Christmas wish list: What does Louisville want and need?

1 Comment

For the next five days, Beyond the Arc will detail what some teams need. Hey, we’re in a giving mood.

There is no team in the country that looks more comfortable and in control playing a game that is completely out of control than Louisville. At times, it seems like Rick Pitino is coaching his team by simply saying “the sloppier the better”.

With Christmas right around the corner, here is a look into just what Pitino has requested from Santa Claus:

Must have: Claire Bennett’s powers

I know you watched the first season of Heroes, back before the show had an Entourage-esque collapse. Claire Bennett was the cheerleader played by Hayden Panettiere — “Save the cheerleader, save the word”. Remember? — that had the power of regeneration. In other words, she couldn’t get injured, which would be a perfect skill for this Louisville team to have after the first month of the season. Wayne Blackshear is done for the season with a shoulder injury. Mike Marra and Steven VanTreese are out with knee injuries. Peyton Siva and Russ Smith have missed a couple of games this season. Jared Swopshire and Rakeem Buckles are still recovering from injuries that ended their season in 2011.

Now, Louisville still has talent on their roster. Siva and Smith provide a dynamic back court, Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith are the veterans on the wing while Gorgui Dieng and Behanan have been excellent inside. But, as I said earlier, Louisville is at their best when the game becomes unorganized and out of sync. The best way to do that is to press, but given the limit that Pitino has on his bench players right now, the Cards can’t exactly press for 40 minutes, not with their limited bench. Louisville needs depth, and that depth will come with their health.

Stocking stuffer: Three-point range

Last season, Louisville shot 36.2% from beyond the arc and shot threes at the 28th highest rate nationally. While they aren’t attempting nearly as many this season, their percentage has dropped all the way down to 32.0%. Kyle Kuric has gone form a 44.9% shooter to 32.7%. Russ Smith has dropped from 41.2% to 38.5%. Chris Smith is down slightly from 40.4% at 39.5%. Rakeem Buckles, who shot 42.3% last season before he was injured, has taken just two three pointers this season. Hell, even Peyton Siva has gone from a 27.2% three point shooter to 23.3%.

The Cardinals are playing a big of a different style this season. They aren’t playing quite as uptempo as they have been known for and they are more concerned about getting the ball into the paint, whether it be off the dribble or on a post touch. Part of the reason for that is the penetration abilities of Siva and Russ Smith and the play of Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng inside. But the fact that the Cardinals aren’t shooting it that well has played a role; when the threes aren’t dropping, you start doing something else. Louisville has too many guys that can stroke the ball to continue struggling like this.

Planning to re-gift: Guards

Pitino already has a million of them. Kyle Kuric, Russ Smith, Chris Smith, Peyton Siva, Elisha Justice, Tim Henderson, Kevin Ware, Mark Jackson. Those are a lot of players to try and find minutes for. What’s more is that two of Pitino’s top six back court players — Wayne Blackshear and Mike Marra — are out for the season. The good news? The battles in practice as guys try to earn minutes must be intense.

What other teams have Christmas wish lists? Click here.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Tom Izzo’s point is valid, but he’s wrong about the new fouling rules

Eron Harris, Tom Izzo
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Leave a comment

On Sunday night, after No. 3 Michigan State knocked off No. 23 Providence in the final of the Wooden Legacy, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo made sure to make his feelings known about the new college basketball officiating mandates.

He doesn’t like them.

At all.

“I just think we’re taking the flow of the game away,” Izzo said. “Maybe it’ll change. We’ll play by the same rules everybody else does. But I think I can voice my opinion to say that I don’t agree with it.”

Part of what frustrated Izzo was that, in a matchup between the two best players in college basketball, both Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn were sent to the bench with foul trouble.

“I didn’t like it either way,” Izzo said. “I didn’t like having Denzel on the bench, and I didn’t even like watching Dunn on the bench.”

“Don’t tweet this now and leave out the officials,” he added, according to CBSSports.com. “It’s not their fault. Because that’s the way they’re mandated to call them. So I am really either blaming the rules committee, which ends up on the coaches somewhat. So I’m looking in the mirror and blaming myself because I should have argued it more maybe. I just don’t think it’s fun to have these guys sitting.”

This is nothing new for Izzo. This was calculated. He basically said the same thing after Michigan State, then No. 1 in the country, beat Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic two seasons ago, when the rules committee tried to implement these same rules. It was his pushback that started the campaign to get rid of the freedom of movement rules.

But here’s the thing: we all knew this was going to happen. We knew there was going to be an adjustment period, for coaches and players and referees alike. In the long run, freedom of movement is good for basketball. It’s part of the reason the NBA is so much fun to watch these days, as their emphasis on the freedom of movement got us out of the days where the Detroit Pistons were winning titles without scoring 80 points.

Physicality is ingrained in college basketball. Coaches teach defense a certain way. Players play defense a certain way. The guys in the NBA are stronger, but the style of play is much more physical in the college game than the pro game. That doesn’t change overnight.

It changes when those rules are enforced and those fouls are called, and, as a result, the players and coaches learn to adjust to them.

Kennesaw State blows eight-point lead in 16 seconds, loses to Elon

Elon Athletics
Leave a comment

Kennesaw State entered Monday night at 1-6 on the season, but with 19 seconds left, it looked like the Owls have their second of the season locked up. Kendrick Ray made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to put KSU up 89-81, and all they had to do was avoid a complete meltdown to get out with a win.

They couldn’t.

A Luke Eddy layup with 16 seconds left cut the lead to six, and after KSU’s Nigel Pruitt missed two free throws, Dainan Swoope his a three with seven seconds left to make the score 89-86.

On the ensuing inbounds, Kennesaw State threw the ball away … and then proceeded to foul Eddy when he was shooting a three. This is what that disaster looked like:

Eddy would hit all three threes before, shockingly, KSU turned the ball over again. Elon could not capitalize this time, sending the game to overtime, where the Phoenix outscored the Owls 14-4.

Elon won 104-94.

Here’s what the comeback looked like on the play-by-play:

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 7.39.27 AM