Well, we lost. It had to happen eventually, right? Losses in November seem to feel different because of Football. In football, a loss can kill your season. Rolling into basketball season during football season – a loss hits you harder than it should. Losses happen in basketball, it’s OK – there is a post season tourney. The key is what you learn from those losses, and how you strive to improve.
Let’s take a look at yesterday’s loss.
Quick Summary: UNC played really well. We played sloppy, not as a team, and they exposed us.
Frontcourt: Our front line will have problems against elite size/length as UNC had until Mangok is ready for big time college basketball. It is not his fault, it’s his first year. He needs time like anyone else. Louisville will have to be fundamentally better than taller and longer front courts. No more jumping for rebounds, blocking out will be required. If you have listened to our podcasts, you already heard this 100 times. We lack depth, and we are foul trouble away (yesterday Harrell) from being decimated on the front line. How much do we need to worry about the front line? Louisville made ELEVEN 3 point baskets, shot 84% from the foul line on 21-25 FT’s and lost by 9.
Defense: How many heat seeking outlet passes by Kennedy Meeks led to a score? He finished with 7 assists by himself, Louisville as a team had 8. It seemed after the first threeve of them (Sean Connery’s mixture of 3 and 5 from SNL’s Jeopardy) we would adjust, but we never did. Why not? Your guess is as good as mine. Optimistically I will say “because we had to gang rebound with our out manned front court”, but ultimately I just don’t know. Also, it’s harder to “just play better defense”, because that seems to put you on the bench this year. Our team didn’t seem to collectively want it bad enough. Another factor we are starting to see is last year we overplayed (and quite physically) the ball handler, knowing that Gorgui would clean up the mess. Well, Gorgui is gone. This year, the ball handler can get by us, and we lack a true center. Harrell & Chane are awesome forwards – not awesome centers. We can’t expect them to provide that type of relief. Therefore, we will just have to play better defense with our feet, and force opponents into low percentage shots.
Passing: The passing, wow UNC carved us up with Dean Smith-esque backdoor cuts. Our team on the other hand? Russ and Chris combined for 42 shots, 5 TO’s, and 3 assists. Don’t get me wrong, we needed their production, but if you don’t get others involved, they lose rhythm and motivation. They lose energy (not the mystical energy from Coach Josh Pastner, real energy). Improving this also improves the front court bucket simultaneously. I listed them separate, because they are separate issues, but it’s on the guards to help the bigs get better as well. It needs to be a team effort, not a one on one show. Didn’t UNC play great team ball yesterday? We looked a little scatter brained in my opinion.
- Blackshear still can’t stay out of foul trouble. 17 minutes, zero stat line, 4 fouls.
- Fouls: I am confused by what is a foul and what is not. Harrell went to the bench for what seemed to be standard front court aggressiveness for UNC.
- SVT had 2 rebounds in almost 20 minutes of play.
- Chane is starting to come back. 9 rebounds, 7 points in 23 minutes.
- Steals and blocks are going to be way down compared in 2013.
Team outlook: I have none. It’s so early, and the season is young. We don’t know if they can comeback from 18 points down like last season, and more than once. Compounding this, we have a weak OOC schedule, so we won’t know if this team has truly learned their lesson until the travel to Rupp to play Kentucky. All I know, is we can’t put last year’s expectations on this team. They are a slightly different group of kids, new faces, new personalities, skill sets, strengths, and weaknesses. We just don’t know much about this team yet.
Why am I not concerned?
Reason # 1: because National Championship. Sorry folks, we have the trophy, come get it. Beating us in November earns you nothing, see you in March.
Reason #2: Our coach is Rick Frickin’ Pitino.
If you truly want to enjoy what it is to have Rick as your coach, look past this loss. Listen to what Rick says, watch what he does, and watch this team improve. I remember when folks went ablaze over a few losing streaks that past couple years – I was not concerned. It’s a process. Rick knows that you improve a little each day, not all at once. We have a Hall of Fame coach, and I love that. It’s fun, we don’t have one and dones. They grow and get better, each week, each month, each year until they move on.
I am looking forward to seeing what Rick does with yesterday’s problems. That is why he gets paid the big bucks. We can still get to a 3rd Final Four in as many years, but certainly not the way we played yesterday. With Rick as our coach we know a few things are true. The players do not run the show, Rick does. We know Rick hates losing. We know Rick is going to tinker with lineups, sit starters, and do whatever is necessary to get the teams attention. We know Rick is a Hall of fame coach.
We will be fine. Rick adapts.
Sidenote: Starting with UNC, I will begin my annual TVT series. I didn’t bother with the first few games, because the opponents were terrible and would skew results.
I will push it out later this week.
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