Being No. 1 makes Louisville basketball big target

The KFC Yum! Center was on fire during player introductions Tuesday as the top-ranked University of Louisville basketball team hosted fourth-ranked Michigan in front of 21,762 fans. Flames light up the backboards on both ends of the court. Jordan Nwora, in top phots, led Louisville with 22 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Michigan (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

By Ed Peak

Almost cliche-ish, but it bears repeating.

Now that No. 1 Louisville has dispatched Michigan, Coach Chris Mack’s biggest challenge will be keeping his team humble and focused.

The coveted No. 1 ranking is nice. But means little. Believe me every team that comes into the Yum Center or every opponents arena the Cardinals visit will have extra incentive.

Mack said it following Tuesday’s win over Michigan. “We haven’t arrived or anything like that.” No it hasn’t. It is early December. This team as all teams will look different when March arrives.

The thing that stood out in the win over Michigan was defense. Louisville (8-0) held a team averaging over 80 points to 43 and a field goal shooting percentage in the 30 percent range.

Louisville and its massively loud fans made it difficult for Michigan to think straight. Most every time Michigan attacked the lane there was a Cardinal defender in the way.

Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora, Steven Enoch, Malik Williams all had their moments. Guard Darius Perry was steady. Ryan McMahon would drive and would get fouled. Fresh Kimble and Samuel Williamson provided support off the bench.

“On some nights your offense isn’t going to be there. But your defense will,” said Mack.

Also give Michigan credit for its defense. Louisville was forced to take some ill advised shots. Nwora and Perry both took some off balanced attempts. This team is going to have to live with that. Mack said as much following a win over Akron over a week ago. “I can’t micro manage every shot.”

Pittsburgh (7-2) comes to the Yum Center Friday, 9 p.m. for an ACC game. You can bet the Panthers are chomping to get a shot at No. 1. You can bet Pitt fans remember No. 1-ranked Panther team that was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by UofL in 2009.

Should be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle success.

 

 

Hey Vince, UofL Golf Course a great setting for Cardinal Caravans

Bring back the Cardinal Caravans.

The observer made it out to Simpsonville on Monday for the annual Press Box Classic at the University of Louisville Golf Club. A welcome respite from the dearth of UofL activities in which to become engaged over the past several weeks.

A reunion of sorts for many of the sportswriters, the bloggers, the broadcasters, the personalities gathering once again for a fun event. The decibel meter reaching peak levels, with the media types and occasional golfers enjoying the free golf, the pulled pork sandwiches, the door prizes and familiar faces.

Kenny Klein is there, of course, overseeing the 21st annual event, along with Athletic Director Vince Tyra, Baseball Coach Dan McDonnell and Volleyball Coach Dani Keely, and Women’s Athletic Director Christine Herring.

“We’re just here to have fun, have a good time and enjoy each other,” he says. “One of my favorite events every year, getting to know people we work with on a more casual basis in a great setting.”

And what a great setting it is.

The UofL Golf Club has undergone significant changes since being purchased by the University five years ago, investing more than $11 million into the golf program’s home course. Changes include numerous new water hazards, new tee sites and longer holes, and continued modernization of the clubhouse and dining facilities.

One thing that has been missing on the UofL calendar the last three years has been the Cardinal Caravan. These were great events, enabling fans, coaches, players, cheerleaders, Ladybirds and pep band members to mingle in an informal atmosphere.

The need for such an event is even greater considering all the changes that have occurred over the last three years on campus. Fans deserve opportunities to get to know UofL people better, the people they have remained faithful and supportive of during some very challenging times.

Having the event at the Simpsonsville venue would be a great way to show off one of the University’s most desirable facilities, a great promotion for the club, probably resulting in some new memberships and strengthening relationships between UofL and its many fans.

Bring back the Cardinal Caravans, Vince. There’s no better setting than the UofL Golf Club.

Mallory’s already a senior, 3-time ACC Swimmer of the Year

Mallory Comerford is setting the standard for University of Louisville swimming and diving these days (UofL photo).

Let’s hear it for Mallory Comerford and the University of Louisville swimming and diving team. Smashing record after record.

Comerford, a senior, recently won her third consecutive ACC Women’s Swimmer of the Year honors after winning two titles at the NCAA Championships and three ACC Championships gold medals.

She is, in fact, the first women’s swimmer in ACC history to receive the distinction three times during her career.

Comerford won her third straight championship in the 200 freestyle, becoming the only Cardinal in history to win three titles in the same event. A day earlier, she captured her first 100 freestyle victory for a total of four career NCAA titles, matching Olympian Kelsi Worrell Dahlia with the most NCAA championships in program history.

By winning both the 100 and 200 freestyle, Comerford also became the first woman to accomplish the feat since Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce won both events at the 2006 NCAA Championships. The last person to secure victories in both freestyle distances was Louisville’s own Joao de Lucca at the 2014 Men’s NCAA Championships.

*    *    *

 

Arthur Albiero has UofL men and women teams in the top five in NCAA competition (UofL photo).

Arthur Albiero, meanwhile, earned his second straight ACC Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Cardinals to their first team trophy with a fourth place finish at the NCAA Championships, the highest finish in program history. 
 
The Cardinals’ 235 points at NCAA was also the highest total in school history, surpassing the 232 points from last year’s fifth place finish. In total, the Cards broke four program records, added five individual All-Americans in a combined eight events and had all-five relays earn All-American honors for the second straight year.
 

 

Big 4 Bridge lighting competition offends hometown UofL fans

A fundraising event in Louisville is designed to fail, destined to thud like a lead balloon with University of Louisville fans.

Some people with too much time on their hands at the Waterfront Park decided to pit the UofL against the University of Kentucky in a bridge-lighting competition in UofL’s home town.

A bull-in-a-china-shop kind of terrible idea, a concept sure to offend every UofL fan in the city — the potential of lighting a major attraction in honor of a hated rival on a major local landmark. Some PR novice obviously at work, embarrassing UofL fans with the very idea.

The winning side having its colors light up the Big 4 Bridge before the rivalry basketball game on Wednesday. An in-your-face kind of slight which will ensure that the losers have negative vibes for the local attraction.

No doubt David Karem, the president of the Waterfront Development Corporation and a UofL Law School grad, was out of the office, out of town, or out of his mind when the concept was approved. We’re pretty sure the majority of funds for the waterfront park have come from Louisvillians and local companies. 

This is one observer who would not even consider making a contribution to the project.  And we doubt that more than a handful of other UofL fans will get involved in the project. As of 10 a.m. on Friday, UK fans had donated $434 as opposed to $134 for UofL fans.

Not surprising that Louisville fans are not getting involved. They shouldn’t have to even consider it. Few UofL fans will support it.

This is one event that the Kentucky Sports Radio web site is sure to get behind because it provides UK fans with an opportunity to insult UofL fans in their own hometown. They will give big. 

That we can understand. What’s impossible to comprehend, however, is why the Waterfront Development Corporation would prostitute itself raising funds at the risk of embarrassing the primary base of support for the Big 4 Bridge. 

Jurich still prefers an on-campus basketball arena for Louisville basketball

Would anyone be surprised if Tom Jurich has not already commissioned artistic renderings of a new basketball arena for Belknap Campus in case the University of Louisville agreement with KFC Yum! Center were to fall through.

The rendering would be of a first class, state-of-the-art arena, of course, with all the “wow factors” that Jurich insists on when considering any new facility. My guess is that the new campus arena includes approximately 19,200 seats and will fit comfortably on the 13.5-acre site previously occupied by the silos.

UofL already owns the land and an arena at that location would be much easier and affordable to construct than downtown. Plenty of room on the site, too, for a hotel and conference center, including all the parking spaces needed for all the new facilities. 

The site would be convenient for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, just minutes from the practice facilities and the dormitories. Great for the volleyball team, too, as well as for other indoor sports.

 Jurich is not in any rush to abandon the KFC Yum! Center where UofL men’s and women’s teams have competed since 2010. But he is tired of hearing some city officials blaming UofL for financial problems with the the arena.

He addressed the issue recently during a meeting of the Central Cardinal Club at the PNC Club at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

“We have exceeded by many, many steps everything the city has asked of us,” said Jurich. “We brought more events in there, we raised our prices, we’ve given them much more revenue than they could have dreamed, and we’re still the bad guys.”

The likelihood of UofL building an on-campus arena is probably pretty remote, unless the city were to somehow manage to attract an NBA franchise to the city. Some people have been talking about it for 40 years, with no NBA owners or general managers ever expressing serious interest in the city.

Jurich proved a decade ago that he was a “team player” by going along with the downtown arena, despite badly wanting the arena on campus in the first place. He went ahead despite his reservations and better judgement but was able to negotiate excellent terms for UofL. 

No one should doubt Tom Jurich will do everything he can to make the current arrangement with the KFC Yum! Center a long-term success. But they also should not doubt that Jurich firmly believes the best possible place for a basketball arena is on the University of Louisville campus.