Wait till next year time for Louisville basketball

Time to put the basketballs in mothballs.

The University of Louisville dies a quick death Thursday afternoon. First game. First out. Minnesota 86, Louisville 76.  UofL finishes 20-14, losing six of their last eight games. The two wins coming against Notre Dame.

The Cardinals shoot air balls. Fall trying to rebound. Foul three point shooters. Actually don’t guard the three-point line where the Golden Gophers averaged five made threes a game but made 11 of 27 on Thursday.

Minnesota led by as many of 19 points. Gabe Kalscheur led the Gophers with 24 points making five of 11 three point baskets and eight rebounds. Amir Coffey added 13. The Gophers had zero bench points.

Christen Cunningham led the Cards with 22 points, Jordan Nwora had 10 for a team that shot 44.1 per cent from the floor and nine of 26 from three point baskets for 34.6 percent. The teams payed to a 35-35 draw rebounding.
“It’s a special movement for our program,” said Gophers coach Richard Pitino, son of former Cardinals head man, Rick Pitino. “We beat a really good Louisville team.”

The Cardinals never gave up, but were climbing a mountain all afternoon.
The NCAA Tournament is the reward for a season well played. Louisville did enough to earn an at large bid to the 68 team field for the first time since 2017 and the second time in four years.

Card Nation is tired of the drama with the basketball and football teams. The committee added drama with the matchup between Pitino’s 10th seeded Gophers and seventh seed Louisville. It was the tournament’s first game in of this years tournament. A CBS national audience watching for at least 30 minutes. The Cardinals were mostly a mess. Louisville gave up three baskets at a alarming rate. Fell down on rebounds. Shot air balls. What could Chris Mack do?

It’s the journey. No more false hopes, bad basketball won’t do. Card Nation can only hope and wait till next year.

Not pretty, nowhere to hide, Louisville basketball is done

A strange season, full of puzzling ups and downs, unbelievable twists and turns, winding up in a ditch Thursday for the University of Louisville basketball team. A sense of relief cascading over the fan base now that the 2018-19 season has come screeching to a halt.

Back to the NCAA, a few nice wins, fewer distractions this season, some good things happening along the way.

At the end, however, it was increasingly obvious that Coach Chris Mack had a lack of players with real basketball savvy or talent. For Mack to win 20 games and finish seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference with this team was an incredible accomplishment. Ending in an 86-76 loss to Minnesota in the first round of the NCAA.

Mack was being sensitve, wanting to spare the feelings of his players. Nowhere to hide if the talent isn't there.

A team that defeated Michigan State, beat North Carolina by 21 points at Chapel Hill, led Virginia by 10 points at the half and led Duke by 23 points in the second half. How were any of these accomplishments even possible? Outmanned at every position on the floor in the spotlight games, the Cardinals somehow managed to raise expectations to traditional levels.

Just when one started to believe in them, however, they would fail to show up, resembling a local YMCA team. Few signs of individual leadership, except when Jordan Nwora was hitting the circus 3-pointers. But depending far too much on 3-pointers, with seemingly nary a clue about layups until games were out of reach. 

Can’t remember since the dwindling days of the Denny Crum era any examples of worse defensive efforts. Worked for a while but it didn’t take long for teams to figure it out, probably because some of the UofL players were not equipped for the challenge.

“Not quite good enough,” as the coach quipped at the end of his press conference. He was being sensitive, wanting to spare the feelings of his players. Nowhere to hide if the talent isn’t there.

There was ample evidence, however, that future Chris Mack-coached teams will be far superior to his initial installation. Rick Pitino and David Padgett left the cupboard pretty bare, forcing Mack to rely heavily on transfers and players who didn’t capture the imagination of many top level college teams. No heroes on the bench, no contributions from any walk-ons, no born leaders.

Mack did take this team much farther than anyone ever predicted, far surpassing low expectations. He’s going to be rewarded for his initiative, his persistence and patience with the second highest ranked recruiting class in the nation. Mack is already ahead of the game, and his program is only going to get better.

Stockman eyes more playing time at Minnesota

 Still waiting for Matz Stockman to make that breakthrough to the next level? Not going to happen, at least not at the University of Louisville.

Hopes that the 7-foot, 240-pound Stockman could someday be a dominant force in the middle for the UofL basketball team were dashed Tuesday. Stockman is transferring to the University of Minnesota.

Rick Pitino was obviously involved in the decision, possibly frustrated with Stockman’s lack of progress during three seasons at UofL. He was rarely used this year, playing only 74 minutes in 18 games and averaging 1.7 points and 1.2 rebounds per game.

But the elder Pitino is also aware that if someone with Stockman’s physique and personality were to somehow become motivated, he could make a difference for some team. Best to keep him in the family, encouraging Stockman to play for his son Richard at Minnesota. 

Stockman will have to sit out a season, becoming eligible for 2018-19 campaign. “Matz has been a great team member with our basketball team and we appreciate his efforts,” said Pitino.  “Transferring to Minnesota is a great move for him, as he’ll have an opportunity to make an immediate impact when he becomes eligible to play.” 

Stockman is looking forward to getting much more playing time. “I’ve been looking for an opportunity to play quality minutes for a long time now and I think this will be a great situation for me,” he said.

Hopefully a motivated Stockman doesn’t come back to haunt his old UofL coach in a couple of years.

Barry U. showcases Louisville’s shortcomings

Before anyone asks, Barry University is located in Miami Shores, Fla., is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, has just over 4,000 students, is a member of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, and had a 19-9 record last season.

A program that competes on the Division II level, with just enough connections to make it onto the University of Louisville basketball team’s two-game exhibition schedule.  Good enough to expose some of UofL’s flaws, and that’s what Rick Pitino said he needed to confirm.

Rick PItino
Rick PItino

There was no shortage of flaws in Louisville’s 91-71 win before an announced crowd of 19,237 at the KFC Yum! Center. Some of which may or may not be serious.

Chris Jones seems a little slow getting out of the gate after three public appearances. Nine points in this one on three of eight shot attempts while credited with five assists, four fouls and four turnovers.

Despite UofL’s significant height advantage, Barry owned a 53-41 rebounding edge. One of those games where the bounces always seemed to favor the opposition. Pitino said it was a lack of technique, with players not being in the right position to get the ball. “We’re running to the rim and the only thing you can do that there is take the ball out of bounds,” he stated.

The offense appeared to be haphazard and disorganized at times, resulting more from being bigger and more physical. The coach actually admitting he was holding back a little. “We are not running a lot of our sets right now because, our early opponents, we don’t want to give them too much,” said Pitino. “Every game of ours is on television, so we don’t want to show as much as we would for a regular game.”

Depth has to be a concern, with Pitino playing only seven players most of the game. Barry got 37 points from the bench while UofL had 16. Free throw shooting needs continued work, with UofL hitting only 10 of 20 attempts.

Surprising that Shaqquan Aaron never checked into the game. “I can’t play everybody,” said Pitino.  “I really can’t. I got to work on getting ready for Minnesota. It’s a different schedule this year, so I know you want him to play, but I can’t put him in because you want him to play.”

That last comment a possible indication that Pitino is getting the jump a lot of second guessing as he attempts to figure this team out in the weeks ahead.

U of L basketball opens against Samford

Good luck trying to keep the sequence of events straight but the pairings have been announced for the highly-vaunted Battle 4 Atlantis basketball tournament in the Bahamas.

Finding NBC Sports and AXS.tv on television and/or the Internet should be a priority as well.

What we know for sure is that the University of Louisville will play Samford at the KFC Yum! Center on Nov. 15. UofLSports.com indicates that game is considered part of the tournament but it won’t affect the brackets.

Then Rick Pitino’s team will travel to the islands to face Nothern Iowa on Nov. 22, hoping to stay in the winner’s bracket. The best the loser can do after that is compete for fifth place.

UofL will next face the winner or loser of the Missouri vs. Stanford matchup on Nov. 23 at either 3:30 or 9:30 p.m. Other initial matchups include Duke facing Minnesota and Memphis playing Virginia Commonwealth.

NBC Sports Network will air the 7 and 9:30 p.m. games each day, while AXS.tv will air the 1 and 3:30 p.m. games. The championship game will be played at 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 24.