Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cards Enter Tough Stretch

OK, I'm sure a lot of you all are wondering why there wasn't an in-depth breakdown of the Austin Peay game. To be completely honest, my computer has the dreaded "blue screen of death" so I've been relying on my phone for 'net use. Sorry and you can put a hold on the SAVE ROB shirts for now because I'll be back all-day sooner than later. I hope everybody is enjoying the posts from the new guys as much as I am. We have some big things happening around here and the best thing is it's free. Tell your friends and fellow Cardinal brethren where to get the best news and views from fellow fans. The one missing link is our boy Trevor Kelsey. I think he left his writing skills somewhere in the Cincinnati area. If you see them, please send them back. Anyways...

- The game was like the other 5 previous wins. The Cards had a few rough stretches but pulled it out in the end. The Final 4 team was a second half team as well, wearing teams down with our depth and conditioning. Although, as we saw against Western, if the shots aren't falling the run isn't coming. In the Western loss, the Cards shot a dismal 26% compared to a collective 48% in the 6 other games.

- The Western loss was a blessing in disguise because we could have gotten away with coasting through this tournament/classic tour and struggled in this next stretch of tough games. Ole Miss Thursday in Cincy then a quick turnaround after a long flight to Glendale, AZ for a match-up with Minnesota on Saturday. The second set of Gophers Tubby Smith has coached is 9-0 against the 186th toughest schedule, in the country but ranked 31st, according to In comparison, Louisville's SOS 136th and we've witnessed who they've played.

- I was surprised when I saw that the Cards are ranked 72nd in the RPI currently with their only loss being to the 23rd ranked Toppers. The strength of schedule has to hurt, but the Cards are ranked below such teams as East Tennessee St. (26), Western Carolina (3-2, 38?), the Evansville Purple Aces (16), and (gulp) the friggin Mildcats. One of two computer polls I somewhat trusted has just lost all credibility. Louisville is 5th in the Pomeroy Ratings -- so they're safe for now. Ranked just above us in the RPI is our next opponent, Andy Kennedy's Rebels.

- The Rebels just beat Alabama St by 4 points Monday coming off a 33-point loss to New Mexico. Their backcourt of David Huertas and Chris Warren are averaging a combined 40 points but no one else puts up over 8. If the Cards can maintain intensity on defense and disrupt the Rebel backcourt, they shouldn't have any trouble. Huertas does shoot right under 48% from long range and we are all too familiar with those kind of guys. A hand in the face will or tap of the elbow will be a necessity when facing the transfer from Florida.

- I'll be interested to see how Preston Knowles plays Thursday after his career high 21 points against the Peay on Saturday. He plays very confidently and should shoot whenever he's open. However, not at the expense of spreading the ball around because this is what fans envisioned of this year's team - the capability to have 1 of 9 or 10 players putting up 20 on any given night. By my calculations and including exhibitions 7 Cards have posted at least 20 once already. That number could grow with Andre McGee, Terrence Jennings and even Kyle Kuric having the ability to join that crew at any time.

- Samardo's foul shooting alone is going to win us a few games this year. He is shooting 78% right now and I think it will only improve as the season goes along. After the Austin Peay game Samuels said he works on his foul shooting because he knows he's going to get fouled a lot. Reminds me of a guy that's about to set the all-time scoring record in Chapel Hill, only Mardo isn't a robotic-lunatic.

- I'm going to finish with this: Earl Clark is borderline unstoppable. Once the games start gaining in importance, his output will do nothing but increase. I asked him at Media Day where that mean streak came from in the tourney last year. He said something like "When the game means life or death, I'm going to lay it all out lose you go home". I wish he could play like that all the time, but we have enough talent to conserve Clark for the UK game (a must win) and Big East play. I understand he is a focal point of our team already, but he could be and will be so much more. He's averaging 11 and 8 right now. I expect that to rise to 14 and 10 once Big East play starts. That's just how Earl is wired. I mean, you can look at the picture and know we haven't seen that intensity from E5 quite yet. Big time players make big time plays in big games.

Keep checking back for a preview of the Ole Miss game, a look at Cards in the NFL, and a chat with basketball signee Peyton Siva who will be in town for the King of the Bluegrass very soon.

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