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.


Jurich facing hurdles with continuing Big East uncertainty

At the press conference following the University of Louisville’s acceptance into the Atlantic Coast Conference, Tom Jurich was relieved and elated. But it was obvious that he had some other issues on his mind, at least to this observer.

Now we may know some of the issues still facing him that day, with the possible collapse of the Big East and announced plans of seven Catholic basketball schools to form their own league, possibly taking the Big East name with them.Tom-Jurich-UofLCardGame112812

Chadd Scott, a respected blogger believes Jurich may have been the glue holding the Big East together following the departure of West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Syracuse to other leagues:

His force of personality, passion and belief in the conference held the fractioning league united as long as it did … I had Jurich put the full court press on me about the Big East’s attributes and I’m sure he made the same pitch daily to the league’s other athletic directors and presidents, convincing them this could still work, convincing them that despite the departures of Pitt and Syracuse, despite the departure of West Virginia, despite the departure of Notre Dame, despite the departure of Rutgers… the Big East, a Big East, was still viable.

UofL could incur a major financial hit if the basketball schools form their own league before the 2013 season and there is no television contract in place. There would be some major scheduling challenges numerous sports programs as well. Notre Dame, which won’t become a member of the ACC for two more years, has similar concerns, as Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick told Sports Illustrated:

“It is an untenable situation and we have to actively consider how we can get to resolution. You have two halves of a conference splitting and that creates real uncertainty for Notre Dame given the things that have to be negotiated among those parties.”

If the basketball schools leave early, will there even be a Big East basketball league in 2013? And what happens with the scheduling for UofL’s 22 other sports besides football? Mike Aresco, the Big East Commissioner, still reeling from all the negative fallout could only respond this way in the same article:

“We had engaged in preliminary discussions with Notre Dame. Those discussions would likely be resumed. The basketball schools’ announcement was just made on Saturday. By terms of our bylaws, Notre Dame could be playing in our conference through 2014-15 as would the basketball schools, Louisville and Rutgers.”

Aresco is preparing for negotiations for exit fees, obviously. He really doesn’t expect them to be sticking around that long. That’s the least of the problems for UofL, Notre Dame and Rutgers.  Concern for the immediate future is what has them working the  phones these days.

Part of the price Tom Jurich paying for UofL’s invitation to the Big East is the dissolution of the conference that he loved so much. He had to see it coming, knowing there were no easy fixes.

The Big East going nowhere fast

A real shame what’s happening to the Big East Conference.

Mike Aresco, the new commissioner, has inherited an impossible situation.

The schools with football programs should have walked away from the conference years ago, adding to their ranks schools with similar ambitions. Now they’re faced with the possibility that that basketball schools will join another conference, leaving the football schools to deal with a configuration which, at best, is chaotic.big-east

The seven Catholic universities — Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence, St. John’s and DePaul — met with Aresco Sunday to discuss their limited options. They’re seriously considering hooking up with the Atlantic Coast Conference. Sticking with around the Big East, in its present form, is the other alternative.

Seemingly no one outside the league wanted the conference to remain viable. Certainly not ESPN, which sicked its analysts on the Big East about five years ago, downplaying Big East football at every turn. Not the Atlantic Coast Conference, which began plucking football schools eight years ago. The Big Ten and the Big 12 were creating ripples with their raids, each of them having a directly or indirectly impacting the Big East.

One of the things keeping the league together may be all the exit fees coming the football schools leaving the league, $21 million from West Virginia and $10 million each from Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Notre Dame. Then there are the NCAA basketball tournament shares, due to the success of the league in recent years, and the league’s contract with Madison Square Garden.

If the seven basketball-focused schools leave to join another conference, they may forfeit their claims to all that money. That would leave UConn, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Houston, SMU, Tulane, Boise State and San Diego State, Temple, Tulane, South Florida, Memphis and East Carolina, but with UConn, Cincinnati and USF still looking for quick exits.

Frankly, we don’t see the schools coming up with a strategic plan that everyone can agree upon, especially with the TV rights in limbo and the conference money still in play. The Big East is going to be around for a few years, with all its flaws, shortcomings and disappointed members.

No slowing down for Tom Jurich after ACC invite

Tom Jurich looked very much like an individual who still had some things to accomplish, and couldn’t wait to get through the press conference Wednesday on the University of Louisville’s acceptance of an invitation to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“On Monday we’re going to get all of our staff together, including all the coaches, and we’re going to self-scout,” he said. “We’re going to look at each program inside and out and ask ourselves what do we need to do to get better. How do we get better? I’m a big proponent of looking in the mirror and qualifying ourselves. We know we can get better in every single program, and we’re going to figure a way to do it.”

There were also brief glimpses of an individual who has been under intense pressure since Maryland announced it was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten. Occasionally there were glimpses of droopy eye lids, Jurich admitting only after he was asked that he hadn’t slept much over the last 11 days.

“I felt at times like I had the burden of the entire community on my shoulders,” he said. “I knew people were counting on me to come through and I didn’t want to let them down.”

Jurich and his boss, Jim Ramsey, were largely a two-man show during the process. “We had to do this very close to the vest. There’s so much high quality information that can get out there that we had to do this on our own.”

Harkening back to the Big 12 conference realignment last year, Jurich said the Big 12 had already pretty much decided on West Virginia. “We were able to make some presentations that got us in the discussions. I have no regrets over how that turned out. We gave it our best shot.”

Ramsey said the key to UofL’s success was building on the university’s academic and athletic success. “Today is the culmination of a lot of hard work and effort over a number of years. It reflects on the work that Tom has done for 15 years to build excellence in all that we do in the athletic program at the University of Louisville.

“We always said that first and foremost is the academic success of our student athletes and be committed to doing things the right way with the highest level of integrity and playing by the rules, including financial integrity in building the strength of our athletic program over time and excellence in all sports.

“Because of Tom’s leadership and because we have met and exceeded all these objectives, we have been given this opportunity to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.”