The U of L loss to UNLV is not my game to cover. Rick Bozich is there writing the official C-J column. I watched it on TV like everyone else, though I missed the horrible start. Still, it doesn’t take a courtside seat to see this team has problems. A quick take from the couch . . .
Happy New Year.
It’s only 8 p.m. Eastern as I write this, but the ball has officially dropped on the University of Louisville’s basketball grace period.
The Cardinals officially go into the New Year as colossal underachievers, and their job over the next month or so will be to shed that label.
Should old acquaintance be forgot?
U of L can forget its acquaintance with college basketball’s Top 25. For a team that began the season with more hype than the Times Square ad-scape, this one has done nothing, not the first thing, to distinguish itself against even decent competition.
Granted I watched this game from my couch. But it doesn’t take a courtside seat to see the problems with this team.
You’ve got Terrence Williams throwing up shots like he’s auditioning for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Brickin’ Eve.
You’ve got no offensive identity, no players who look as if they understand their offensive roles. Williams thinks he’s a jump shooter. Earl Clark is just looking to find what he can instead of being a focal point. The guards aren’t creating.
I missed the 2-for-17 start, but that’s all right.
I can sum up this loss in one play. With less than a minute to play and a one-point lead, Rick Pitino called timeout to set something up. The Cards then came out and did not make a single purposeful move with the basketball before Andre McGee lost it on the dribble — in a spot where he’d have been whistled for a shot-clock violation one second later.
When this happens, there are only two possibilities.
Somebody drew up a bad play.
Somebody didn’t care enough about winning to run the play that was drawn up.
Either way, it’s now officially a significant problem. For the record, I think Pitino can sit down in a timeout and design something that will work. In fact, I know he can. Because nobody — nobody — would draw up the kind of mish-mash that the Cardinals ran out of that timeout. Unless, somehow, a Jackson Pollack wannabe abstract artist got hold of the coaching clipboard and dry erase marker.
What I don’t know is whether his players ever intend to execute what they’re being told to do, or whether they now have the psychological fortitude to again use this backs-to-the wall mentality to make the kind of New Year’s runs they’ve made the past two years.
(U of L’s final play, by the way, was a decent one. Or at least, it produced a good scenario — Williams driving to the basket with what turned out to be a decent look. And for Williams, I consider any shot inside of four feet a decent look. He took a little contact on that shot, but not enough to force what happened — a tepid looking attempt that didn’t even get to the rim. For a guy capable of SportsCenter dunks, I expect a bigger explosion to the basket).
This team shot out like a New Year’s fireworks display a couple of weeks ago when it blasted out to a big lead against Ole Miss. And since that time, it has played like a dud.
Perhaps it’s time to go back to that game, establish Clark’s primacy in the offensive attack and move forward. That’s provided, of course, that Clark even feels like having a big season, something you have to question when he was withheld from the starting lineup game before last for not practicing hard.
Not practicing hard? That’s a bad sign after Christmas.
I guess, all things considered, I’d rather have great talent that hasn’t come together than a team playing well without great talent. Where there is talent, there’s hope, though as the Cards have demonstrated well enough to write a textbook on the subject, talent is not nearly enough.
I’ve seen it before. Dysfunctional teams with talent don’t take long to get well. But first, they have to admit they have a problem.
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet?
I wouldn’t count on it. Not with Kentucky coming in Sunday and the Big East season approaching.
Maybe they’ll get things together somewhere down the road, but the Cards will ring in the new year kissing mediocrity square on the mouth.