I felt a little blue today when I got up and that’s not a good thing for a Cardinal fan for several reasons. They always say that the sun will be shining in the morning when you wake up, but that wasn’t the case either today. All was not lost though as I attended the final Red and White Scrimmage. Nothing takes the blues away like watching our defending National Champions and they also unveiled the center court of the championship floor. It looks great hanging above the terrifying escalators of the Yum Center. The guys came out with a lot of energy today and both teams went at it hard. But it was too much Russ for the Red team to overcome and the White team got the victory 71 to 52.
The first scrimmage was about the offense, the second scrimmage was about the new guys and today it was all about Russ Smith as he poured in on the Red group going for 11 straight during one stretch of the game. He was hitting shots from all over the floor and finished with a game high 21 points. The guy Rick Pitino calls “the best walk-on in college basketball” Tim “Hendo” Henderson also put on a show of his own today in a losing effort for the Red team and scored 17 points. Other stand-outs for me today were Stephan “Big Country” Van Treese with a double-double 11 boards with 10 points, and Mangok “The Mango” Mathiang with a double-double 10 boards with 12 points. Both of these guys became much more important for this team this week with the suspension of Chane Behanan. We are gonna need these guys to step up and fill the rebounding gap lost. Montrezl “The Beast” Harrell will also play a role in this effort but more from an offensive standpoint. Today the big guy had 16 points with 8 boards. Among the new Cardinals the guy that stood out to me today was Anton Gill and his 3-point shooting. He went 4 for 7 from deep and this kid has a beautiful stroke.
Coach Pitino after the third Red and White Scrimmage:
(Video courtesy Jody Demling)
One thing really stands out after watching these guys scrimmage three times over the past several weeks. They are a group of some of the best shooters that Coach Pitino has had in a long time. These guys can really lite it up in the short game, mid range and from deep. Granted the defense still needs some fine tuning but shots were still contested. Through 3 games the Cards were 170-379 for 49% in field goals, and 38-117 for 32% in 3 pointers. And while those statistics don’t reflect great shooting those numbers can be deceiving because everybody was chucking up shots in these scrimmages. As we get into real action with more designed plays and organized offense the great shooting will become more obvious percentage wise. Right now I’d say the best shooters on this team are Terry Rozier, Anton Gill, Chris Jones, and Luke Hancock. Wayne Blackshear can be streaky, but if he uses his pump fake and drives to the basket for a closer shot he can become a more effective shooter. He has shown some of that in the last 3 weeks. Russ Smith could also be much more effective by making good decisions with the ball and taking the best shot not forcing it. He has also shown the ability to do just that in the past 3 weeks. I’ve got to also give a honorable mention to Tim Henderson. We might just see the “Hendo” play more minutes this season and he can shoot the ball, especially if he shoots in stride. When Coach Pitino has this much offense to work with it will spell trouble for our opponents this year. Especially when he finds the right chemistry with this bunch.
Final Four Court in KFC Yum! Center Unveiled:
(Video courtesy @TheCrunchZone)
I’m very optimistic about the potential of this group and can see them making another run at a Final Four. If the 2013-14 version of the Louisville Cardinals can find their chemistry and bond together sky is the limit. And I’m not going to act like the absence of Chane Behanan isn’t going to hurt because it does. If Chane can come back 100% committed to the team and Kevin Ware can come back 100% healthy then that will be huge. Only time will tell I guess and right now it’s looking like both might be with the team in December. Ware is expected earlier but I think it will take a few months for him to feel truly comfortable. Now it’s on to the pre-season part of the schedule and time to see what these guys do against someone other than themselves.