Here are some stories as we approach Friday night’s Cards-Wolfpack clash….
*The C-J’s Jeff Greer discusses the ever-changing season that UofL has experienced.
“Our defense is definitely not how it was last year or in previous years,” sophomore guard Terry Rozier said. “He had every right to be frustrated … (but) we’ve come a long way.”
Before the season began, Pitino was earnest in his assessment of Louisville. It was hard to tell at the time if he was speaking with his usual level of hyperbole, underselling a team destined for another 30-win season, or if the coach was serious.
He was certain there would be “bumps in the road” and that his team, with its 10 scholarship freshmen and sophomores, would require some time to blossom. On Tuesday, Pitino called it “rebuilding a culture,” and not necessarily rebuilding a team.
Logically, the stance on U of L went like this: If Louisville found help from two or three young bench guys and Rozier played to his potential — and he has had a standout, if sometimes inconsistent, season — the Cardinals could be a Final Four contender built around Rozier, standout guard Chris Jones, All-American forward Montrezl Harrell and senior leader Wayne Blackshear.
“I think he knew that it wasn’t going to be the same type of team that he’s had in years past,” said Pitino’s son, Richard, who is the head coach at Minnesota.
“They had a lot of young guys who were unproven. I think he understood that he was going to have to bring those young guys along.”
*Greer takes a look at why Mangok plays as much as he does – and how he has improved.
First of all, Mathiang’s scoring production has been dismal this season, and that is no secret. He is 29 of 77 from the field this season (37.7 percent) and averages 2.5 points per game. Both of those stats are worse than last season, when he shot 52.8 percent and scored 3.6 points a game. He has two total points in 44 minutes of NCAA tournament action and is shooting a meager 29.4 percent on layup and dunk putbacks this season.
But, as Pitino said, Mathiang is not on the floor for his scoring, though it would certainly help if he made a few more shots. Instead, Mathiang is there for his communication, especially on defense, and his energy. Through that scope, Mathiang has actually been one of Louisville’s most productive players.
Mathiang leads the team in offensive rebounding rate and free throws per shot attempt, two key offensive stats for big men. He grabs 14.2 percent of the offensive boards available to him, a number that actually ranks 23rd in the nation on Ken Pomeroy’s advanced statistics site.
*FOX Sports’ Stewart Mandel looks at the successful ACC tourney run to date.
But rightly or wrongly, the public judges conferences mostly on tourney performances. While the ACC went 11-1 on opening weekend, the Big 12 and Big East both went 5-5 and advanced three teams combined to the Sweet 16. All those wins against quality non-conference teams helped the ACC move up to No. 2 in Pomeroy’s ratings. (The RPI is not updated in the postseason.)
“I think the public generally values the performance of the [leagues’] top teams and I am mostly fine with that,” said Pomeroy. “By that measure there’s a debate to be had between the ACC and Big 12. The problem with that approach is that it’s difficult to compare a 10-team league to a 15-team league. In its current configuration, the Big 12 will probably never send five teams to the Sweet 16, just because it’s difficult to have five teams both capable of doing it and lucky enough to win two games against other good teams.
*The Cards were ranked 12th in NBC Sports’ re-seeding.
12. Louisville (No. 4 East): Louisville looked good beating Missouri Valley runner-up in the Round of 32 after they struggled to knock off UC Irvine in the opener. This is essentially a two-man team at this point, with Wayne Blackshear showing up once in a while and Quentin Snider playing out of his mind the last two games. The mitigating factor? Rick Pitino.