ACC Basketball

Cardinals Looking to Bounce Back…Bounce Hurricanes in Process

Chris Jones Louisville

HOW WE GOT HERE:
The Louisville Cardinals had an impressive 19-3 record at one point. Those three loses were to ranked teams; Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke. Then they went up and faced the Cavaliers in Virginia and walked away a 5-point loser. No big deal…just another justifiable loss. However, after needing a second half rally to beat Pittsburgh at home, the Cardinals have dropped two straight, both to teams inferior to Louisville. The last one without suspended point guard Chris Jones.

The Miami Hurricanes, with basically a roster filled with new faces, came out winning their first eight games of the year, before stumbling at home against Green Bay, then again at home against Eastern Kentucky. Yet convincing wins over Duke, NC State and Syracuse had the Hurricanes ranked. Then they got blown out by Georgia Tech (at home no less) and dropped four of five and suddenly they were back on the back end of the bubble. Since then they have won three of four, although the last two wins have come over the two worst teams in the ACC.

PREVIOUS GATHERING:
In game where they never trailed, Louisville traveled down to South Beach and walked away with a surprisingly easy 63-55 victory. The big three came up huge, scoring 56 of the teams 63 points, as Wayne Blackshear was the only other Cardinal to score a point. The Hurricanes shot 35% from the floor, as Angel Rodrigues struggled, hitting just 2-9, 0-3 from deep, while Sheldon McClellan took just six shots. Davon Reed led all Hurricane scorers with 19, hitting five threes.

FIVE NOT-SO-DEEP THOUGHTS

  • Well, that Chris Jones suspension sure was short. After the senior guard was kept out of the Syracuse game, the Big Three are back together again. Scoring 59 points in a loss I’m sure played no part in Rick Pitino’s decision.
  •  Yes, Chris Jones’ return will be the story heading into the game with Miami, but Terry Rozier is what matters. The Cardinals’ leading scorer has had to take a lot more shots lately to get his point total. Against Virginia, it took him 16 shots to get 16 points. In the win over Pittsburgh, it was 16 shots to score 22. Against NC State, he hit just 3-11 and when he scored 28 against Syracuse, he was just 6-18 from the floor. Right now, he’s just not finishing in the lane. It would certainly help if he got to line more. Against Pittsburgh, he took 10 free throws. In his last two games, both defeats, he’s been to the line five times.
  • The Hurricanes have slowly become a more balanced team when it comes to scoring. They have sort of had to become one as Angel Rodriguez has struggled to put the ball in the bucket. Sheldon McClellan has taken on a more alpha dog role, while Devon Reed has become a solid outside threat, hitting 22 threes in his last 10 games. Prior to that he had just two in eight contests. However, don’t forget about Tonye Jekiri. We already know about his rebounding (first in the ACC), but lately he’s started to produce some points, hitting double figures five times in his last eight, including his last two, both double-doubles. In fact, he has 27 points and 30 rebounds in Miami’s last two victories.
  • Rick Pitino’s defense is about making life hard from baseline to baseline. The full court press is suppose to fluster the opposing team into turnovers creating easy baskets for the Cardinals. For the first 16 games of this season, we witnessed it, as Louisville had 10+ steals in 13 of their first 16 games. However, in their last 10 games, they’ve hit double digit steals just once (getting nine in another game). They have produced five or less steals in eight of their last 10 and over their last four, they have swiped just nine balls.
  • Angel Rodriguez is Miami’s second leading scorer. He’s their floor leader, distributor and best perimeter defender. However, the guy is hitting threes at a Trevor Cooney level (that’s not a compliment). In his last seven games, he’s hit just five treys, taking 32 shots (that’s 15%, folks). Things won’t get easier because the Cardinals are the best in ACC play at preventing threes. What Rodriguez needs to do is attack. Put pressure on Louisville’s star guards to defend and try to get into the chest of the Cards’ big men.

FINAL THOUGHT:
Asking the Miami Hurricanes to not take threes and play good defense would be like asking me to turn away from the television during Scarlett Johansson’s nude scenes in Under the Skin…it ain’t going to happen. The Canes need the win badly, but with Montrezl Harrell inside and Wayne Blackshear healthy, I just don’t see how Miami escapes the KFC Yum! Center with a win.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Louisville, 72-65

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