Kentucky-Louisville Preview: Four things to watch for in Wednesday’s showdown

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The 50th installation of the rivalry that doubles as a blood feud in the commonwealth will take place on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. ET, as No. 6 Kentucky makes the 80-mile trek west on I-64 to take on No. 10 Louisville in the KFC Yum! Center.

Kentucky has won the last four meetings and eight of the last nine, and while they’ll enter Wednesday night’s showdown as two point underdogs, the line Vegas sets and the general perception of what this matchup will be differs. After that thrilling, 103-100 win over North Carolina on Saturday, the Louisville Courier-Journal polled 82 media members on who they think will win; 64 of them picked the Wildcats

Why does Vegas differ so much from the people paid to talk about this sport? And what are the three things that will determine the outcome of this game? Let’s get into it:

1. Will Louisville be able to score enough points to win?: Kentucky can put up points as well as anyone in college basketball. We all know that. They reached the century mark four times in 11 games this season, including on Saturday against North Carolina, who has the 14th-best defense in the country, according to KenPom. Only once this year have they failed to crack 87 points.

Louisville? According to Synergy’s logs, they ranked in the 44th percentile in offensive efficiency at 0.897 points-per-possession. They’re 227th nationally in effective field goal percentage and 244th in three-point percentage. Their three best perimeter players – Donovan Mitchell, Quentin Snider and Deng Adel – all shoot under 37.5 percent from the floor and below 33.3 percent from three; Adel and Mitchell both check in at 29 percent from beyond the arc.

The key to slowing this Kentucky team down is limiting their transition opportunities. Avoiding live-ball turnovers and bad shots that lead to run-outs is one way to do that, but the best way to slow a team down is, simply, to score. Make them take the ball out of the net while you get back on defense.

Which leads me to the biggest question of the day: How is Louisville going to score against a team whose defense can be as suffocating as Kentucky’s?

To me, there are two ways to do to this:

  1. Capitalize on your own transition chances. Louisville has, according to KenPom, the best defense in college basketball. Part of the reason for that is that they force turnovers on 23 percent of their defensive possessions. Turning those into easy buckets before the Kentucky defense can get set will be critical, as will Louisville’s awareness when it comes to what is and what isn’t a good transition opportunity.
  2. Get to the offensive glass. Kentucky is 238th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. Louisville is eighth nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. There are going to be times where Louisville’s best offense will be a missed shot that turns into a tip-in.

Kentucky is going to get their’s, and I think it’s safe to say that Louisville is going to have to score more than 75 points if they want to win this game. If Rick Pitino can find a way to generate points – or if Mitchell and Adel finally find a way to play the way we all thought they would play this season – the Cardinals will have a shot.

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)
Rick Pitino (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

2. Louisville has to find a way to slow-down Malik Monk: Monk is the most dangerous scorer in college basketball. Louisville has the nation’s best defense. Strength on strength is always fun.

What made Monk’s performance against North Carolina wasn’t so much that he was able to pop off for 47 points and carry his team – if you paid any attention in the preseason, you would have known that it was going to happen at some point – it was that he provided a way for Kentucky to score in half court settings. That’s the biggest concern with the Wildcats. Given their lack of perimeter shooting and some of the offensive question marks that they have in key positions on the offensive end of the floor, what happens when De’Aaron Fox, Isaiah Briscoe and Monk aren’t able to get layups and dunks on the break?

The answer, on Saturday at least, was Monk. John Calipari spoke after the game about how he put in plays similar to what he ran for Jamal Murray last season, plays designed specifically to get Monk an open shot or an opportunity to go one-on-one against a defender. I would be shocked if we didn’t see that out of Kentucky again, and I think that Louisville is better equipped to handle it than North Carolina was.

For starters, the Cards have so much length. Mitchell, who I expect will get plenty of chances to go up against Monk, is long and athletic. Adel and V.J. King are 6-foot-7 athletes with plus-wingspans. Those three are also athletic enough that they should be able to at least make things difficult for Monk, which is about all you can ask against a guy who is unguardable when he’s running hot.

But the more interesting part of this is that Pitino has developed one of the more complicated defenses to play against. They have so many different looks they can give. Sometimes they press full-court in man-to-man. Sometimes it’s a 2-2-1 press. Sometimes they drop back into a man-to-man. Sometimes it’s a 2-3 zone. Many times, that half court defense is some combination of the two, where they’re playing man on half of the court and zone on the other half or changing defenses midway through a possession.

One former Louisville player described it to me as a gameplan of “organized chaos”, and it can be a nightmare to breakdown.

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3. Who steps up for Kentucky?: As good as the Wildcats were on Saturday, it was somewhat concerning that so much of their offense came from Fox and Monk. Those two finished with 71 points and 12 assists, combining to contribute 87 of Kentucky’s 103 points.

That’s not something that is sustainable, meaning that Kentucky will need to find another source of scoring. I don’t think it will be Isaiah Briscoe, who has turned into one of the best glue-guys in college basketball. Derek Willis was a difference-maker last season, but his issues defensively mean that he splits time with Wenyen Gabriel, who is very much a work in progress on the offensive end.

To me, the answer is Bam Adebayo, who has been good in stretches this season but has struggled to stay on the floor. He battled foul trouble throughout against North Carolina and still managed to finish with 13 points and seven boards. Louisville’s front line is as deep as they are long and athletic, and Adebayo’s ability to deal with the likes of Jaylen Johnson, Ray Spalding, Anas Mahmoud and Mangok Mathiang without picking up fouls is going to be critical.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11:  (L-R) Isaiah Briscoe #13, Edrice Adebayo #3 and De'Aaron Fox #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrate on the bench against the Hofstra Pride in the second half of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival at Barclays Center on December 11, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

4. This is Kentucky’s first true road test: Here’s a stat for you, courtesy of ESPN’s John Gasaway: In the Calipari-era, Kentucky is just 2-5 in their first true road games of the season. In 2008, they won at Indiana in Tom Crean’s second season with the Hoosiers, a year where Indiana finished 194th in KenPom’s rankings. In 2014, they won at Louisville the season that they started 38-0. The other five years? They’ve lost at North Carolina twice, they lost at Indiana thanks to Christian Watford, they lost at Notre Dame in Nerlens Noel’s one season on campus and they lost at UCLA last season.

Home court advantage in college basketball is massive. It’s worth anywhere between five and ten points, depending on the teams involved and the pace of play. Just one example, from the projections on KenPom: Louisville is picked to win by one point against Virginia at home. They’re projected to lost by five to the Cavaliers on the road.

And that’s before you factor in that so many of Kentucky’s most important players will be playing their first true road game in a rivalry as heated as Kentucky-Louisville in an environment that can be as hostile as the Yum! Center.

That’s a massive advantage to have in a game like this and has as much to do with where Vegas set their opening line than anything else happening in this game.



Ed Cooley takes over at Georgetown with lofty aspirations

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WASHINGTON – Ed Cooley’s task at Georgetown is to bring a once-storied program back to prominence in a competitive conference that has three teams still part of March Madness in the Sweet 16.

Cooley’s lofty aspirations go beyond lifting the Hoyas up from the bottom of the Big East Conference. After leaving Providence, which he took to the NCAA Tournament seven times in 12 years, he already is talking about trying to coach Georgetown to its first championship since 1984.

At his introductory news conference Wednesday that felt like a pep rally, Cooley said he wanted current and former players to envision cutting down nets and watching “One Shining Moment” with the nets hanging around their necks. He promised wins – many of them – and plotted a path forward that he knows will involve some tough times.

“It’s a process, and the process now, because you have a changing landscape in athletics, you’ll have an opportunity to probably move it quicker than you would have 10, 20 years ago,” Cooley said. “We’re going to lose some games. It’s OK. Losing’s part of growth. But over the course of time, it will pay off.”

Georgetown has lost a lot the past couple of years under Patrick Ewing, who was fired earlier this month after six seasons. The team went 7-25 this season after going 6-25 last season and lost 37 of 39 games in Big East play.

While Cooley at Providence was responsible for four of those defeats, the 53-year-old distanced himself from Georgetown’s recent run of losing.

“I don’t have anything to do what happened yesterday,” he said. “My job is to move us forward from today.”

Cooley’s mere presence is an acknowledgement that Georgetown needed a major change to become relevant again. After late Hall of Fame coach John Thompson’s 27-year-old run led to longtime assistant Craig Esherick succeeding him and then son John Thompson III and Ewing getting the head job, Cooley is the school’s first outsider in the position in a half-century.

His only connection to the Hilltop – beyond coaching in the Big East – is his daughter, Olivia, attending Georgetown. Cooley, a Providence native, said her desire to live in the Washington area played into his decision to leave for a conference rival.

It was certainly no accident that athletic director Lee Reed and school president John J. DeGioia used phrases like “new era” and “new chapter” when discussing Cooley. DeGioia said he believes Cooley will “uplift and restore this team” to compete at the highest levels of the sport.

“He has a proven record of success,” Reed said. “We knew we needed a leader, someone who understood our identity and could reimagine Georgetown basketball to fit today’s unique basketball landscape.”

That landscape, including players being able to profit off the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) and more easily transfer schools, are the biggest changes Cooley has seen since landing his first head job at Fairfield in 2006. He expects to be aggressive, and given the high volume of Georgetown players coming and going via the transfer portal, could rebuild the roster in his image sooner rather than later.

“You have to find student-athletes that fit the way you want to play, your style of play, that fit you as a coach,” Cooley said. “We need to find players that can play for me that can attend Georgetown, not the other way around.”

Cooley acknowledged that some luck is needed but also stressed recruiting local talent to keep the best players in the region around. That’s just one building block to putting Georgetown back on the map, which Cooley wants the time and latitude to do.

“The word patience is always hard because everybody wants it and they want it right now,” he said. “Everybody wants it right now. Have a little bit of patience.”

Texas’ Arterio Morris plays amid misdemeanor domestic violence case

Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

AUSTIN, Texas — In a season when Texas fired coach Chris Beard after a felony domestic violence arrest, it has allowed a reserve guard to keep playing while he awaits trial on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Second-seed Texas has advanced under interim coach Rodney Terry to the program’s first Sweet 16 since 2008, and the Longhorns play No. 3 Xavier in Kansas City, Missouri.

Arterio Morris, a freshman who was one of the top recruits in the country last year, was initially scheduled to stand trial March 29, three days before Final Four weekend. Denton County prosecutors were granted a delay to an unspecified date.

Beard was fired Jan. 5, about three weeks after he was arrested on suspicion of a felony charge of choking his fiancée in a fight during which she also told police he bit, and hit her. She later recanted the choking allegation and the Travis County district attorney dismissed the case, saying prosecutors were following her wishes not to got to trial and that the charge could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Morris is charged with Class A misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury to a family member, which in Texas includes dating relationships. It stems from a June 2022 confrontation in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The charge carries penalties ranging from probation and fines to up to a year in jail if convicted.

Morris’ attorney, Justin Moore, said the charges against Beard and the player are different.

“(Beard) was charged with a felony family assault,” Moore said. “That was far more serious as to what Arterio was alleged to have to committed. We maintain Arterio’s innocence.”

According to police, the ex-girlfriend said Morris grabbed her arm and pulled her off a bed, and later pulled the front of her sports bra, causing an injury to her neck and shoulder area. Police reported seeing a sizable bruise or scratch.

Texas officials declined comment. Beard said before the season that school officials he would not identify determined the freshman could play this season.

Moore defended Texas officials’ decision to not suspend Morris.

“I do believe Texas has taken this seriously. They’ve also allowed Arterio to enjoy his due process rights,” Moore said.

Morris has played in all 36 games this season, although his minutes and have been limited on a senior-dominated team. He averages nearly 12 minutes and 4.7 points per game. His biggest moment was a soaring alley-oop dunk against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.

Attempts to reach Morris’ ex-girlfriend through family members were not successful. According to online records, prosecutors sought the trial delay to “procure witness availability.” Prosecutor Jamie Beck did not immediately return messages.

Wichita State hires ORU’s Paul Mills to lead program

Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

Wichita State hired Paul Mills away from Oral Roberts to turn around its languishing men’s basketball program, landing what has been one of the hottest names among mid-major coaches.

The 50-year-old Mills led the the Golden Eagles to two of the past three NCAA Tournaments, engineering upsets of Ohio State and Florida as a No. 15 seed in 2021 before going 30-5 this past season and losing to Duke as a No. 5 seed.

He replaces Isaac Brown, who was fired after three seasons as the Shockers slowly slipped toward mediocrity.

“My family and I are extremely excited about being a part of Wichita State,” said Mills, who will be introduced during a news conference Thursday at Charles Koch Arena. “The rich history, winning tradition and unbelievable community support will keep us working on behalf of the greatest fans in all of college basketball.”

Mills got his break in coaching when he joined Scott Drew’s first staff at Baylor in 2003, working alongside future Kansas State coach Jerome Tang in helping to turn around a program that had been mired in controversy. Mills stayed for 14 years, helping to reach seven NCAA Tournaments, before replacing Scott Sutton at Oral Roberts before the 2017 season.

“I absolutely love Paul Mills. He’s like a brother to me. So happy for him and his family, for Wendy and the girls,” said Tang, who has Kansas State playing Michigan State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night. “He’s going to be incredible because he is passionate about young people and about developing young men.

“There’s no throttle, like, hold-back governor on him in terms of love and what he pours into his guys.”

Mills went just 11-21 each of his first two seasons in Tulsa, but the seeds of a turnaround had been planted, and the Golden Eagles have not had a losing season since. The biggest step came two years ago, when Mills led Oral Roberts to the Sweet 16 of an NCAA Tournament played entirely within an Indianapolis “bubble environment” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Golden Eagles slipped to 19-12 the following year before winning 30 games and the Summit League title this past season, when they were led by high-scoring guard Max Abmas, an honorable mention All-American selection.

“He’s the one that told me, he said, ‘Tang, 10s hangs with 10s and one hangs with ones,’” Tang said, “and he’s a 10 and he’s going to have some 10s around him.”

The hiring of Mills comes as the Shockers try to position themselves at the forefront of a new-look American Athletic Conference. Perennial powerhouse Houston is joining Central Florida and Cincinnati in leaving for the Big 12 after this season, and six new schools are due to arrive from Conference USA for the start of next season.

Wichita State, a power under Ralph Miller and Gene Smithson in the 1960s, returned to prominence when Mark Turgeon took over in 2000. But it was under Gregg Marshall, who resigned in November 2020 amid allegations of verbal and physical abuse of players, that it began to soar. The Shockers advanced to the Final Four in 2013, finished the regular season unbeaten the following year and at one point went to seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

Brown, who was Marshall’s top recruiter, led them back to the NCAA Tournament in his first year. But the Shockers were just 15-13 last year and 17-15 this past season, leading Saal to decide that a coaching change was necessary.

Turns out the answer Saal was looking for was just a few hours south at Oral Roberts.

“Paul Mills’ heart for people, passion for life and approach to the development of young people and programs is energizing,” Wichita State athletic director Kevin Saal said in a statement. “He aligns with Shocker Athletics’ core values, facilitates a first-class student-athlete experience and fuels broad-based competitive excellence.”

Arizona State extends Bobby Hurley through 2025-26 season

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State agreed to a contract extension with head coach Bobby Hurley that runs through the 2025-26 season.

The deal announced on Tuesday is subject to approval by the Arizona Board of Regents. Hurley’s previous contract was set to expire after next season.

“Coach Hurley has made our program relevant nationally with many significant wins and an exciting style, along with a firm commitment to the academic success of our student-athletes,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “He has made it clear to us that he wants to be here and we have done likewise with him. We share a strong confidence in the present and future state of Sun Devil men’s basketball.”

Hurley led the Sun Devils to 23 wins this season and their third trip to the NCAA Tournament the last five times it has been played. Arizona State beat Nevada in the First Four before losing to Texas Christian on a last-second shot last Friday.

The Sun Devils have won at least 20 games four of the past six seasons. They are 141-113 in eight seasons under Hurley.

Mark Campbell new TCU women’s coach after taking Sacramento State to NCAA

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

FORT WORTH, Texas – Mark Campbell was hired as TCU’s women’s basketball coach after the former Oregon assistant took Sacramento State to its first NCAA Tournament in an impressive and quick turnaround.

Sacramento State was coming off a 3-22 season when Campbell was hired two years ago. The Hornets won 14 games in Campbell’s first season, and then made another 11-win improvement this season while finishing 25-8 with Big Sky regular-season and tournament championships.

During his seven seasons on Oregon’s staff before that, the Ducks had some of the nation’s top recruiting classes. That included Campbell recruiting Sabrina Ionescu, who became the AP player of the year in 2020 before she was the first overall pick in the WNBA draft.

Campbell replaces Raegan Pebley, who stepped down after nine seasons as TCU’s coach with a 141-138 record. The Horned Frogs were 8-23 this season, including 1-17 in Big 12 play during the regular season.

TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati described Campbell as an elite recruiter and program builder.

“Similar to his success at Sacramento State, he was instrumental in Oregon quickly becoming one of the nation’s most successful programs, reaching their first NCAA Elite Eight and then Final Four,” Donati said.

The Frogs haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2010. That was their ninth NCAA appearance, all coming in a 10-season span without making it past the second round.