Alert: UofL freshman at NCAA women’s golf championship

Olivia Cason is in the hunt. (UofL photo)
Olivia Cason is in the hunt. (UofL photo)

Olivia Cason is only a freshman on the University of Louisville women’s golf team but she’s already competing on a national stage.

Cason journeyed to Eugene, Oregon this week where she will participate in the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship, starting on Friday at the Eugene Country Club. She will tee off at 11:25 a.m. Louisville time.

The Owensboro native is the third student-athlete in UofL program history to qualify as an individual and one of 12 participating in the three-day event. She will play 18 holes on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

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Louisville ahead of schedule, but Michigan State is better

Eerily similar to the back and forth between the Louisville and Michigan State basketball teams in the NCAA regional final last season, the Spartans prevailing again, this time 71-67 in Lansing.

Michigan State, remember, outlasted UofL 76-70 in overtime in March, denying the Cardinals what would have been a surprising return to the Final Four.

Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino

Making this team competitive was supposed to consume most of the season but UofL is ahead of schedule, already a force to be reckoned in early December. The Cardinals will get better, it’s inevitable, all Rick Piitno teams do as the season continues.

Pitino piecing together another team almost from scratch to take this year’s third-ranked MSU to the wire again. More testament to his Hall of Fame coaching abilities. Adding Damion Lee and Trey Lewis for scoring punch, squeezing some muscle and hustle from his assortment of awkward big guys, refusing to concede anything to anybody.

Count on freshmen like Donovan Mitchell to learn not to foul the other team’s leading free throw shooter in the final minute, UofL conceding six of six free throws to him in the final minute. Better to deny him the ball.

Expect Anas Mahmoud, if he’s still playing that late in the game, to stay in the face of three-point shooters like Bryan Forbes, he who was connecting on five of nine tries beyond the arc. Better still, watch for players like Deng Adel and Raymond Spalding to be there instead applying the defense. Where was Spalding in this one, playing only six minutes? The injured Adel was unavailable.

Lee and Lewis will never be bashful when it comes to shooting, thriving on their time in the national spotlight, collecting 23 and 21 points, respectively. Donovan Mitchell will inevitably contribute more than his latest production of six points — if his defense earns him more playing time. Same for Spalding but he, too, had best get with it on defense. Sooner the better.

The big guys, Chinanu Onuaku, Mangok Mathiang, Mahmoud, even Matz Stockman, well, at least one or two of them have to get better. They have already but there wasn’t much evidence in this game. Small steps forward for the guys in the big shoes could make a major difference.

This UofL team is already further along than anyone thought it would be, having significantly raised expectations. This early test against Michigan State provides a blueprint for more dramatic progress in the weeks and months ahead. A good team will only get better, Pitino will see to that.

No rush to decide Pitino’s future

No surprise there have been no discussions within the University of Louisville administration about the possibilities of Rick Pitino being fired or asked to resign. It is far too early to be drawing any conclusions about the coach’s future.

UofL President James Ramsey was questioned briefly by local media between meetings on Belknap Campus on Wednesday, some apparently having rushed to a conclusion that Pitino future is in jeopardy. The issue makes for some bold headlines in newspapers and dramatic teasers for TV and radio news. No surprise that some might be jumping the gun, getting ahead of the probe.

Jim Ramsey will wait results of investigation.
Jim Ramsey will wait results of investigation.

The investigation is less than two weeks old and only a few current and former basketball players have been interviewed by the university’s private investigator, the campus police and the NCAA.  Or for that matter the attorney representing Andre McGee, accused of setting up stripper parties and prostitution for players and recruits.

Ramsey reiterated that the university is investigating and invited the NCAA to be a part of the process. He said he had not watched the ESPN report from Tuesday indicating that five players had confirmed strip parties occurred, including one who said he had a sexual encounter with a prostitute. Ramsey also indicated he has not discussed Rick Pitino’s future with anyone.

Which is as it should be. The ESPN report held some shock value but it was just that — a television production with personalities posing questions to players. A typical example of so-called “investigative reporting” from a media source. Not real investigators but they do play them on TV. ESPN’s staff largely consists of former jocks and coaches, no better qualified than the rest of us. Give them enough time and they may uncover some facts but TV investigations are rarely very thorough. Or very objective for that matter.

The investigation has only just begun by the organizations charged with uncovering the facts. There’s a lot of sorting out of the “he said, she said” yet to be done, tying the stories to eye-witness accounts and actual evidence.

As for Pitino’s role, how much he and his subordinates knew or didn’t know, and what he and subordinates did or didn’t do, these things will come out during an intense and extensive investigation by professionals in criminal justice. Whether he should have known or whether he ignored that part of his responsibilities should be more apparent when all aspects of the case are examined. That’s going to take time and lots of it.

Whether Pitino should stay or go are logical questions, but it is far too early in the process for any answers.

Louisville basketball ready for NCAA run

Here goes the University of Louisville again in the NCAA basketball tournament. Bruised and battered, but better for the experience.

The experts predicting this year’s participation will be a short-lived experience for UofL, as if Rick Pitino has not been here 19 times already — exceeding expectations more often than not.birdhead

The only dark cloud — and it’s an ominous one — is the omnipresence of Kentucky, an overwhelming pick to win the tournament. It’s not enough that UK is expected to win a ninth national championship, but the Wildcats begin their pursuit in our own KFC Yum! Center. At this very moment, there are probably 16,000 to 17,000 Wildcat fans on Main Street.

Let them have their fun. They’ve come a long way since losing in the first round to Robert Morris of the NIT two years ago. It’s a trip to the big city in Kentucky where everything doesn’t revolve around their inherited team. They will never change but this observer won’t share their pride or disappointment no matter where they finish.

While going overboard to compliment UK recently, Rick Pitino is more concerned about his own team and appears to be excited about the way the brackets shook out for UofL. He is loose and jovial outwardly, obviously wanting his players to be the same way.

“We’ve had enough practice for about three weeks of games, and our guys are definitely improving and looking forward to the opening of March Madness,” he said before departing for Seattle on Wednesday.

Louisville is positioned for some kind of run in the NCAA tournament, having compiled a 12-6 won-lost mark in probably the nation’s best basketball conference. Pitino had extra time to work on problems with the centers, and they should know what he’s trying to get them to do by now. He’s also spent more time on the challenge of attacking zone defenses and refining his own full-court press.

Out of the gate, there will be some improvement — especially if the light finally comes on for one or more of the big guys. Whether it will be maintained during the grind is the question.

As far as national expectations are concerned, there is little pressure on this team. But the players know what Rick Pitino expects from them, what every Louisville fans wants for them, and that’s what they should want that for themselves.

Let the run begin.


Wheels up for Seattle

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They’re on their way to Seattle, members of the University of Louisville basketball team, in this photo posted on the program’s Facebook page. Hamming it up for the camera, with some weird hand signals from Jaylen Johnson (second left) and Wayne Blackshear (at right) and some distinctive ear phones on Montrezl Harrell. One would anticipate some L signs if they are successful this weekend. First game for them in the NCAA is Friday at 4:10 p.m. against U.C.-Irvine.