Louisville Cardinals

Louisville's Quentin Snider, left, is fouled bu Utah Valley's Marcel Davis during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Louisville, Ky. Louisville won 98-68. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Snider expected back in the lineup Saturday for Louisville

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Quentin Snider, who has missed the last six games for Louisville, has been cleared to return to practice and is expected to play Saturday against Miami, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The point guard hasn’t played for three weeks after being sidelined with a hip flexor.

“We were very cautious with him,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said on his radio show Wednesday, per the Courier-Journal.

The Cardinals went 4-2 with Snider on the sideline, including Monday’s 71-55 loss to No. 12 Virginia in which both Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang were suspended for Louisville. They are slated to be back to face the Hurricanes.

Snider is averaging 12.1 points, 4.0 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game this season.

Report: Pitino, Louisville respond to NCAA notice of allegations

LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 10:  Rick Pitino the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals watches the action during the game against the Texas Southern Tigers at KFC YUM! Center on December 10, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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Rick Pitino asserts he should not be charged with failure to monitor while Louisville argues it should not be subject to Level I NCAA punishment stemming from the sex scandal that was exposed at the school in 2015, according to documents obtained by ESPN.

“The enforcement staff has overreached in this case,” Pitino’s attorney wrote in the document that responds to the NCAA’s notice of allegations. “Pitino should never have been charged.”

According to the NCAA notice of allegations, Pitino failed to monitor staff member Andre McGee, who allegedly hired escorts for recruits on visits to campus. In its response, Louisville argues it should be subject to less harsh Level I, mitigating, penalties rather than Level I because the activities did not have a major effect on its recruiting efforts nor did the level of benefit “equate to a large amount,” according to ESPN.

Pitino’s attorney wrote that the NCAA enforcement staff “has not identified one red flag that put Pitino on notice of McGee’s illicit activities.”

Louisville’s self-imposed sanctions include a scholarship reduction and an 2016 postseason ban.

 

No. 14 Louisville knocks off No. 7 Duke, whose slide continues

LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 11:  Anas Mahmoud #14 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at KFC YUM! Center on January 11, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Anas Mahmoud had the best game of his collegiate career, finishing with 17 points and 11 boards, and Donovan Mitchell chipped in with 15 points of his own as No. 14 Louisville handed No. 7 Duke their second consecutive loss, 78-69.

Duke jumped out to an early lead on the Cardinals, but Louisville used a 20-5 run late in the half to go ahead 34-30 at the break. The Cardinals did not play great offensively, but they shot 7-for-18 from three and made key jumpers late in both halves to pull away from the Blue Devils.

Grayson Allen led Duke with 23 points and Luke Kennard chipped in with 17, but Duke clearly missed Amile Jefferson – particularly on the defensive end of the floor – and Jayson Tatum shot just 3-for-11 from the field.

Here are four things we learned in Louisville’s win:

1. Anas Mahmoud was awesome: In his fifth game as Louisville’s starting center, Mahmoud had his breakout game. He finished with 17 points, 11 boards, two steals and a block, changing more shots in the lane than I was able to track. His presence in the lineup changes things for the Cardinals on both ends of the floor. On the one hand, he’s probably their best defensive center given his length. He looks like he weighs about 215 pounds, and that is an issue, but what he’s able to bring to the table for the Cardinals defensively – both in rim protection and his ability to switch out onto smaller defenders – is valuable enough to take some risks against stronger opponents.

He’s also a key piece offensively. In prior games, it’s been because of his ability to pass the ball. He’s not a guy that collects a ton of assists, but his ball movement from the low- and high-post lets Louisville’s offense run smoother. On Saturday, however, he point production came as the roll-man in ball-screen actions, which is part of the reason why …

2. … Louisville lit up Duke with ball-screens: This is not the first time this has happened to the Blue Devils this season, and it certainly will not be the last. It’s Duke’s biggest issue on the defensive end of the floor. They are a total mess trying to slow down teams that understand how to execute those actions. In the first half, Mahmoud had four wide-open dunks/layups at the rim because the Blue Devils totally lost track of where he was. At one point in the half, Louisville was 6-for-21 from the floor with three dunks from Mahmoud on alley-oops.

Those were significant baskets. Duke was actually playing well defensively at that point in the game. They were contesting jumpers and limiting penetration, and Louisville’s offense was sputtering as a result. But Duke was never able to extend the lead, meaning that when the Cards did finally get it going, they were able to jump right back into the lead.

3. Duke could not take advantage of Louisville’s switching: Before I go any further, a disclaimer: Louisville is the best defensive team in college basketball and Duke is a team that does not have a point guard on their roster. That said, it is still troubling to see a team with this much talent look this out of sync offensively. They finished with eight assists and 18 turnovers on the day. When they actually were able to score, more often than not it came out of isolations or transition.

The biggest issue, however, was that Duke didn’t have anyone on the block that they could give the ball to that would allow them to take advantage of the fact that Louisville was switching everything. Combine that with the fact that Duke’s guards aren’t quick enough to beat Louisville’s athletic bigs off the dribble, and that offensive performance is what you get.

LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 11:  Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at KFC YUM! Center on January 11, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Donovan Mitchell (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

4. Duke is a total mess: There’s really no other way to put it. And there are justifiable reasons for this mess. They’ve played 18 games this season, and only twice were all five members of their ideal starting lineup – Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Amile Jefferson – healthy. The three star freshmen all missed at least the first month of the season. Jefferson did not play in their two toughest road games of the year to date, which both came this week. And all of this is going on while Coach K is out recovering from back surgery.

But that doesn’t change the fact that this team is nowhere near where we thought they would be at this point in the season. Giles was away from the game for, essentially, 14 months as he recovered from an ACL surgery on his right knee and an arthroscopic surgery on his already-surgically repaired left knee. Marques Bolden is even further away from contributing; he’s seen both Chase Jeter and Javin DeLaurier vault past his in Duke’s front court depth chart, which is a very troubling sign. Frank Jackson isn’t playing with anywhere near the confidence that he had in the first month of the season, and Tatum looks like he has no understanding of how to play basketball.

In fact, Duke might be a better basketball team with Tatum on the bench right now. The problem with that, however, is that the Blue Devils don’t have the depth to take him off the court. These four guys that came off the bench to play for Duke on Saturday: Jackson, Jeter, Bolden and DeLaurier. As bad as Tatum has been, Duke is better off with him playing than with any of those other four guys playing.

We’ve seen this before. During the 2014-15 season, Duke lost back-to-back games in the middle of January, falling at N.C. State and at home to Miami by 16 points; if you don’t remember that Miami game, it was the game where Angel Rodriguez looked like Chris Paul. Everyone in the world questioned Duke’s ball-screen defense and whether or not a team that had Jahlil Okafor at the five and Tyus Jones at the point would ever be good enough defensively to win a national title.

If you remember, that team eventually earned a No. 1 seed and, during the NCAA tournament, played defense that was on par with 2015 Kentucky’s record-setting defense en route to a national title.

That team didn’t have the injuries this team does. That team also didn’t have to figure everything out with Coach K sidelined. Duke has actually looked better in these last two losses, which came at No. 9 Florida State and at No. 14 Louisville, than they did in a loss at Virginia Tech. There is reason to be cautiously optimistic.

But there is even more reason to think that Duke is simply never going to reach their potential this year.

LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 14:  Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils shoots the ball during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on January 14, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Grayson Allen (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

No. 9 Louisville survived Georgia Tech but lost Deng Adel

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 31:  Deng Adel #22 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers in the Countdown Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 31, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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No. 9 Louisville got 20 points from Donovan Mitchell, who shot 5-for-7 from three, and 12 points and seven assists from Quentin Snider as the Cardinals outlasted a scrappy Georgia Tech team, 65-50.

The win did not come without cost, however, as Deng Adel left the game in the first half with what has been diagnosed as a concussion. Adel took a knee to the head after a hard fall on a layup attempt. He lay face-down on the floor before being helped off the court by two people with a towel over his head.

Adel did not return to the bench for the second half. He is the third Louisville player to suffer a concussion this season. Anas Mahmoud missed three games with a concussion while Matz Stockman missed his second game on Saturday.

The win was Louisville’s first ACC win of the season. The Cardinals had been the only team in the conference that had yet to win in league play.

College Basketball Talk Top 25: Villanova is the new No. 1

Villanova head coach Jay Wright shouts instructions to his team during the first half of N NCAA college basketball game against Miami in the regional semifinals of the men's NCAA Tournament in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, March 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
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1. Villanova (14-0, Last Week: No. 2): It feels like what Villanova is doing this season is still flying under the radar despite the fact that they are undefeated and the No. 1 team in the country while staking claim as the reigning national champions.

2. UCLA (14-1, 3): UCLA lost on the road on a game-winner with 0.7 seconds left to a team that I now have in the top ten, a team that was in the preseason top five before we realized that Dillon Brooks, who is now healthy and mowing down opponents, wasn’t at 100 percent to start the year. I’m not concerned in the least.

3. Kansas (12-1, 4): The Jayhawks survived a scrappy TCU team in their Big 12 opener thanks to a punishing performance from center Landen Lucas. He has suddenly turned into the most important player on the Kansas team now that Udoka Azubuike is out for the year with a wrist injury.

4. Kentucky (11-2, 5): Kentucky put together their most complete performance on the season last week when they beat Ole Miss in Oxford. Isaiah Briscoe put up a triple-double, Bam Adebayo played his best game of the season and Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox did the things that Monk and Fox do.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

5. Duke (12-2, 1): So what do we do with the Blue Devils? I’m still in the camp that says that Duke has the highest ceiling of any team in the country, and I also think we’ve underrated just how good Virginia Tech is this season; the Hokies would be undefeated right now if they hadn’t choked away a loss to Texas A&M in the Wooden Legacy semifinals. This isn’t like Duke going to Boston College and taking a beating.

But Duke still took a beating, and the biggest concern was that the Blue Devils seemed to lack the effort and the intensity to make the plays they needed to make defensively. They almost looked selfish offensively, as the lack of a point guard on that roster was glaring. They played without Grayson Allen, who was serving the first game of his suspension, but the issues Duke had on display were much bigger than Allen.

Put another way, Saturday made me think that Duke may not ever get to their ceiling. But hey, at least Harry Giles III finally scored a point.

(UPDATE: And now Coach K will miss up to a month to recover from back surgery.)

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Takeaways

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6. Gonzaga (14-0, 8): The Bulldogs were pushed by both Pacific and Pepperdine this week, but came out unscathed with double-digit wins. There is a real chance that Gonzaga could head into Moraga on Feb. 11th as the lone undefeated team in college basketball.

7. Baylor (14-0, 9): The Bears keep rolling along. On Saturday, they opened up Big 12 play by mollywhopping Oklahoma in Norman. It is going to be fun when the Bears get together with Kansas this season, on Feb. 1st and Feb. 18th.

8. Wisconsin (12-2, 11): While Indiana lost twice last week and Purdue dropped a home game to Minnesota, the Badgers continue to roll along. Since Nigel Hayes made the change to being a point forward, the Badgers have looked like a totally different team.

9. Louisville (12-2, 7): Outside of Duke, Louisville is the hardest team in this poll to rank. They beat Kentucky, but they beat Kentucky by three in a game they were favored by two on their home floor, the same home floor where they were smacked around by Virginia just five days ago. But then the Cardinals turned around and gave Indiana a similar whooping in Indiana. Wherever you have them ranked, here’s what you need to admit: the Cards are, right now, as good as, if not better than any team in the ACC.

10. Oregon (13-2, 21): Oregon vaults up to No. 10 in our poll for one, simple reason: they’re back.

11. West Virginia (12-1, 12)
12. North Carolina (12-3, 6)
13. Creighton (13-1, 10)
14. Florida State (14-1, 25)
15. Virginia (11-2, 18)
16. Xavier (12-2, 16)
17. Saint Mary’s (12-1, 17)
18. Arizona (14-2, 22)
19. Cincinnati (13-2, 20)
20. Butler (12-2, 13)
21. Purdue (12-3, 14)
22. Virginia Tech (12-1, UR)
23. Notre Dame (12-2, 23)
24. USC (14-1, 19)
25. Indiana (10-4, 15)

DROPPED OUT: No. 24 Seton Hall
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Virginia Tech

Five Takeaways as No. 6 Louisville knocks off No. 16 Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 31:  Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers in the Countdown Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 31, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Fresh off of an embarrassing home loss to Virginia, No. 6 Louisville went into Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday and knocked off No. 16 Indiana, 77-62.

Donovan Mitchell played his best game of the season. Deng Adel looked like a guy that is good enough to be considered for an all-ACC team. Indiana? They lost their second-straight game and their fourth this season in the state of Indiana.

Here are the five things we can takeaway from this game:

1. This is the Donovan Mitchell we expected to see this season: Donovan Mitchell was the guy everyone had pegged has a breakout player this season. The expectation that he would be a top 30ish player in the sport and an all-ACC guard is a major reason that the Cardinals were projected as a top ten team in the preseason. And through the first seven weeks of the season, Mitchell has been … a disappointment?

That’s probably going to far. Mitchell’s been fine. He wasn’t’ the one that put that burden of expectation on himself.

But however you want to phrase it, the bottom line is this: Mitchell entered Saturday averaging 11.5 points and 2.1 assists while shooting 35.7 percent from the floor and 28.8 percent from three. If the Cardinals are going to compete for an ACC title and a Final Four, he has to be better.

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He has to be the guy he was Saturday. Mitchell finished with 25 points and three assists off the bench, shooting 8-for-15 from the floor and 4-for-8 from three. He hit important threes. He attacked the rim in the half court. He made plays in transition. He was, as he usually is, a pest defensively, but it was the points that he created that mattered. We all saw the game against Virginia and we all saw how much Louisville can struggle to score, so we all know what Mitchell means when he plays like this.

2. Anas Mahmoud is a difference maker: Deng Adel is going to get much of the credit for Louisville’s run late in the first half that opened up a 12-point lead at the break, as he should. He hit a pair of threes in that run and had an assist to Jaylen Johnson for a dunk. He finished with 17 points and hit a trio of threes, which matters for the same reason Mitchell’s offense matters, but he wasn’t the second-best player on the floor for Louisville.

Anas Mahmoud was.

He finished with 10 points, three blocks, two steals and two assists, but it was his presence as much as anything that had an impact. His length makes him a difference-maker defensively, both in his ability to change shots at the rim and to create steals and deflections in Louisville’s zone and press. Offensively, he’s better than people will give him credit for. He has a soft touch in the paint and can pass out of the post and out of a double-team.

Saturday was Mahmoud’s first start of the season. I would be surprised if it was his last.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 31: Anas Mahmoud #14 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers in the Countdown Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 31, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Anas Mahmoud (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

3. The importance of Indiana’s early wins even more evident: The Hoosiers are going to head into the New Year having lost two straight and three straight games to teams that aren’t named Delaware State and Austin Peay. They’ve dropped a home game to Nebraska, who entered the game having lost six of their last eight, and fell at Fort Wayne earlier this season. They’re 10-4 on the season and, quite clearly, a team that is still trying to figure out what, exactly, they are.

There are a lot of teams in that spot right now. And like most of those teams, the Hoosiers are going to take a few more losses before the season is over.

But those other teams don’t have wins over Kansas and North Carolina in their back pocket. However this ends up playing out, those two wins give Indiana a much-higher seed floor than anyone else that will lose to Nebraska at home.

4. Indiana’s go to guy issues exposed: The knock on the Hoosiers all season has been that they lack a point guard and they lack a go-to guy that can create shots when their offense stalls, and that hasn’t been more evident than it was today against Louisville and the nation’s-best defense. The Hoosiers shot 32.2 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 14 times. Robert Johnson was 1-for-13. James Blackmon was just 3-for-8. Other than O.G. Anunoby, who was 6-for-10 and had three dunks, the Hoosiers as a team shots 26 percent. No one had more than two assists, and they assisted on just eight of their 19 field goals as a team.

The question Tom Crean has to answer is this: Who on his team makes others better, and how can he put them in a position to do just that?

5. Louisville suddenly looks like the favorite the ACC: On a day where North Carolina loses at Georgia Tech and Duke gets humiliated by Virginia Tech, the Cardinals beat Indiana in the state of Indiana, which, when combined with their win over Kentucky earlier this season, gives Louisville bragging rights in Kentuckiana and the look of a team that could end up winning the ACC title.

Granted, that’s likely going to require the Cardinals going into Charlottesville and beating a Virginia team that they haven’t been able to figure out in years. But if it really just is a matchup thing with UVA, if the Cavs find a way to drop games to lesser opponents that have the tools to breakdown their Pack-Line defense – like, oh, I don’t know, Florida State? – the Cards look like a team fully capable of taking advantage.

Now imagine what we would be saying if they hadn’t blown that 22-point lead to Louisville.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 31: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers in the Countdown Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 31, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)