Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekend Recap -- Still not buying Louisville

I mean, right? They tried to give that game to Villanova about 17 different times in the final minute, and Nova just wouldn't take it. Missed free throws, missed put-backs...So many chances to make the Cardinals pay for the loose, lackadaiscial way they play the game, and yet they come away losers, just as Kentucky did a week earlier after coming back when L'ville refused to close them out.

I guess you could say you should give Louisville credit for winning these games when they're obviously not playing as well as they should be playing. But I don't think a team deserves credit when it's not playing as well as it should be playing. I think Louisville should be expected to play better than they are. I think Pitino should have more control over his team and the on-court decisions he makes than he does.

I think Louisville is going to get beaten a few times this year when it shouldn't. I think they should be able to hold or build on leads in the second half, and I don't like the body language of their players when it does start to slip away -- as if they're annoyed and tired instead of angry and determined.

Villanova by the Numbers has a stat breakdown that shows how the Wildcats hung right with the Cardinals in "athletic" stats like steals and blocks, and how they were able to erase Louisville's shooting advantage in the second half.

Maybe I'm making too much of this. It was, after all, a road win in the conference. The conference's top teams are basically doing what they're supposed to do. Pitt, Marquette, Syracuse and UConn all rolled this weekend. Georgetown looked sluggish early but came back behind Greg Monroe to handle Providence.

The conference's "Power Nine" have a combined eight losses. Of those, only Notre Dame's loss at St. John's qualifies as a bad loss.

Villanova's losses are home to Louisville and at Marquette. Georgetown's are home to Pitt and at Notre Dame. West Virginia's are home to UConn and at Marquette. UConn lost at home to Georgetown.

So far, it's been about taking care of business, which in the end is what Louisville did, no matter how shaky they looked at the end.

Right now, the best team in the conference is Pitt, but I sure wish they played Marquette before March 4, because I'm starting to wonder if the best team in the conference might be Marquette, and I'd like to know.

(And yes, I know it could be Syracuse, but we here at RCR are choosing not to acknowledge that horrifying possibility until we absolutely have to -- like, February 15, earliest.)

Tonight is Notre Dame at Louisville. If I were a betting man I'd bet the over, because neither one of these teams likes playing defense very much. I say Harangody takes down the Cardinals on the road with some help from the perimeter, where the Irish should outwit, out-hustle and out-shoot the home team. Louisville should be able to out-athlete them, but to do that they'll have to maintain their focus for 40 full minutes. And from what I've seen this year, they don't.

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