Luke Hancock fights over a loose ball with Peyton Siva on Saturday
Nice piece here from DeAntae Prince of the Sporting News as he looks at the role reversal from Tournament underdog, to major favorite in 2012-2013. He was in town for the red-white scrimmage Saturday and also gets some interesting quotes on Luke Hancock that should put a smile on the faces of Louisville fans. Without a doubt, the biggest question mark (aside form the outside shooting) for the Cards this year is how well they will handle the expectations. Granted, they were ranked highly to start the season last year, but that ranking didn’t last long as they were slammed with injuries and lost their way in the regular season. In many respects, there are extraordinarily similar plot-lines between the UofL football team and this basketball squad. Both sort of crept up on people late in the year and surprised everyone. Now, they enter into their respective season’s as conference favorites and major contenders on the national stage. And while the football team’s biggest question mark is youth, Rick Pitino’s team has plenty of depth and experience to make this a very special year.
The next step for these Cardinals, who are No. 2 in Sporting News’ preseason rankings, is to perform with the lights shining brightly on them. They return experience and have added talent, but Pitino expects this season to be more of a grind.
“Unlike last year, we don’t have a lot of home games in the beginning,” Pitino said. “We’re going to be tested right away from the opening game. We’re going to be tested right away with road games with Charleston and Memphis, with The Battle (4) Atlantis (a tough holiday tournament in the Bahamas) … We’ve got to be ready early.”
In Louisville’s intrasquad game at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday, it was clear the Cardinals are most prepared on the front line and at point guard.
Last year, Siva used his pass-first approach to lead Louisville to eight straight wins before running into Kentucky in the Final Four, a meeting that ended in a 69-61 loss to the eventual NCAA champion. Siva returns with a bigger, more seasoned team.
“I told them, if we ever get outrebounded then we’re going to have to fight, because they should never get outrebounded by anybody,” Siva said. “I think we have the best bigs in the nation, no offense to anybody else.”
Even more impressive than Pitino’s wit was his nugget about a conversation he had with former George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, now the coach at Miami (Fla.). Pitino was heavy on praise as he discussed Hancock’s ability to strengthen the Cardinals, but he had nothing on Larranaga.
“When I called Jim Larranaga and asked what we had in this kid, he said, ‘Well, with five seconds to go in the game, if you have to get the ball inbounds against the press, have him inbound it,’” Pitino said. “’If you need somebody to take the shot, have him take the shot. If you need somebody to make the play, have him make the play. If you need a steal or a rebound, he’ll make it.’ He’s a big-time gamer, is what he said.”
* Photo courtesy of the Courier Journal