I have to start with a funny story that I'm sure none of you care about, but I'm still going to tell:
The L Yes! report crew decided to pick up and head down to Barren River for a weekend of fishing, cornhole, beer, and basketball. Our friend (a UK fan - don't know why I said that but..) owns a DirecTV Portable satellite which is supposed to bring the joys of a dish anywhere you go. If he didn't own it I probably wouldn't have gone. Big East title on the line, bitter rival, I "cover" the team (allegedly) and I haven't missed watching a UL game in probably 10 years. What we didn't take into account was the wind and overhanging trees. We tried everything next to busting out an axe and chainsaw to do work on 100 year old trees, but to no avail. Needless to say it was a few hours before gametime, I had a few in me so we couldn't drive (far), and we were getting restless about not being able to watch the game.
The rabbit ears allowed us to watch the UK beatdown and PITT/UCONN battle, but the ONE game we wanted to see wasn't showing for 20+ miles. We decided our only option was to see T-Will like most people saw Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig - by not seeing them at all. We pushed the car (cough cough) to the top of a hill in front of the house and turned it to ol' Paul Rogers on WHAS. I was bitter, pissed and everything else you can imagine for not being able to see the game like I was accustomed to. But I have to tell you, I enjoyed it. Radio just makes the game so much more gut-wrenching (especially that one). We could only imagine what T-Will looked like hitting his first 5 threes and guiding the team - with Rogers it seemed heroic. We didn't see the bad Edgar Sosa come out, yet you could hear it in the tone of PR's voice when bad Edgar made a bad decision. We couldn't tell whether the treys Earl Clark took were worthy of a shot attempt. We just let Paul tell us. Right before Jerry Smith hit the long 2 with a minute to go, I was pacing and living with every breath Rogers took waiting for the next time or play update. We couldn't see Jerry's crazy reaction after the shot, but he couldn't see ours and they were very similar.
Not saying that you should go back to the early 1900's and listen to the next game on the radio, but if given no other option it's really quite cool. Paul Rogers does a great job and Bob Valvano is Bob Valvano. I will never forget listening to the Cards win the BIG EAST regular season championship on the radio with three grown men pacing around a field like lunatics. However, I don't recommend it if you enjoy your sanity.
Hope that wasn't too bad. Onto some thoughts from the big win in Morgantown, the conference tourney, our NCAA possibilities and postseason accolades...
- I did get to watch the game on ESPN360 when I got home late Sunday and from what I saw the Cards were extremely lucky to come away with a win. They played very sloppy at times and were having trouble running any sort of offense. However, it is a mark of a good (possibly great) team to show the ability to go into a hostile environment and bring home a win. Some of the mistakes made couldn't be done against a team of a higher caliber than the 'Neers. Bob Huggins teams are known to take you off your game and away from your comfort zone, so the Cards did show a great deal of perseverance in getting the victory.
- Terrence Williams doesn't need all the post-season accolades he deserves. Anyone who knows college hoops and has watched the Cards consistently knows that no one in the land does more than T-Will. He doesn't stick out on the stat sheet, but when on the court he is the focus. There was a time when T-Will was a guy looking to shoot first and pass second. He's not that anymore. T-Will is a guy who does what it takes to win and make his team better. Not saying guys like Blake Griffin and Stephen Curry aren't worthy of discussion, but T-Will is the best all-around player in the land right now when you take into account all phases (defense, passing, rebounding scoring and leadership) There are really no arguments. The guy came as close to a quadruple-double than I think I've seen in college. He started off 5-5 from beyond the arch and scored 20 points. He had 7 assists including on both Clark 3's and Jerry's late jumper. 6 steals accounting for half the team's forced turnovers and 6 rebounds which was over 2 shy of his average. What else does the man have to do?
- As I've said before, free throw shooting is the Cards' Achilles heel this year without a doubt. 11-16 for 64% isn't going to cut it. If one of those Clark or Williams 3's doesn't fall, the Cards are on the verge of losing because they can't hit their free throws - the most frustrating thing in basketball. It's not something you can correct overnight either. The charity stripe struggles will most likely continue. Hopefully it doesn't rear it's ugly head at an inopportune time.
- I don't know if I've ever said this , but I'm a huge fan of one Jerry Smith. He does what he has to do to better the team even if it hurts his stat sheet. He might seem passive at times and everyone would like to see him penetrate more often, but that is unnecessary in his role. His reliability in the clutch is a necessity. 4 points in the last minute (8 total) on Saturday. If the game is on the line and the Cards have one shot - whether it be a free-throw or a three - I want Mr. Raindrops to take it.
- Smith and the rest of the team had another stellar defensive performance. They held Mountianeer sharp-shooter Alex Ruoff to zero points and 7 turnovers. The D created 12 turnovers - mostly from the press. The 'Neers took care of the ball well otherwise as they only had one turnover that wasn't the result of a Louisville steal. However, the Cards were outrebounded by 15 and gave up 8 offensively. The defense was extended and contesting shots, so that allowed WVU to get loose boards.
- The Big East tourney starts today and the Cards will have to wait until Thursday at NOON to get a piece of either Providence, DePaul or Cincinnati. The Friars have a BYE until Wednesday and Cincy/DePaul is today. the way I see it, the Cards need 2 victories to guarantee their first #1 seed since 1983. A win against Providence followed by a win against either Nova or Marquette should surely get it done, but there is this notion out there that 3 BIG EAST teams as #1 is "too much" and only the teams that make it to the finals should get rewarded. If UCONN and PITT's third match-up is as good as the first two, then neither should be punished for losing that possible game.
- Jeff Goodman is on the right track by putting T-Will on his second team All-American. However, in favor of Jerel McNeal? I could see Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague or even that joker Meeks, but Jerel McNeal? From what I saw he is a good player, but not terrific and it's obvious who lead that Marquette team after the nose-dive they have taken since losing Dominic James. I'd like to ask Goodman who he'd rather have on his team - Williams or McNeal? Maybe I just will.
1. Tom Friend - ESPN.com - Lessons From my Father (a long, must-read about Nolan Smith of Duke who as we all know is the son of the late Louisville great Derek. As a Card fan, I have heard stories about how great of a person Derek was, but now the whole country gets to relive it through his son)
2. Rolf - Strait Pinkie - Dear Doug Gottlieb: Do You Really Think Louisville isn't a #1 seed? (I have and always will hate Doug Gottlieb for some reason and our colleagues at the Pinkie wrote him an in-depth letter about how wrong he is and always will be. Did I say I hate Doug Gottlieb?)
3. Mizzo - The Starting Five (?) - Interview with Skip Bayless (speaking of guys I don't care for - Bayless is interviewed about his views and why he is so negative and ignorant)
4. Mike DeCourcy - The Sporting News - Big East marathon could produce 3 #1 seeds (as well it should if Louisville makes the finals and UCONN/PITT meet in the semis)
5. Jody Demling - Courier-Journal - Local regional recap (It's a big week for high school basketball as well and Jody will keep you up to date on anything you would need to know)