Call it a trial run. In a sense this weekend’s two games simulate what the upcoming NCAA Tournament will be like for the 16th ranked University of Louisville Cardinals in March. The only difference is that the Cardinals won’t be playing at the KFC Yum Center.
Two nationally ranked Atlantic Coast Conference powers come to The Yum. Saturday 11th ranked Virginia (16-4, 5-3) visits and Monday second ranked North Carolina (18-2) comes to town following its game with Boston College. It is the biggest basketball weekend of the season for the Cardinals.
Saturdays game will be a “White Out” where Cardinal fans are urged to wear white. In the past coach Rick Pitino has donned a white suit. Asked at his pre-game press conference Friday if he will wear the suit he asked Sports Information Director Kenny Klein what the Cards record is when he wears all white. The Cards are 6-3 in the suit.
“I guess I’ll have to dig it up,” said Pitino with a laugh. Back more serious things.
“Its a big weekend obviously with two highly ranked teams coming in here, very well coached teams,” said Pitino. “What they just did to Wake Forest is interesting to say the least.”
Visiting Virginia trailed by 10 points with 1:23 to play. The Demon Deacons missed seven free throws down the stretch and the Cavaliers capitalized as Darius Thompson banked in a three pointer as time expired for a 72-71 victory.
It was the third straight win for Virginia but the Cavaliers have struggled away from John Paul Jones Arena with a 2-3 record.
“I just tried to get a foul, and threw it up,” Thompson told the Associated Press following the game. “And it happened to go off the backboard.”
Louisville and Virginia played two tight games last season. The Cavaliers won at home 52-47 on February 7. In that game the Cardinals trailed by as many as 13 points only to fall short.
On March 7 at the Yum Center Mangok Mathiang’s jumper with 2.7 seconds remaining provided the Cardinals with a 59-57 victory. “I give him that shot every time,” said London Perrantes following the game.
Louisville is a six point favorite but that means nothing. Pitino is concerned with Virginia’s defense which allows 61.9 points a game but is allows 66.1 in conference play.
“Actually (against Wake Forest) they went seven possessions of zone which you’ve never seen from a (coach) Tony Bennett team,” said Pitino. “They usually blitz the pick and roll very aggressively. They can’t do that any more. He’s one of the bright coaches in our game.”
Virginia is 3-0 versus ranked teams this season with wins over West Virginia, Villanova and Miami, Florida.
“They got a terrific offensive basketball team,” said Pitino. “They can score in bunches. They are a great perimeter shooting team.” Virginia is shooting .496 from the field and averages 72.9 points a game.
Guard Malcolm Brodgon leads the Cavaliers averaging 17.6 points per game and 4.5 rebounds a game. He is shooting .375 from thee point range (39-104). Forward Anthony Gill averages 15 points and six rebounds and is shooting .601 from the field. Perrantes, a guard pitches in 11.7 points a game and leads the team with 79 assist.
“Gill on the inside is lethal, very difficult to stop,”said Pitino.”
Louisville has won four in a row since a loss at Clemson on January 10. Graduate students, guards Damion Lee 17.2 and Trey Lewis 12.7 points per game continue to pace the Cardinals.
Lee is coming off a season high 29 points in a 91-83 win at Virginia Tech, Wednesday. In the last two games Lee is 12 for 19 from the field which includes nine of 13 from three point range.
Sophomore center Chinanu Onuaku had his streak of six double-doubles broke, Wednesday. Onuaku averages 10.6 points and nine rebounds scored nine point with four rebounds while playing 14 minutes before fouling out.
“We’re a little banged up right now,” said Pitino. “Nanu and Jaylen (Johnson) did not practice yesterday. I think Nanu will be fine, I’m not sure about Jaylen.” Johnson landed awkwardly on his elbow in the second half at Tech and has had some swelling.
Pitino was asked about the Cardinals second place standing in the ACC. Pitino said it means little.
“I wouldn’t put too much stock in it,” said Pitino. “We’ve got to play Virginia twice, Duke twice, (North) Carolina. We’ve got to play at Pittsburgh, at Miami. It sounds nauseating.”
Virginia is the best defensive rebounding team in the ACC. And that could cause problems.
“They play five versus three almost every posession. They choke down the paint and don’t give anything inside. If you hit a jump shot its got to be with somebody running and jumping at you,”said Pitino.
“They do a great job of blocking out. They do a great job of getting five guys in the lane.”
— Louisville’s “Doctor of Dunk” All-American Darrell Griffith, a Louisville native from Male High School and a member of the Cardinals first NCAA Championship in 1980 will be honored as a member of the ACC Basketball Legends presented by New York Life.
The Legends will be recognized during this years ACC Tournament which will be held March 8-12 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Griffith will be among 14 standout players and a three-time ACC Coach of the Year headline this years group.
A noon luncheon will be held March 11 at the Washington Marriott Marquis Hotel. The Legends will be introduced during halftime of the first semifinal game.
Tickets are available and may be obtained by going to the offical ACC website and are $100 each or $700 for a table of 10.
Griffith who went on to play 11 seasons with the NBA’s Utah Jazz where he averaged 16.2 points per game played four seasons for the Cardinals. He received the covited John Wooden Award as college Basketball’s Player of the Year and was voted the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
Griffith’s team compiled a 101-25 record including 33-3 his senior season. His red road uniform (35) from the 1980 season is on permanent display at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. His No. 35 is retired.
Griffith’s teams were members of the old Metro Conference.
Other members selected included former Wake Forest coach Dave Odom, BJ Elder, Georgia Tech (2001-2005), James Worthy, North Carolina (1979-82), Anthony “Spud” Webb (1983-85) North Carolina State, Adrian Dantley (1973-76) Notre Dame, Derrick Coleman (1986-90) Syracuse.
CARDS BASEBALL ON TV
The Cardinals ranked No. 2 in most preseason polls will play on television several times this season the school announced, Friday. The Cardinals are preseason picked to win the ACC will be on ESPNU four games and the SEC Network four times. Another 22 games are set for live-streaming on ESPN3.com.
One of the Cardinals nationally televised games will be part of “ACC Monday” April 4 versus Virginia Tech.
Louisville’s three-game set at Old Miss on Feb. 26-28 will be carried by the SEC Network and ESPN3. The last two games of a three-game series at Miami on March 10-20 will be on ESPNU.
The Louisville at Kentucky game, April 8 will be on ESPNU and a May 10 visit to Vanderbilt will be on the SEC Network.
“Our goal is to win an NCAA Championship,” said coach Dan McDonnell at the Cards leadoff dinner, Friday. Around 700 people attended at the downtown Marriott Hotel.
Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista was a speaker at along with McDonnell.
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