February 2, 2013
10 Things for 10 Games
With just 10 games left in the regular season, the Louisville basketball team has some improvement to make if the Cards want to live up to preseason expectations. While their 17-4 record and No. 12 national ranking is nothing to shrug about, coach Rick Pitino's team does have work to do if they want to make a repeat run to the Final Four. CardinalSports.com takes a look at 10 things that need to be done over the team's final 10 games.
Gorgui's Continued Improvement - The Cards' big man is nearly 100% healthy after recovering from a broken wrist earlier this season. He showed as much in the last game when he finished with a double-double, recording 14 points, 12 rebounds, along with five blocks and four assists. If he can get back to consistently knocking down his jump shot, it really opens things up for the offense.
Siva's Long Distance Shooting - From the start of the season through the Kentucky game, Siva had 19 threes; more than he hit in all of last season. However, in the eight game since the UK win, Siva has just six threes. This team severely lacks a consistent outside threat. And while Siva will never be a knock down shooter, the Cards are much more effective when he's hitting from the outside.
Where's Ware? - That was the question for most of the week after Pitino announced that Ware had been suspended indefinitely. During his post-game press conference after Pittsburgh, Pitino said Ware won't be back for a very long time. In Pitino terms, that means he could be done for the season or he'll start against Marquette on Sunday. He did return to practice this week. Ware hasn't lit the world on fire, averaging just 3.8 points per game, but he does provide much needed depth for a backcourt that seems determined to be in perpetual foul trouble.
Backcourt Bandits - Siva and Russ Smith have combined for 92 steals this season and are a big reason why Louisville is second nationally in turnover margin (+6.9). The Cards have forced an average of 19.3 turnovers a game, scoring 495 of their 1554 points off turnovers (32%).
Late Game Execution - The most frustrating element in the losses to both Syracuse and Georgetown were the ways the team seemingly fell apart late in the game. Execution in the game's closing seconds have now cost the Cards two games that very easily could have been won. With a three-year starter at point guard, the team has to perform better in clutch situations down the stretch.
Montrezl's Motor - Can freshman Montrezl Harrell keep his motor going for two more months? February is known as the month where many freshmen hit their wall and fatigue sets in. Hopefully, Harrell is able to stay fresh because he definitely gives the Cards a lift off the bench. Of all the players in the regular rotation, Harrell has the highest field goal percentage (.610).
The Price is Wrong? - Someone needs to put out an APB for big men Zach Price and Stephan Van Treese. It feels like weeks since we've seen either one get any meaningful time. On the positive side, their time on the bench means Gorgui, Behanan and Harrell have played solid. One can't help but wonder if we haven't seen the last of them this season.
Offensive Drought - There's no way to sugar coat it - the team's shooting has been painful the last few games. After averaging 78 points and shooting 46.2 percent through its first 14 games, the Cards have averaged just 65 points and 41.6 percent from the field over the last seven games. Some of this can be chalked up to conference play and opponents knowing each other better, but still, you wonder how far this team can go if it's shooting falls below that paltry 41 percent.
Production from the 3 - When the Cards have looked their best this season, they've received a lift from the three spot. Whether its Wayne Blackshear or Luke Hancock, the formula is simple - Louisville plays better when one of those two are on their game. When they're not on their game? Well, things have been ugly. With Blackshear sidelined with yet another shoulder injury (he's supposed to play limited minutes Sunday), its now up to Hancock to produce. He doesn't have to be flashy, but he has to knock down some shots and avoid being a liability on defense.
Good Russ - We know it. The opposing team knows it. As much as he doesn't want to admit it, Coach Pitino knows it. Over the next 10 games and throughout the post-season, Louisville will live or die with Russ Smith. He's the best scorer and seemingly the only guy who can get to the rim whenever he wants. Smith can be fantastic when he plays under control and limits the bad shots. However, sometimes "bad" Russ makes an appearance the results are maddening. Keep Smith in the starting lineup, let him do his thing and let's all hope for the best.
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