Card Crunching: Some optimism, some pessimism for Louisville football

The University of Louisville will continue its winning ways in the Atlantic Coast Conference, according to an analysis by Patrick Stevens of  the Syracuse Post-Standard, and he ranks UofL 23rd nationally in his pre-season picks.

“There’s the who-will-replace-Teddy-Bridgewater subplot, and that answer is sophomore Will Gardner. He has enough toys to toss or hand off to and a sharp offensive coach in Petrino to be in good shape to succeed.

“So what narrative isn’t being looked at enough? The defense, which was brilliantly constructed under former coach Charlie Strong but loses a bunch of talent and shifts to a 3-4. It can regress and the Cardinals will still be fine. But if it somehow stays in the top 20 nationally, Louisville’s ceiling will go up as well.”


Meanwhile, Caleb Calhoun over at Saturday Blitz believes media types are giving Bobby Petrino too much credit because he’s been successful at every college stop.

“That doesn’t mean Petrino will automatically make you a winner. Faced with the task of winning at Arkansas, he stumbled to a 5-7 season his first year there.

“There are still some questions about the Cardinals going into the season, including the fact that their schedule is 10 times tougher than it was last year. While we know Petrino will succeed long term, all of these questions have to be addressed before we immediately assume Louisville will be good this year.”

Calhoun may have some valid issues, but one has to wonder how much an ingrained bias against the old Big East and the American Athletic conferences affects his opinions.

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— The Big 10 Conference is reportedly moving to a nine conference games during the 2016 season, making a series with UofL unlikely. according to Rick Bozich,  A series with IU would have made so much sense. The Hoosiers keep blowing opportunities to sell out Memorial Stadium.

— Numerous reports over the summer had Akoy Agau making strides to become a contributor for the UofL basketball team. But there’s always at least one significant injury during the off season and Agau’s number was called. He was scheduled to have surgery Tuesday for a sports hernia injury in Philadelphia.

— Jeff Walz is an assistant on the U.S. team in the FIBA Under-18 Basketball Championships to be held Aug. 6-10 at Colorado Springs. South Carolina’s Dawn Staley is head coach. Training camp began Friday and the process of trimming down the roster from 28 players to 12.

— Starr Breedlove, a freshman on the women’s basketball team last season, has transferred to Troy University. Starr suffered a concussion early in the season and saw limited action in nine games.

— Ribbon cutting ceremonies for the new Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Soccer Stadium will be August 27, two days before the men’s and women’s teams make their 2014 debut. The celebration will begin at 3:30 p.m.

Good Louisville shows up, dispatches Pitt 67-64

That’s the team we remember, the one missing in action for a week, one challenging every rotation of the basketball, digging deep, finding itself, dispatching the chess team back to the student activities center.

Good opponent Pittsburgh, which always seeming to bring out the best in the Cardinals. Remember the 69-63 win over No. 1 Pitt during the 2008-09 season? Or the 63-59 overtime over No. 4 Pitt during the 2010-11 season? The last regular season win last year, a 57-54 decision? Even if the relief is all too often temporary.

Backed into a corner after three consecutive losses, playing without starter Wayne Blackshear and the time-consuming Kevin Ware, the old chip on the shoulder had clearly returned, along with respect for any and all Big East competition.

  • Gorgui Dieng back on track, the confusing look replaced by confidence, showing off some new moves, wanting to get to the basket, dunking and blocking shots again, getting his teammates involved. Knowing he has to be involved, making room for himself under the basket, intimidating shooters, blocking shots. Shades of David Padgett at times.
  • Dieng will connect on five of seven field goal attempts, four of six free throws, block five shots, and make four assists for the night. Ready to start growing again.
  • Chane Behanan will combat the Pitt shoving with some of his own, actually battling and getting the ball back a couple of times, drawing vigorous applause from Rick Pitino at times. Creating second chances for himself and his teammates. Two steals, two assists to go with his five rebounds, reaching double figures for a change with 12 points.
  • Russ Smith back to being himself, creating opportunities for himself, putting points on the board for UofL, leading all scorers with 20 points. He may been a little selfish again, with only one assist, but he transforms the offense into an entertaining unit.
  • Peyton Siva, with three turnovers and still reluctant to shoot, but credited with 10 assists. Noteworthy that he was never in foul trouble for the first time in recent memory.
  • Luke Hancock quietly going about his job, letting the game to come to him, pestering people on defense, taking good shots, staying on task, not making mistakes, earning the trust of his coach and teammates.

And here’s Gorgui, in a YouTuber:

Weather chases Baseball Cards indoors

baseballThe ping of aluminum baseball bats resounded sharply throughout the Trager Indoor Football Practice Facility on Friday as the University of Louisville baseball team gathered for the first day of practice for the 2013 season. A temperature of 25 degrees and icy conditions were a bit much even for Coach Dan McDonnell, whose teams have endured wide extremes in climatic conditions over the past seven years.

U of L returns 21 letter winners from the 2012 team, which finished 41-22 and advanced to an NCAA Regional for the fifth time in six seasons. In his six previous seasons leading the Cardinals, McDonnell is 258-122 with three Big East regular-season titles, two BIG EAST Tournament titles, two NCAA Super Regional appearances and one College World Series berth.


Big East Catholic schools rush to exit

Moving at record speed for a group of academic institutions, seven Catholic basketball schools have agreed to leave the Big East, according to a report from ESPN. They first discussed the possibility with Commissioner Mike Aresco on Sunday.

DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova have finally seen the folly of mixing football and basketball-focused schools and may form still another conference. Pundits are already describing the new creation as the Big Priest Conference.

They may have to wait a while, however, because the Big East may have a case for requiring them to pay exit fees and requiring them to wait 27 months under league by-laws. Apparently the announced departure of the University of Louisville to the ACC and Rutgers University to the Big Ten was the final straw for the schools.

Don’t expect their plans to ease the way for an early departure of UofL to the ACC. An Coxey’s Army of lawyers is already involved, and the football schools in the Big East have the Catholic schools outnumbered 12 to 7.

Conference realignment continues to take some unpredictable turns.



Big East football continues to defy ESPN meddling

The timing couldn’t be better for the Big East to be negotiating television networks for future football coverage.

The latest Associated Press poll has three undefeated Big East teams among the top 25 teams in the country, the University of Louisville (6-0) at 16th, Rutgers (6-0) at 19th, and Cincinnati (5-0) at 21st.

More than a little ironic that the Big East is legally obligated to negotiate with ESPN for a couple more weeks. This is the same network that has downplayed Big East football  on and off the air for five seasons, influencing conference realignment decisions in some instances.

As Charlie Strong told USA Today: “It’s exactly what this conference needed. We have been able to make a statement.” More from the same article:

The Big East has long hoped to capitalize on being the last major college sports property up for bid in this cycle. Mike Aresco, a former vice president at CBS Sports, believes its attractiveness has been enhanced by a strong non-conference performance this year, including Rutgers’ win at Arkansas and Cincinnati’s victory against Virginia Tech. He’s also touting another good season by No. 22 Boise State (5-1), which will join next year.

“I think it’s important because it reminds our media partners of the football we’ve had,” Aresco said. “It’s fortuitous it’s happening now and the way it’s happening, but it also gives them a sense that longer-term we’re going to be a very good football league.”

Certainly better than the Atlantic Coast Conference, which landed a deal worth $17 million per school with ESPN earlier this year. The current arrangement between the Big East and ESPN, paying $3.5 million per school, can be renegotiated on the open market starting Nov. 1 with other networks.

NBC/Comcast is reportedly waiting in the wings, needing football programming inventory, eager to capitalize on expanded national reach of the conference and, especially, the large eastern media markets. An aggressive, thoughtful and long-term negotiating process would greatly benefit all parties.

No better time to have three undefeated teams, assuring that Big East football is not going away, much to ESPN’s regret.