Finishing Touches

Seems like an eternity until 9:40 p.m. on Friday when Louisville and Boise State tip off in Birmingham. Good thing for Rick Pitino: there’s a lot to work on between now and then to avoid an early exit.

lville4.jpg One of the best things U of L has going for it is that Birmingham is 980 miles from New York City. Team chemistry suffers during those trips to the Northeast, sometimes taking a couple of games to get it back. No explanation was ever given for Earl Clark losing his starting position in the last game.

lville4.jpg Opposing defenses have figured out that if you double up on David Padgett and keep him from handling the ball, the Cards’ offense will stall. He’s in the game for eight-minute stretches at most. Might want to consider other combinations or options.

lville4.jpg Figure out where Clark really fits in the offense. If Clark is as good as he has looked in flashes, there should be more plays designed for him. He may be gone after this season; it will happen now or probably never.

lville4.jpg Andre McGee should avoid layup attempts when there’s a defender within five feet of the basket. Make him the designated three-point shooter, he’s the only one that shooting them with confidence now.

lville4.jpg Remind Jerry Smith that he is a coach’s son. He should be able to figure out what’s wrong with his shot … or simply call home.

lville4.jpg Get Ellis Myles back, increase his case load; needs to include both Derrick Caracter and Edgar Sosa. Get them focused, keep them focused.

One Slip For NCAA Selection Committee

The selection committee did about as good a job of drawing up the NCAA basketball tournament field as anyone can remember in recent years, with the exception of inviting Kentucky with an 18-12 won-lost record. Must have put a great deal of stock in the Rupp Arena win over Tennessee.

The only thing Billy Packer, a CBS analyst and Atlantic Coast Conference supporter, could quibble about was the Big East getting eight teams in, compared to only four for the ACC. Selection Committee Chairman Thomas O’Connor, of George Mason University, responded that the committee looked at teams individually, not at conferences. Makes a lot of sense in all but the aforementioned example.

Michael David Smith, over at Fan House, puts it more succinctly:

But as O’Connor accurately pointed out, determining the 34 best at-large teams has little or nothing to do with determining the best conference, top to bottom. The Selection Committee doesn’t talk about conference rankings, and it shouldn’t. The Selection Committee’s job is to select the best teams, not reward the teams from the best conferences, and the Selection Committee did that job well, even if ACC partisans don’t like it.

Other committee members: Michael Slive, Southeastern Conference commissioner; Jonathan B. LeCrone, Horizon League commissioner; Christopher Hill, athletic director, University of Utah; Daniel G. Guerrero, athletic director, UCLA; Laing E. Kennedy, athletic director, Kent State University; Stanley M. Morrison, athletic director, UC-Riverside; Eugene Smith, athletic director, Ohio State University; Jeffrey A. Hathaway, athletic director, Connecticut; Lynn Hickey, athletic director, Texas-San Antonio.

Getting Creative In NCAA Play

The NCAA Tournament offers a new beginning? Hardly. No new beginnings, please, unless you’re going to do something totally different. Pep-talking yourself into a “new season” is the kind of self-motivation that winds up getting you slammed into a brick wall.

Rick Pitino’s Louisville does have some things going for it as the tourney approaches. Although they were battered and bruised during Big East play, the Cards emerged with only deflated egos. They have a seasoned and improved front line that should be more effective in a tourney atmosphere where a higher value is placed on basketball skills than muscle. They also have an obvious option that Pitino has yet to try.

How about playing David Padgett and Derrick Caracter at the same time? Padgett high, Caracter low. Opposing defenses would have a challenge trying to figure how to stop that combination. Meanwhile, Earl Clark would be a handful with the defenses swarming around the two big guys.

Put Terrence Williams at the point, where he performed well a few games last season. T-Will knows the offense, he’s the best passer on the team, and, with Jerry Smith mired in a slump, Williams is the best outside shooter.

One could argue that both Padgett and Caracter would both foul out early in such a scenario, especially with the way games are officiated in the NCAA. Pitino will never do it. Unfortunately Padgett apparently can’t last for more than eight minutes at a time, and Pitino would have done it already if he thought it would work.

Still, it’s kind of fun to consider the possibility.

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ESPN has gotten into the business of picking an All-America women’s team. That’s nice, but the voters inexplicably placed U of L’s Angel McCoughtry on the second team. The first team included Candace Parker, Tennessee; Maya Moore, Connecticut; Sylvia Fowles, LSU; Courtney Paris, Oklahoma; and Candace Wiggins, Stanford.

We’ll fix that for them by scratching out Maya Moore and penciling McCoughtry’s name in on Card Game’s first team. Moore was surrounded by players of equal ability, landing on ESPN’s first team because of UConn’s 32-1 won-lost record. Angel McCoughtry was the superior player on the floor all season long, making U of L a national contender largely because of her singular abilities.

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Speaking of Maya Moore, ESPN reported during its “Outside the Lines First Edition” program Wednesday that UConn committed a recruiting violation during its recruitment of Moore. The network said the women’s basketball office set up a tour of the ESPN facility for Moore and her mother during a recruiting visit in October 2005.

Georgia Dome Officials Err

The roof was fluttering, gigantic girders were swaying, and debris was flying over the heads of 25,000-plus fans at the Georgia Dome Friday evening, sending fans in the upper decks scampering from their seats. The incident occurred in a game between Alabama and Mississippi State, with 2:53 remaining on the clock in overtime.

Apparently a tornado struck the immediate vicinity of the Georgia Dome. Problem was, nobody informed the crowd until after the tornado had moved on.

The Southeastern Conference broadcasting crew, headed by Tim Brando, went to great lengths to say security had done a “great job” of keeping things under control. The crew also claimed the Dome was the safest place to be, even with the roof shaking, giant girders swaying back and forth and bits of metal falling from the ceiling?

What Brando didn’t say was that Georgia Dome officials were either unaware of tornadic conditions or they totally ignored the warnings, putting fans in possibly severe jeopardy. If weather officials had issued a tornado warning, fans should have been informed and given an opportunity to seek safety. Telling them after the fact, as the PA announcer kept doing was a little late.

The Eyes Of March

You could see it in Earl Clark’s eyes, looking disgusted and frustrated on the bench with the clock running out in Louisville’s 76-69 loss to Pittsburgh, actually showing some emotion for one of the few times this season. That may have been the best thing to come out of this game, Clark showing emotion. He really wanted this one, scrapping for loose balls, banging the boards, racking up 19 points, nine rebounds.

No other Cards, except maybe Preston Knowles, had the same look in the eyes, however, so the Cards were going to go down. Louisville will get past the second round in the NCAA Tournament only if the same Earl Clark shows up next week with some super motivated teammates.

Far too many up and downs among individual players on this U of L team. If the past is any indication, Clark could revert to being a non-factor next week.

One of the team’s most consistent qualities is the sub par field goal and free throw shooting. No reliable shooters. Every shot is a cliff hanger. Defense will take a team a long way, as it did during the Cards’ nine-game win streak but poor shooting will catch up with you in the end.

David Padgett is becoming less of a force in the middle. The injuries are bothering him, slowing him down, taking him out of the game too often, getting his shots blocked with increasing frequency. In a physical game, especially when the officials are letting the rough stuff go, Derrick Caracter is becoming the more effective scoring threat.

Terrence Williams is looking more like an average player, thinking too much, retreating to his going-for-the-sensational mode, wasting exceptional physical abilities.

Jerry Smith, hitting only one of 10 shots, must be wearing himself down with his scathing defense, having nothing left when he becomes a shooter.

The spin about Edgar Sosa becoming a team player was a nice try in attempting to bolster his confidence. It’s not there; you can see it in his eyes.

The looks in the eyes, as ESPN commentator Len Elmore noted, say much about how players will do in a game. One look at the expressions in the U of L huddle that final minute told you they were done. Not really that much different from the first timeout, blank stares still lingering from the Georgetown loss last weekend; the doubts were there from the opening tip against Pittsburgh.