Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Louisville women's basketball -- ACC thoughts and Cards face battles ahead -- TUESDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
VIRGINIA TECH STANDS ALONE AT TOP OF CONFERENCE
After 15 games, which is pretty much half the regular season basketball games a team will play before conference and NCAA Tournament play kicks into gear, the Virginia Tech Hokies remain undefeated at 15-0. They are one of three teams in the AP Top 25 that have a perfect record...UConn at 14-0 and Mississippi State with a 17-0 mark are first and fourth in the poll. Virginia Tech checks in at #15, which leads me to believe that a lot of voters agree with me that the Hokies will take a couple of losses before too long in the tough ACC gauntlet ahead.
One "L" could be at Miami on Wednesday night. The #14 'Canes (13-3, 2-2) have fell to Kentucky, Florida State and Notre Dame. They'll be looking to get back on track after Notre Dame came into town and put the "W" up. Yes, VT has Chanette Hicks...who seemingly can do it all. Sidney Cook is a proven scorer and rebounder...Regan Magarity can also grabs misses and Vanessa Panousis is a three-point threat...but I'm going to wait and see how the Blacksburg school does against Miami and in a two-game stretch later this month at Duke and hosting FSU before I officially recognized them as a conference title contender.
A rush-hour backup occurs behind the Hokies in the conference standings with Florida State, Notre Dame, Louisville, NC State and Syracuse all at 3-1 in the ACC. It's like a cross-country or horse race where the early "rabbit" leads the pack of runners expected to be vying for the wire at the end of the course. I don't expect to see the "rabbit"...in this case a Gobbler...crossing the line first...but no one has stuck a "L" on them yet...
Duke at 2-1 and Miami at 2-2 round out the teams above or at .500 in ACC play. The other seven teams in the conference are pretty much where I expected them to be...except maybe UNC...occupying the bottom half of the standings. Clemson plummeted, as expected and Virginia did, too.
Louisville has faced a challenging ACC schedule so far while compiling a 3-1 mark and that amps up this week with a visit to #7 Florida State Thursday and playing host to #14 Miami on Sunday. If you take a look at these two upcoming games and go back and look at the Cards last four contests...Louisville will have played four top #25 teams in six games. No wonder Asia Durr is tired, right?
Howie Lindsey asked me earlier this morning on Louisville First what the Cards have to do to beat the Seminoles in Tallahassee. Due to the rush-rush nature of the broadcast this morning, I didn't get the air-time to fully lay out my own thoughts on the contest (there was a football game last night, you know...and he and Matt were pretty busy with that recap and commentary...).
So, here goes. Florida State has lost twice this season. A fall to visiting UConn by just two in the second game of the year. Then, losing to NC State in Raleigh on January 2nd. 70-61. The 'Noles shot only 34.8% in that loss...NC State connecting for 42.3% and FSU barely won the rebounding battle 37-36. FSU has the second leading rebounding margin per game (+8.7) in the conference...behind Louisville (13.0). So, the Cards will need to control the boards as best they can against the 'Noles. This will not be easy with Shakaya Thomas, Chatrice White and Ivey Slaughter on the court.
Next, the two squads are virtually tied for the best scoring offense in the conference. In four ACC games, the Cards have put up 305 points. FSU has 301. Thomas, Slaughter, Imani Wright and Leticia Romero are capable of double digits anytime they take the court. Brittany Brown does a good job of getting the ball to them...she's fourth in the ACC in assists. Who do you key on to shut down? Can you key on just one or two? Overall defense for 40 minutes would seem to be the answer here...and limiting Romero's mobility is essential.
Handling the crowd. FSU packs them in the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center...compared to most ACC schools. 6687 found their way to seats in the last game against Duke. One would expect about the same for the Cards. The facility holds 12,500..so more could fit in. It's a noisy place. Yes, the Cards play before more at home and will probably see more on the road at Notre Dame...but it'll be the first time this year that Louisville has played in a setting where there will probably be a large majority (over 5,000) of fans booing against them. (Unless Jazmine Jones' family invites 3,000 of their relative and friends...) How will they handle it? The Cards took the 3381 at UT-Martin out of it early. The 4516 at MTSU were pretty docile throughout that 19-point Cardinal win until MTSU cut the advantage to 13 late in the game.
Just who is/was Donald L. Tucker? We definitely know he wasn't one of the founders of The Marshall Tucker Band. He was a former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and a special ambassador to Puerto Rico. He's 81 now and I wonder if he gets to any of the games in the arena named for him? He actually graduated from the University of Florida. Maybe they should have named the facility after Burt Reynolds, Jim Morrison or Hunter S. Thompson. They all attended Free Shoes University. Just a thought...
It's the ACC. As Coach Walz likes to remind us...the team can't let their guard down against anyone. The days of 30 point + wins are probably over from here on out. The Thursday night game will be only the sixth time this season Louisville has been in an opponent's arena. They are 4-1 so far...losing at Duke and winning at Virginia, Vandy, MTSU and UT-Martin.
Thursday night features six games in all (Miami hosts Virginia Tech Wednesday) for ACC match-ups. Two others of note match UNC going to Duke and NC State travelling to Syracuse. We'll look at those in a couple of days...but just to get it out there...I do think Miami will hold home-court edge and down the visiting Hokies.
Conference play. We have waiting for it, it's on us fast and furious now and the Cards are in the thick of the battle for supremacy. A revealing glimpse into Louisville's Final Four capabilities and chances could surface over these next five days against two teams who have certainly built early resumes indicating that they should be respected around tournament time. The ACC. No one said it would be easy...
GET 'EM MYZILLA!
Congratulations to Myisha Hines-Allen for being named ACC Co-Player of the week. Her huge effort against Virginia got her that status for the first time this season. She's the second Card to receive that honor...Asia Durr getting the nod back in late November.
Myisha has had 19 double-doubles in her career as a Cardinal...tops on the current roster by far. Only two other current Cardinals have accomplished this...Mariya Moore has three career double-doubles (Including a triple-double) and Kylee Shook has one.
windy tuesday...tuesday's gone with the wind.