TOP 5 SHOWDOWN TONIGHT IN KFC YUM! CENTER
|A photo of a previous battle|
The Louisville women's basketball squad takes part in Big Monday tonight with a game against visiting NC State. This has been ballyhooed as a #1 vs. #2 showdown for weeks now...then NC State flipped the switch and lost to Va.Tech in overtime their last time out.
So, let's call it a top five showdown, because I doubt the WolfPack fall out of the poll's top five when they are released later today. That is one sub plot.
The other is the status of NC State center Elissa Cunane. She sat out the Va.Tech games because of COVID protocol. That's right, I said games, because the Hokies and WolfPack actually met back-to-back last week -- NC State narrowly winning the Jan 24th. contest at Reynolds Coliseum -- home of the WolfPack -- 89-87. The contest at Blacksburg, on the 28th went the Hokies way, in overtime, 83-71. It took a last second three from Wolfpack sophomore Camiile Hobby to create the overtime.
Now that I've caught you up on WolfPack history for the last several days, let us reflect on, just briefly, whether Cunane will be cleared to run Denny Crum Court Monday night. or not. Coach Walz is preparing the Cards as if she will. Wes Moore is probably fervently praying she's available. I expect we'll know for sure when the WolfPack come out to warm-up tonight and when the starting lineups are release, usually about 10-15 minutes prior to tip-off.
Without Cunane, the WolfPack have tried two different starting lineups. The first time around against the Hokies, Moore sent Jakie Brown-Turner, a 6'0" wing, Kai Crutchfield a 5'9" guard, Jada Boyd, a 6'2" forward, Raina Perez, a 5'4: guard and Jada Rice, a 6'1" forward out to greet the VT squad, with Kayla Jones, a 6'`" forward and Camille Hobby, a 6'1 forward, seeing the substitution minutes. Four days later, Moore switched out Boyd and Rice as starters and plugged in Hobby and Jones...Boyd coming in as a sub and the only sub seeing any significant minutes. Ah, the musical chairs in Raleigh are alive and well, dancing to the COVID tune, it seems.
On the season, NC State (11-1) has faced a #1 before, and did well, knocking off South Carolina back on December 3rd, 54-46. They are tops in the ACC in defensive rebounds (32.7), field-goal percentage (.486) scoring margin (+18.7) and scoring offense (81.8). Four WolfPack average in double figures, Cunane the leader at 16.2 ppg, followed by Turner (14.6), Jones (13.2 and Boyd (10.8).
|Will "Big Smile" be grinning in |
So, how does Coach Walz and the Cards get ready for the Pack with the Cunane question looming?
I see it this way. You just go out and play Louisville basketball. You have Dana Evans, Hailey Van Lith, two formidable centers in Cochran and Dixon, a rapidly improving Elizabeth Balogun and a strong bench that includes two "some-time" starters in Robinson and Kianna Smith, plus Norika Konno.. You force the issue when you can offensively, pushing the pace and trying to create the fast break points and remember that points-in-the-paint could be very promising if Cunane sits. Jeff Walz is an expert at situational, "coaching-on-the-fly" tactics (unless he's up by 32, then the brain goes into pause, it seems). NC State does not go very "deep" in their rotation,...they play 7-8 players an night
Without Cunane, just one starter for NC State is over 6'1" (Boyd at 6'2") . You have to hit the boards hard against NCST, the guards MUST rebound and let's hope the threes are falling for UofL. How do the Cards decide a starting lineup? That might well depend on whether Cunane starts or not. At 6'5", she poses obvious threats and is the WolfPack's leading scorer, rebounder, shooter and shot blocker.
|Remember these two Cards ?|
NC State has held five of their opponents to under 30% shooting this 2020-21 season and nine of 12 to under 40%. Cunane has been a big part of that, without her, Va.Tech went 48.5% in the first meeting between the two and 38.8% in the second-time around. When you have Elizabeth Kitley and Aisha Sheppard, though, you going to get a lot of buckets.
A chess-match awaits, then, at 7 p.m. tonight on Denny Crum Court. ESPN 2 has the coverage, Nick and A.J. bringing it to you also on Cards Radio 790-AM WKRD. If you're "doing" this one at home, you might also try to catch the pre-game preview with Allison Cook and Jazmine Jones that starts at 6:30, and will be available on Twitter (@uoflwbb), Facebook and youtube.com/GoCards.
My girlfriend, Ms Wuf, won't be making the trip and that saddens me, and we DON'T get Deb Antonelli (dammit) for this one either...Rebecca "UConn" Lobo, that Ryan guy and Holly Rowe will bring it to you on the four-letter network squared.
So many scenarios, possible plot-twists and variables tonight...it's almost a "Clue Board game" -type situation, so, I'll go with...."Dana Evans, with a jumper, on Denny Crum Court" as my suggestion on "who does it" tonight...
We'd like to hear your thoughts on tonight, drop a comment in our comments section! Anonymous remarks are fine if you're the shy and bashful type...
Have a marvelous Monday!