Plenty of breakdown, stats and quotes to look at regarding Louisville tonight at Fifth Third. By the way, a few tickets still remain, but the game is close to selling out.
Yet, the topic everyone continues to talk about on TV, talk shows and other media outlets is Yancy Gates. I posed the question to some of you in yesterday's Breakfast if booing a college athlete is OK?
I appreciate those of you that took the time to respond.
Donn has this to say:
"I was there and didn't boo but understood why it happened at the time,end of game,emotions high, and the frustration level for everyone was at its peak. We know that if Yancy plays well we can beat anyone. He is the one advantage we have over other Beast teams. It's rare a man that big has those offensive skills. Everyone wants him to reach his potential and be the home town hero but we are seeing an underachieving guy right now. If he would just play harder, longer those boos would go away quickly as soon as Wednesday night. We probably crossed the line a bit on the booing but I give us a pass on this one as it is not the typical fan behavior and presently the stakes are extremely high."
No doubt the stakes are high. Much like I wrote for CNati how Mick Cronin's tenure will always be linked to Deonta Vaughn, in the same respect, it will always be linked to Yancy Gates. The success of both and consequently, the basketball program start with those two. As you said, he's the one advantage UC owns over other Big East teams. The only area where I would disagree is the alarming aspect of Sunday wasn't the way he played -- we've seen inaffective games before -- it was strictly his reaction to sitting on the bench. Cronin reiterated as much on Monday.
Here's another response to the question from Lee:
"I was at the game Sunday and I have to say I was encouraged by what I saw transpire. Sunday was not the first time Mr. Gates has been disinterested, he has consistently shown this behavior, especially during timeouts, all year. However, it is the first time I have seen the senior leadership this team needs. The booing was a little much, I just hope Mr Gates turns this into a position of strength by reacting positively, even if he doesn't UC will be fine."
Great point, Lee. Despite all the talk about Gates, all this came while UC mounted one of its most impressive comebacks of the year with Ibrahima Thomas, Rashad Bishop and Larry Davis leading the way. Other players on this team can and have led this team to victories. People forget they were up three with little over a minute left almost entirely due to the gritty effort of the rest of the team. The dialouge would dramatically change had a free or two bounced the other way.
--- Scott Springer wrote about the juvenile nature of booing anybody, college or otherwise.
--- Dan Hoard poses an important question: When Gates walks to the scorer's table tonight, what will you do?
I couldn't agree more. For the sake of Gates and this team, it's time to move on.
--- Louisville represents the latest opportunity for a signature win, as Tom Groeschen talks about in his Enquirer preview.
Think about how the conversation will change about the Bearcats should they pull off the victory tonight?
They would have 20 wins. They would own three victories against the RPI Top 25. They would be above .500 in the toughest conference in basketball and without a loss against a team outside the RPI Top 25.
Of course, easier said than done to beat the Cards, but with a win this team's resume stacks up with those on the bubble.
Take a look at Kansas St., who everyone wants to put back in the tournament after their win against Kansas. Prior to that game they were 0-7 against the RPI top 50 and 5-6 in their conference. They have two losses against No. 93 Colorado.
Beating Louisville wouldn't be on the same page with No. 1 Kansas, but it's amazing what a quality win can do for perception.
--- OK, so there's no secret what a win would do for UC's tournament profile, now how do you do it. Well, that's not quite as easy to figure out.
Here are some conference play numbers to consider on the Cards:
- U of L leads the league in steals
- The Cardinals are third in the country in assists per game (18.0).
- Louisville leads the league in 3-pointers made (104). They average nearly two 3-pointers more a game (8.4) than second-place Notre Dame (6.5).
- Kyle Kuric caught fire of late. He's averaging 18.8 points over the last five games. Over that span, he's connected on 17 of 28 3-pointers. That's 60.7 percent for my non-math majors out there.
- UC has allowed fewer 3-pointers than any team in the Big East, but is last in the league in percentage made by opponents (38.3).
--- The combination of those numbers make it easy to see how the Cards win games. Steal-outlet-assist-3-pointer. Repeat.
Taking those numbers into consideration, the key to watch will be UC's transition 3-point defense. The Cards love to run fast breaks with Kuric and leading scorer Preston Knowles running to the wings to fire 3-pointers.
Cronin talked about their transition on Monday.
"They have two great shooters running the wings at all times. They never run the wings with guys that can't shoot. That is unconventional. You teach guys to run to the paint and get inside defensively. You can't run to the paint. You literally have to have one guy run to one wing and another guy run to another wing. It's imperative your big guys run the floor defensively to fortify the paint because your wings, if they stay in there, they are banging in 3s. And they bang them in in a hurry when they get on rolls, especially Knowles and Kuric, they are shooting lights out lately."
--- The numbers flip in UC's favor when looking at rebounding. Remember, last year UC grabbed 28 offensive rebounds against U of L at Madison Square Garden in the BE tournament.
The Louisville Courier-Journal talks about the Cards working at becoming a better rebounding team. Rick Pitino thought his team made strides against Syracuse.
The Cards rank 13th in the BE in defensive rebound percentage (63 percent).
On the flip side, UC ranks fifth in offensive rebound percentage (37 percent).
The last three games, UC pounded the offensive glass with more authority than all season. In games against Pitt, WVU, DePaul and St. John's they grabbed 67 of 141 possible offensive rebounds. That's good for a 47.5 percent clip.
That number will need to be over 40 percent tonight for UC to pull the upset.
--- BearcatsBlog conducted an interview with Mike from the quality Louisville blog Card Chronicle. There's plenty of great inside info on the Cardinals. More importantly, Scott poses this question: Pirates or Ninjas?
Pirates are the most unathletic of all the villans in the world. What's their big draw? Swords? Peg legs? Scurvy?
Give me a stealth ninja and he'll steal more booty than Johnny Depp made on any of those movies.
--- Caution: Referee Tim Higgins will be on duty tonight.
--- The game will be at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
--- On to some randomness...
--- Dwight Howard's NBA All-Star party on Friday night should be pretty tame.
--- Every year I say I am going to go to Bonnaroo. Every year I don't.
But seriously, this year, I'm going.
--- Moral of the Story: Propose outside the Panda Express in the Food Court, don't expect positive results.
--- The worst aspect of Spring Training is the "Best shape of his life" story. DJ Gallo wrote the story I really want to see.
--- The weakness in Watson the Jeopardy computer was finally unveiled: It freezes up under pressure. However, the best part is watching all the computer science folks applaud in amazement over Watson's conquest.
--- McDonald's really connecting with the hip-hop generation with my new favorite rap line: Big Mac. Large Fries. Really big drink. Super size.