Louisville Card File: Kentucky

If yesterday’s bloodbath did nothing else for the Cardinal Nation, it did answer one question that’s been vexing the Red & Black Faithful for the last few years.

Question:, Whatever did Ralph Willard do for the program during his short but lucrative stint at U of L, while essentially covering his pal’s back during the Karen Sypher mess?

Answer: Russ Smith.

On several occasions, The Rick has admitted it was Willard, who saw the potential and possibilities for the diminutive guard, who has become Louisville’s sole dependable offensive weapon, heading into the meat of the schedule.

Actually, there’s also a secondary response to the query.

Kevin Willard. Ralph’s offspring, a former Cardinal assistant, is proving his mettle, having turned Iona and Seton Hall around in short order. If The Rick ever retires, and, frankly, I’m skeptical he ever will, Willard the Younger may well be one of TJ’s targets. Assuming, of course, that Jurich himself is still around, when Pitino finally hangs ‘em up.

* * * * *

There is a predilection in these parts for the Big Blue acolytes and Cardinal diehards, when contemplating the state of their squads, to compare them first to the team down the road. Only after that, do they tend to take the broader view, and consider their beloved team’s status in their league and for the Dance.

As much as I loathe that myopic tendency, I admit it is the norm, and that I, too, fall into the trap.

By its very nature, this, The Day After, is when it happens most often.

Of course, it’s easier for the fans of the winner to move on in full gloat and anticipation of getting to work to hurl barbs at co-workers whose loyalties are a different color than theirs.

But, for the followers of the losing team, this is always Reality Check Time.

As has been the case since John Calipari arrived in Lexington, toting his magic recruiting wand, Cardinal fans awoke this morning, bleary eyed, battered and beside themselves, wondering “What the fuck?”

* * * * *

It’s a might too easy for those of us who live and die U of L to immediately travel to the dark place.

What happened to Peyton Siva? Kyle Kuric? Isn’t he, after all, really just a walk on, masquerading as team savior? Etc.

I shall not list the entire litany of plaints I’ve heard in the last day.

A reasoned perspective is that this disturbing two game losing skein that ended 2011 not with a bang but a whimper came at the hands of two legit talented Top 10 teams. Twelve wins against 2 Ls is not a bad way to enter the heart of the league season. (Though you might opine 0-1 in the Big East with a loss at home is not optimal.)

The Cards are short-handed. Though that excuse is turning rapidly into a nettlesome old saw. There does remain a significant upside for this version of the Cards. I can’t believe the team’s offense can remain as stagnant, unimaginative and unproductive as it has.

But . . .

* * * * *

. . . is this state of affairs acceptable?

The buck indeed stops with Rick Pitino. He’s the one whose image is front and center during those endless intro videos. He’s the one who says the program needed to be re-branded. He’s the one who is large and most assuredly and certainly in charge.

So, if the Cards must overachieve to be as competitive as they’ve been the last few seasons, whose fault is that?

UK is famous for giving nicknames to its championship teams. Well, this certainly isn’t a championship version of the Cards, but perhaps a moniker is in order.

How about The Afterthoughts?

Kuric’s a walk on. Chris Smith and Mark Jackson Jr. are walk ons. Gorgui Dieng was recruited only after the Cards lost a prep teammate of his and the Fab Melo recruiting battle. Russ Smith was a lucky roll of the dice. (Thanks again, Ralph, wherever you are.)

Pitino has been getting an inordinate amount of praise from the nation’s press this year, for the marvelous coaching job he’s done with his less than stellar squad?

Well, why is the squad less than stellar? Why hasn’t the coach, who is earning tens and tens of millions of dollars, brought in mo’ better, mo’ talented players with less obvious flaws?

* * * * *

Let me those who deserve it.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I’m not sure I can recall a more monster game. 24/19. Six offensive boards. Big time. Big big time. (Is it true this kid’s from Camden? Say it ain’t so, Milt and Billy. Does that add insult to injury or what?)

Anthony Davis. 18/10. Six blocked shots that set the tenor of the whole game.

He was also 12/13 at the line.

Terrence Jones, for all the problems he’s having — Who knows what up with this baller? — still snared 11 boards.

Though rattled a lot, Marquis Teague had 5 assists.

John Calipari. His team didn’t play very well at all, was out of sorts for most of the game, but still won. Plus, he got all those talented players to come play for him. And, got Jay Z a courtside seat.

* * * * *

As for the Cardinals . . .

. . . well, honestly, there was never a moment when it appeared Louisville had a legit shot at winning.

Though faint hope glimmered when Russ Smith’s FT tied it at 40 with 15:23 to play. Then, out of gas and overwhlemed by the longer, taller, more talented Cats, Louisville didn’t score on its next 8 possessions.

Ball game.

Louisville was outscored 14 at the free throw line.

Louisville was outboarded, 28-49.

More disturbing than Kyle Kuric’s, Chane Behanan’s, Gorgui Dieng’s and Rakeem Buckles’ paltry point totals were the minimal number of shot attempts UK’s length allowed them. That foursome took only 16 shots.

Louisville proved again, as it did against Georgetown, that its pressing defense when ratcheted to 11 can cause even really good teams problems, rattling them into errors. It also showed that, despite that asset, it won’t be enough to win games against big time competition.

Which brings us back to U of L’s surprising lack of offense. I’d love to be astute enough to offer a solution. I’m not.

But Rick Pitino is getting paid a lot of bucks for his acumen. Cardinal fans can only hope he comes up with the answer.

He’s sure enough getting paid enough money to do so.

– Seedy K

16 Comments

  1. Mark
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Mark Jackson Jr. was a walk on; he walked off, and out of Louisville last week. IF CRP needs offense–and does he ever–WHY isn’t Angel Nunez, he of very sweet stroke, given PT?! What’s to lose when losing??!!

  2. Jim
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    As far as making comments about the game, I am as far from a B-Ball expert as anyone can be. But if the Cats had been playing up their potential and their talent level, there is not a team in the country that will stay with them. But, last night a team that could take advantage of half of their mistake and fumbles, would have beaten them by 10 pts easy. If you Cats are going to the final four, you have to step it up. you sucked last night. oh yes, the cards sucked worse.

    I am sorry they beat the Cards?

    Oh yea, I hate giving my Mother-in-Law bragging rights!
    .
    With regards to the cards. Did someone come out and put a piece of plexiglass over your goals. There has to be a way for you guys to put down the ball. You guys missed so many obs to kick the crap out of the Cats. Your are a great team at making the other team make mistakes, but use them to your advantage.

    GO CARDS

  3. Linda Adkisson
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Rick sat in Rupp Arena and wondered what could havre been if he had never left. Karma………you may be in Coach Crum’s place sooner than you think. Can’t wait for KSR 1080 am tomorrow with Matt Jones.

  4. cbcard
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I can offer a solution to UofL’s impotent offense. Recruit better!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Crawford said it correctly when he said UK was blue chip and UofL blue collar.

  5. K , Drish
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Minus P K and T J this is the same team that almost beat the NCAA champions 3 times last year . With Russ Smiths Offense and defense and a true center in Deing , what’s the problem ??? I’m not saying we should have whipped uk but our inability to score cositently has showed with lesser opponents . Peyton Siva is playing like his job is on the line and he can’t handle the pressure , Kyle is playing like he has since he has been here so no big surprise he will step up soon , Rick Pitino has done a great job with this crew coaching but he cannot shoot the ball for he cannot keep them from stupid turn overs , But HEY Rick you can bench the the starters ! That winning streak was very nice but it won’t help them come tournament time, Peyton needs to make Deing , Kuric , Smith , Behannon and Buckles STARS that’s your job .

  6. bob
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    What is all this criticism about Rick’s offense?

    Just watch in our next game and see how well we excute over and over this play:

    Cris Smith set ups at the top right of the key and Sivia dribbles out front.

    Cris then runs down to the base line and circles all the way back to the top left of the key.

    He then receives a pass from Siva and passes it back.

    We have this down pat and it does not seem that anyone can stop this “play”.

    Cris thens runs down to the base line and circles back to the top right of the key to receive a pass from Siva

  7. cbcard
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Bob:
    You left out the play with Siva and Kuric passing it back and forth.

  8. cbcard
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    In all honesty I don’t know if it is injuries or something else but both Peyton and Kyle are shooting far, far lower percentages than last year. Here are the numbers.

    Peyton was 44.5 and 27.2 on 3′s.
    He is now 33.0 and 18.9

    Kyle was 51.4 and 44.9.
    He is now 48.6 and 34.2.

    Not a good trend.

  9. Seedy K
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Rick has his guys running the weave so much. It’s as if he forgot to get Joanne a Christmas gift and needs a sweater for her. 

  10. K , Drish
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Lol Seedy K

  11. Phil
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    I can’t understand Rick’s bizarre substitution patterns.
    Kevin Ware barely plays the last 3 games, and he’s in the game in the first half against UK. Then, he doesn’t play at all in the second half.
    Swoop actually showed some life in the first half, and then doesn’t play again until seconds remain in the game. Russ didn’t even start the game.
    I think Pitino’s ultimate problem has been overcoaching, particularly when it comes to the point guard position. His insistence on micro-managing the game basically sucks any improvisation and talent out of the players.
    And i have to wonder if this isn’t used against him on the recruiting trail.
    And poor Siva. a great kid having a nightmare season. At least we’ll have him back for his senior season.

  12. Birdie King
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    When I saw us come out in those ugly red shoes and black socks and/or stockings I knew we didn’t have a chance. An embarassment !

  13. cbcard
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    To Phil:
    RE: recruiting.
    Yes, I would be stunned if that’s not the major reason Teague is at UK instead of UofL.

  14. Mark Hanley
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    my biggest concern is ,UL’s inability to put the damn ball in the basket from extremely close range…..Behanan.Deing,C.Smith,Kurik,Siva, Buckels……..none of them can make a high percentage of fucking lay-ups…..my lord,it’s embarasing…….and without Russ,this squad would have a good chance of being 8 and 6 at this juncture….Behanan’s sophomore slump has begun a bit early…….Russ and Deing are the only two kids on this team that fear is not an option….everyone else take turns looking like hot house flowers….their level of confidence either needs to improve,or I’m about ready to throw the towel on the rest of the season…….GO CARDS……GO KROGERING…..

  15. Seedy K
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Seems like I’m not the only guy less than enamored with U of L’s hoops mentor.

  16. Wildcat
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Amazing…………Seedy K can write elegantly about football, baseball, sports nostalgia, etc. and get nary a comment. But look at the string of comments for this subject. There can be no doubt what is King in the minds of Kentuckiana. Not an original insight, I know, but the number of comments just struck me.

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