Is this Louisville basketball? Or is this the result of the new rules? The schedule?
Maybe all of the above.
Rick Pitino said after a his team’s 8th win of 20+ “We are in need of some good competition.” That’s true. The Cards have rolled to 8-1 so far in the 2015-16 season. But not all of the competition has been terrible. Samford (7-3) lost in Austin, TX vs. the Longhorns by 10 (who beat North Carolina)….Louisville won by 41. North Florida (9-4) notched a win over Illinois & played LSU to within 11…the Cards won by 28. Grand Canyon is 8-2, and Louisville’s lone loss came to Michigan State the #1 team in the country by 4 in East Lansing.
The schedule isn’t robust, but it is selectively tough in certain places. Eastern Michigan’s zone helped ball movement, North Florida & Michigan St challenged UofL from the perimeter. The Spartans also challenged UofL defending ball movement and is the only team able to test UofL on the glass this year so far. Last night against Kennesaw State Rick Pitino has an entire half of basketball to display his team’s mistakes in the match-up zone…which is why Kennesaw State shot 23.3% in the 1st half and 55.6% in the 2nd. Clearly the zone isn’t ready yet.
The New Rules
30 second shot clock, more possessions, lighter defensive contact is all amounting to higher point totals & field goal percentages. Overall the game is more fun to watch and fans have had really positive feedback across the country…..and that has extended to the Louisville Cardinals. UofL is scoring more points and hitting a higher field goal percentage which is helping the ‘enjoyability’ of this team.
But it also might be the Cards.
The New Louisville Basketball
We can attribute some of what is happening on the court to schedule and rule changes. But that’s not all it is. Louisville is a better offensive team than it was a year ago. The ball movement is better. The emphasis to make the extra pass is more present than ever and unlike last year Louisville is hitting open shots at a much higher rate. Rule changes and different competition doesn’t have anything to do with a team hitting open jumpers, last night the Cards hit 65.7% in the 2nd half (almost all jump shots). That didn’t happen last year or any other year. Cardinal Basketball usually wins with defense.
The match-up zone isn’t there yet. But Louisville is still 3rd in the country in Shooting Defense. To top it all off the Cards are DOMINATING available rebounds and have grabbed 62.4% of the rebounds on the year. With teams across the board hitting a higher percentage rebounds are at a PREMIUM. Last year on 12/17 Louisville was grabbing 56.8% off the glass, the year before 54.5%, 52.7% in 2012-13 on 12/17, 54.9% on this date in 2011-12. So the rebounding is SKY high thus far and will continue to be a huge point of emphasis.
Should Cardinal fans be excited? Yes!!!! This team has been a lot of fun to watch, they share the ball they are greedy on the glass, they can get into the lane, they limit scoring AND THEY HIT JUMP SHOTS!
Should Cardinal fans book travel to Houston for the 2016 Final Four? Not in December. But if you can make arrangements with the option to cancel without penalty that is always an advisable plan. This Louisville Basketball team has all the tools, but they do lack a great deal of critical tight game experience. We saw that vs. Michigan State and how a veteran team used their brains to eventually overtake the Cardinals despite being down with a huge lead. There are going to be games where the Cards take a big punch early and we haven’t seen whether or not they can steady and respond.
Rick Pitino said that the Cards are in need of some good competition. Western Kentucky will be a step in the right direction. 9 days from now the real season will begin with Kentucky at Rupp Arena and the ACC schedule will follow.
Louisville needs to improve its foul shooting and eliminate the silly fouls 50 feet from the basket. If the shots keep falling, the defense continues to improve, and the Cards continue to rebound the sky is the limit…..and these early results might just be more about Louisville than anything to do with rule changes or a light schedule. We will certainly find out very soon.
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