shake the bad karma from the reign of Bobby Gonzalez, I kept thinking of Anthony Grant.

The former future coaching superstar was a long time assistant to Billy Donovan, before turning Virginia Commonwealth into a mid major power on the uptick. Thus, AG became the College Hoops Flavor of the Month, so he jumped to Alabama . . .

. . . where his star seems to be fading. I know it’s early, but . . .

. . . when you have a fanbase which cares about little in February besides what Nick Saban eats for lunch, you’ve got to win, baby, win early and often to keep pace.

Willard took the Big East coaching job at Seton Hall, against parental advice, thinking he’ll be able to mold the South Orange, New Jersey school back into a contenda.

Willard’s a good coach. Let’s hope he does it. So far, South Orange is looking a lot like Tuscaloosa. Basketballwise, that is.

At least the Pirates don’t play football. Unless the BEast comes a calling, imploring them to start a program.

* * * * *

There is one really disturbing stat from last night’s U of L W.

Terrence Jennings logged 11 minutes of playing time.

That’s at least ten minutes too long.

I’ve interviewed TJ. He’s nice enough. I don’t believe he’s a troublemaker. He’s apparently a fairly attentive student.

He’s simply not a very good basketball player. He has zero basketball savvy. No on court instincts. The sad truth: He doesn’t get it.

More important, this team plays a lot better when the big guys have the names Dieng, Van Treese, Goode and Buckles on their jerseys.

The Rick is apparently losing patience with TJ. Finally. It’s a good thing.

So, hey, George Goode, whom the coach has never given a decent chance to prove himself, starts, hits his first two mid range jumpers, scrambles on D, hustles and is rewarded . . .

. . . by being jerked from the lineup at the 16:45 mark.

Thanks for that boffo 3:45 of effort, son, now go sit down.

He played ten minutes total in the game. That’s at least ten minutes too little.

Buckles injury does leave The Rick with no option but to play his other bigs. Which means that Dieng, who has serious hoops instincts and drive, gets more time. Last night, he had 5 blocks and 6 boards. So too, Stephan Van Treese, who, given 27 minutes of court time last night, grabbed 10 boards.

* * * * *

Other numbers that jump out.

Siva had three turnovers to match his paltry three assists. In fact, against a seriously overmatched Pirate squad, playing little D, the Cards’ assist/ turnover ratio was 16/16.

Preston Knowles was 3/12 from the field.

With Elisha Justice apparently suffering yet another Pitino Era injury, there was opportunity against the lesser opponent for Russ Smith to get some valuable minutes.

The Rick game him four.

* * * * *

Chris Smith continues to be the most pleasant surprise of the year.

He is an unassuming, steadying force at both ends of the court.

* * * * *

If Louisville is to be any type of contender — to make the NCAAs, to get past the first round of that and/or the league tourney, to make a name for itself this season — the Cards MUST win 5 of their next 6 games.

At South Florida and Providence. At home against Marquette, St. John’s and West Virginia. (A W at Villanova would give them a Get Out of Jail Free card in one of those other games.)

Then, U of L could play respectable .500 ball the rest of the year without worrying about bubble talk, hosting an NIT opening round game, or an 8/9 first round seed in the Dance.

It’s put up or shut up time.

– Seedy K

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