Even though Louisville beat Houston by double-digits in early February, coach Rick Pitino was not pleased with his team’s performance. Specifically, he thought the Cardinals were defensively lacking. Through the squad’s first ten AAC games, Louisville had held teams to .93 points per possession, a certainly stingy mark but one that must have seemed poor to a coach whose 2013 team kept both conference and overall opponents to well under .90 PPP.
During the next three games, a stretch which culminated in Tuesday’s win against South Florida (and included victories against Temple and Rutgers), L’Ville has handcuffed opposing offenses. The Cardinals’ defensive efficiency rate against those three conference foes dropped to .84 PPP, and the squad swiped nearly 25 percent of the trio’s possessions. This defensive stand did not go unnoticed by Pitino, who spoke about his group’s renewed effort on that side of the ball: “I haven’t been excited until the last ten days … I just didn’t like this team defensively … the last ten days they are coming together and doing better things, which is very encouraging.”
Now, it is worth knowing L’Ville didn’t exactly play the cream of the AAC during this defensive rediscovery, and a true test whether the Cardinals can continue to hamstring teams will likely be against Cincinnati this Saturday. The Bearcats are not known for their offense, but can frustrate opponents with their physical and grinding defense. The match-up, which is being held in Cincinnati, will likely be decided by which defense makes the least mistakes.
Colorado sophomore forward Tory Miller has been reprimanded by the Pac-12 and he also apologized for biting Air Force’s Hayden Graham earlier this week.
During Colorado’s win over Air Force on Wednesday, Miller was assessed a Flagrant 2 Dead Ball Technical Foul and ejected with 12:25 left in the second half after biting Graham during a loose ball.
In a release from the Pac-12, they announced reprimanding Miller, but he will not be suspended.
“All of our student-athletes must adhere to the Pac-12’s Standards of Conduct and Sportsman-ship,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in the release. “Regardless of Mr. Miller’s frustration and emotion, such behavior is unacceptable and he is being appropriately reprimanded.”
Miller also released his apology in the same release.
“I would like to apologize for my actions during the Air Force game. I would like to apologize to Hayden Graham, Air Force, my teammates and fans. It was a heat of the moment thing. I’m an emotional player, but I let my emotions get the best of me. I will use this as a learning experience and focus on helping my teammates and respecting my opponents for the rest of the season and beyond,” Miller said.
For Miller to not be suspended for this is good news for him and Colorado since he won’t miss any additional action, but did the Pac-12 make the right decision on this?
Michigan State has climbed on the back of star senior wing Denzel Valentine early in the season but they’ll undoubtedly need more help as the season goes on if they want to sustain their current top-5 ranking. One of the keys to the Spartans could be the on-going health of sophomore point guard Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn, who is battling a foot injury.
According to a report from Kyle Austin of MLive.com, Nairn has been putting on a protective boot the last few months to help battle plantar fasciitis as the guard has been playing in practices and hasn’t had his minutes reduced in games.
The injury looked like it was hurting Nairn’s early-season play, but he’s been very good in two games at the Wooden Legacy in California this week, so it could be that he’s getting more used to playing through the pain of the injury.
If Nairn is healthy and capable of contributing, he’s a huge boost to Michigan State because he’s one of the fastest players in college basketball and an additional ball handler on the floor. Through six games so far this season, Nairn is averaging 5.3 points and 4.7 assists per game as he’s been one of the team’s best distributors.
Plantar fasciitis can be a tough injury to fight through, so we’ll have to see if this affects Nairn as the season goes along.