Note: Because of my regular Monday Morning Quarterback feature, this column won’t run in the paper. But that’s all right. I like writing for the blog, because I can write as long as I want to — an affinity of mine that the copy desk at the C-J will attest to. So here’s the column I wrote from the U of L basketball game tonight, available online only.
Early reviews are good, but let’s go slow
By Eric Crawford
South Alabama coach Ronnie Arrow rolled into the post-game news conference after his team lost to the University of Louisville 81-54 yesterday and started talking as if he was auditioning to be on Rick Pitino’s next book jacket.
“For you people that are from here, you might be looking at the national champions this year,” he opened. “Coach Pitino has assembled a group of guys where they can go 10 or 11 guys deep. I was reading his book last week, “Rebound Rules,” and he said you’ve got to be positive. With a team like that, it’s easy to be positive.”
Easy, now, Ronnie. Slow down there.
I know, the Cardinals dunked on your team 10 times yesterday — and the school record for dunks in a game is 12. But these guys aren’t the Doctors of Dunk. They’re more like interns.
The dunkingest team in Louisville history (we use words like that around here, Ronnie) was the 1989-90 team, which averaged 5.6 dunks a game. And yes, this team has dunked 16 times in two games, and freshman Samardo Samuels has seven of them. But let me remind you that Pervis Ellison had a school-record seven in one game alone against South Alabama in 1988* (corrected).
And that’s another thing, coach. This Louisville team has a freshman center, so let’s not even think about national championship talk.
Well, yes, technically, Ellison was a freshman in 1986. And, yes, Rodney McCray was playing center because his brother got hurt in 1980. And he was a freshman. All right. You got me on that one.
But that was then, and this is now. And we’re not going where you’re taking us.
“I’ll tell you what,” Arrow said. “I’m on the committee that votes for the (coaches) Top 25, and I’ve been voting them two or three since we started and they might be going up. I’d like to see them play North Carolina right now, but that’s probably going to be real late in the season.”
I’d like to see them play North Carolina, too. But not right now. I’d like to see it when Tyler Hansbrough and Marcus Ginyard are back for North Carolina and some of the U of L freshmen have had a chance to get some seasoning and Earl Clark has gotten a better feel for his role. I suspect I’d still favor North Carolina just a bit — but only because of point guard Ty Lawson.
But remember — if they meet in the tournament this season, it won’t be a home game for the Tar Heels.
Arrow was very complimentary of the Cards, but the biggest compliment he paid them had nothing to do with national championships or rankings.
“(Pitino) said it in his book — it’s like a cold nut, and sooner or later, they’re going to make it crack,” Arrow said. “And in most cases, it’s like that. Things will be going good and all of sudden, they’ll cause four turnovers and force the other team to take a bad shot — which is like a turnover — and boom, they’re up 22 points. That’s what happened to us, and probably what will happen to a lot of people.”
I don’t know if it’ll happen to some of the tougher teams in the Big East. I think the Cards need to get more physical as December turns into January. Pitino said yesterday rebounding is the team’s biggest weakness, and he’s not kidding.
But the coach was delighted with the defense. In fact, more complimentary than I’ve ever seen him this early in a season, when he’s usually still trying to keep players from getting too happy with themselves.
He loved that his team forced 41 turnovers in two games, loved that it dished out 24 assists yesterday and 21 in the opener. Loved that it had 12 steals yesterday.
It’s a good start. But you can’t yet judge this book by the comments on the dust jacket.
The election was rigged, I think. But the outcome was just. I share this because it’s an example in how you can get caught up watching for the wrong things.
A quick canvas of my compatriots on press row yesterday found that most of us tagged U of L freshman Samardo Samuels as the MVP of the Billy Minardi Classic. Samuels had 42 points in the two games and made 17 of 22 shots from the field — including 14 of his last 16. Not a bad weekend.
But there must have been some superdelegates voting somewhere, because Terrence Williams wound up with the MVP award.
And that was the right call, as Pitino noted later. Unaware that he was pointing out where we all had erred, he said, “You have to look at the total game. If you just look at scoring, then Samuardo was the best. But if you look at defense, T-Will is the best player on the court. If you look at rebounding, if you look at passing, if you look at making people better, the whole game.”
Williams had the kind of stat line yesterday you don’t necessarily appreciate until you see it in black and white: 12 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals.
Here’s all you need to know about Williams. The team’s biggest weakness, the one that could cause it to stumble the most this season, is defensive rebounding. In the Cards’ first two games, Williams had 18 rebounds — all on the defensive end.
That’s what you call being valuable.