Sara Hammond makes pick, Louisville over UConn, many others

Jeff Walz has done it again, Louisville.

Say hello to Sara Hammond, another of America’s top women basketball players.

Widely considered the No. 1 player in Kentucky high school basketball, Hammond will play for the U of L women’s basketball team, selecting the Lady Cards despite an all-out rush over the last week from UConn, the two-time defending national champion. Other suitors included Notre Dame, LSU, West Virginia, and UCLA.

Hammond made her commitment Tuesday at a news conference attended by family, friends and fellow students at Rockcastle County High in Mt. Vernon. She had visited U of L during the opening football game,  saying later she had strong vibes with her potential teammates and was blown away by the new arena.

She told the Courier-Journal: “Passing up UConn was really hard for me. But I had to pick a place where I knew I was going to be happy. I always dreamed of going to UConn and winning national championships. But I had to go where I felt wanted and that was Louisville.”

Sara is ranked 12th in ESPN’s 2011 recruiting class, receiving a 95% rating, meaning she “has the potential to significantly contribute as a freshman for most national programs and should make an immediate impact. She could be a three- or four-year starter and have an opportunity for all-league honors.” Per ESPN:

Hammond is a very well-built 6-2 forward with a game that is as refined as we saw out of any player in the Class of 2011 during the event. The Kentucky Premier star has the physicality that allows her to score on the block, but her ability to involve others while on the perimeter is what’s most attractive about the Rockcastle (Ky.) County junior.

Displaying the ability to find cutting teammates with pinpoint precision on her passes, Hammond was more then comfortable away from the basket. She has the ability to shoot and make the 3-point shot with consistency. The lefty plays at a pace that keeps her under control and one step ahead of the competition.

As Walz tweeted Sunday, “Good things are happening in The Ville.”

Louisville football tickets are finally in the mail

University of Louisville football tickets are in the mail, arriving in mailboxes all over town.

The long wait is about to end for fans eager to put the Steve Kragthorpe years behind them. Finally, in Charlie Strong a reason to anticipate an upcoming season.

Improvement. That’s what reasonable fans are expecting. Step by step, benefitting from mistakes, learning to win again. A slow grinding process over a long period of time.

Some, however, are wildly optimistic, predicting five, six, seven, even eight wins, and a possible bowl game.

Patience. There’s only so much one man can do, given what he inherited from the previous coaching regime.

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Frank Camp would have been in disbelief.

The late University of Louisville coach never saw the day when more than 7,000 fans would show up for a pre-season football event on Belknap Campus. But that’s how many showed up Sunday for Fan Day despite sweltering temperatures nearing the 100-degree mark.

Camp coached at U of L from 1946 to 1968, with a record of 116-98-2. He rarely saw crowds in excess of 3,000 at an actual game.

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The annual Louisville football posters have been obtainable for a while at various events, including the Eye Care Institute picnics. They’re pretty generic. No Brian Brohm or Michael Bush-type players to highlight, opting again to focus on the seniors. The posters are now widely available to the public at various Thornton’s and Rally’s locations about town. A full listing of the outlets is available at Card Chronicle.

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Remember Mike Leach, the former Texas Tech coach once speculated to be a candidate for the U of L job? He is joining the CBS broadcasting crew as a color analyst, according to ESPN.

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Marcus Campbell, a junior defensive end at UConn is out for the season with a torn ACL. A UConn blog said the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Campbell has sprinter speed and was poised for a breakout year.

Big East Basketball Update

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The Big East has released the basketball opponent matrix for the upcoming basketball season. The University of Louisville will play:

  • At home: Connecticut, DePaul, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Syracuse, and West Virginia
  • Away: Connecticut, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, South Florida, Villanova, West Virginia
  • Twice: Connecticut, Providence and West Virginia.


How About A Basketball-Driven Realignment

None of the recent changes in proposed or actual college conference realignments have had anything to do with basketball. Not even one. In fact, Kansas, one of the leading basketball programs, came perilously close to being relegated to the scrap heap.

Hard to fathom in parts of the country where the following for basketball closely resembles the most fanatical of cults, with an intensity among its frenetic followers that rivals that of some hardened fundamental and radical groups.

Brendan Prunty, of the Star-Ledger in New Jersey, envisions a realignment that would merge the Big East and Atlantic Coast conferences into what he convincingly argues would be the best basketball conference in the nation while also being a respectable football league, as follows:

Big Atlantic Conference

NORTH — Boston College, UConn, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Temple, Villanova, Notre Dame, Georgetown, St. John’s and Maryland.

SOUTH — Wake Forest, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Louisville, Central Florida, South Florida, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Memphis.

Under this scenario, Villanova, Notre Dame, Georgetown and St. John’s would be basketball-only schools. Miami, Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech would have joined the SEC, and Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh would have gone to the Big Ten.

The Triangle Hoops Journal, a North Carolina-based blog, has endorsed the concept, noting:

The “Big Atlantic Conference” would be a respectable football conference and would provide sufficient opportunities for the member schools to compete at the highest level.  More importantly, it would remain true to the history and tradition of the basketball-centric ACC and Big East by creating perhaps the best college basketball conference imaginable …

State, Duke, UNC and Wake would get to play each other twice each regular season.  Traditional rivalries in each league would be respected and promoted …

Imagine a conference tournament arranged as follows:  The South division plays two rounds in Greensboro, the North in Madison Square Garden.  The four semi-finalists from each division would then play out the tournament in Greensboro or the Garden, alternating each season.

Gotta love the name, The Big Atlantic Conference. However, the South division of the tournament would have to be played in the new 22,000-seat state-of-the-art arena in Louisville. And Notre Dame would not be pressured into playing conference football, enjoying a great new home for its other sports.

This lineup is one that makes a lot of sense and would generate a highly profitable television network, assuring that basketball remains a major power player on the college athletic landscape.

Louisville Deals Setback To U-Calhoun

Any time less than five points separate two Big East teams with four minutes to go, anything can happen, positive or negative, anything but passive.

Fans lose all sense of control, forced to accept whatever fate chooses to throw in their collective lap that day. The frantic finishes are so wild, so unpredictable and so commonplace no one is shocked or surprised by any outcome.

Edgar Sosa, with all his ups and downs, indicating the game will be in his hands. At 29 seconds, it is obvious: He will make the move, and he does with 11 seconds to go.

UConn playing its best basketball of the season since the return of Jim Calhoun, looking good winning its last three games, ready to exact revenge, senior night, pumped, having its way, drumming Louisville 39-26 late in the first half.

But wait. One knows what happens more often than not in Louisville games. The team with the lead eases up a bit, the team behind turns on the defensive pressure. A couple of unexpected three-pointers from a surprising source, a turnover or two, and a bank shot at the halftime buzzer and Rick Pitino’s team trails by only five points.

Game on again, despite having thrown in the proverbial tower at the big screen just a few minutes earlier, having perceived no chance, no prayer of surviving the UConn onslaught.

Fast forward to midway in the second half, Louisville leading by six points at some point, knowing all the while the game will be decided at the horn.

Edgar Sosa, with all his ups and downs, indicating the game will be in his hands. At 29 seconds, it is obvious: He will make the move, and he does with 11 seconds to go. Running the gauntlet with all the swiping hands beneath the basket. Throwing up a shot between all the bodies and outstretched hands. Swish.

Too early, eight seconds left. Kemba Walker, with 28 points from all kinds of shots, with the ball, making the mad dash. Hello, Kemba, I’m Samardo Samuels, get that thing out of here. Hey ball, I’m Preston Knowles, boom, get out of here.

Louisville wins 78-76. Back in the NCAA tournament chase for a couple of days.

The one thing certain is the Louisville-Marquette game Tuesday will be decided on a buzzer beater.

Box Score