With Cincinnati getting ready to go to Louisville in around 4 hours, one kick ass preview is not enough. Read that preview again after you check this out.
Today I sat down with my worst enemy in the entire world, a man known as ULHotHot on twitter. Hot Hot is a contributor for Card Chronicle. He does a lot of great things there, such as the tweet-caps. Hot Hot and I were responsible for the Your Team Sucks where I correctly prognosticated everything and he was wrong. He's also been a part of many of the random questions.
We talk about a great deal of things, none of which were the unfortunately timed head placement of Elisha Justice:
But a great deal more. This is a lot of fun. Let's get to it. Questions are in bold.
Russ Smith has been pretty insane during conference play with 20 points, 4.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 4.1 turnovers. He's shooting 61% from 3 so far in the league.
Two questions, what has gotten him going from 3? What can Cincinnati do to put the clamps on him overall?
It’s not a huge sample size but hard to ignore a 30% 3PT FG shooter hitting 61% in 7 league games. I haven't studied his shot closely enough to notice a difference in mechanics but if we looked at tape and compared last year to this year, I bet zero dollars the first thing that stood out is less contested shots. Russ returned to U of L because the NBA needed to see more of his point guard skill set and that could be helping his percentage for another, albeit flimsy and hard-to-prove reason in addition to shot selection. By cutting down on his trademark ’Russdiculous’ 1-on-3 fast breaks, he’s also avoiding some of the nagging injuries that tend to build up over time from contorting your body around defenders, falling on cheerleaders and the like. From personal experience, it’s easier to do stuff when you’re not in pain.
Like defending most long range shooters, you want to deny the ball near the arc and with Russ, you want to encourage him to drive into traffic. There’s one percentage he’s increased this season that’s not so great: turnovers. Russ is averaging over 4 giveaways per game in AAC play, almost twice the number he committed last year alongside Peyton Siva in the Big East. Face-guard him with someone long and athletic (that describes Cincinnati’s entire roster since 1990, right?), deny the 3 and force him into making risky passes. If you have to foul him, do it early in the half or he’ll kill you from the line. His FT% may be below his average this season but he’s 14-of-16 in 3 games played versus UC.
How has the Cardinal front line responded without Chane Behanan?
Inconsistently? I think that’s accurate given the short 7-game sample. Mangok Mathiang this year reminds me of Nyarsuk’s first season at Cincy in that project-that-shows-flashes kind of way, but it’s unfair to expect a skinny freshman to replace a NCAA Tournament Regional MOP. When he shows the flashes though, he’s a productive piece and an important one. Might take another season before he can string together 4 or 5 solid performances in a row.
As far as Behanan is concerned, I agree with those who think Behanan’s loss will hurt Louisville most in a tournament setting. Montrezl Harrell has several NBA frontcourt qualities but he doesn’t possess the natural rebounding ability Chane does. Van Treese is the guy most similarly suited to replace Behanan’s efforts on the boards but there’s not much you can expect from him aside from hustle stats. I’m sure Russ, Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear are all totally going to hit 61% of their threes the rest of the season so why even worry about the frontcourt, right? Ok, Louisville fans are kinda worried and I hope Justin Jackson is healthy so the Cards can get a formidable test and learn from it. And because I love Justin Jackson referring to himself as “a machine.” I assume he did a #JustinJacksonMeanFace after that comment on Wednesday.
Montrezl Harrell is a physical freak who is hitting 60% from the field in league action while also being a double double machine, 4 in the last 5 games. No one has been able to slow him down yet. How can Cincinnati?
I can’t believe I’m telling you this secret, but it’s his mouthguard. That’s his power source. You have to steal it before the tip-off and he loses all his strength. ‘Samson’s Hair’ type situation.
Seriously though, just emphasize boxing him out on any long Louisville jump shots, force him to put the ball on the floor and avoid letting him rip off big dunks that play to the crowd. It’s ok to make him score from the FT line, just don’t let him win the toughness battle. If Jackson’s hobbled again, is Rubles going to guard him? I didn’t see the Temple game when Jackson got hurt, but Rubles and Shaq Thomas both have 5 fouls to give and they should concentrate on being physical with Harrell when possible.
What the hell has gotten into Wayne Blackshear?
Time’s getting short so he’s focusing more on getting up shots outside practice? Found a comfort zone with his bad shoulder? Maybe Fat Wayne is pissed off about McDonald’s decision to discontinue Hot Mustard sauce at most locations. SERIOUSLY THOUGH, WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? THANKS A LOT, RONALD.
Cincinnati has been throwing a lot of zone at teams lately. Louisville ran a lot of zone plays through Gorgui Dieng the last couple years. What, or who, is their zone breaker this year?
Hitting open threes I guess, because there’s no Gorgui on this Louisville roster that’s going to break a team with his distribution skills from the high post, at least consistently. It’s not a conventional offensive set, but scoring off offensive rebounds always helps break a zone. It’s more challenging for zone teams to seal off guards and wing players crashing the glass on missed shots which is something Louisville stresses. I expect both UC and U of L tend to struggle with this on defense, especially after looking at the efficiency stats.
Do you think Louisville is going to have a lot of trouble with Cincinnati's slow down, grind it out pace since they have been the quickest team in terms of pace?
In short spots when shots aren’t falling, yeah it will frustrate them if they can’t set up a press and Cincinnati takes the air out of the ball. But they’ve played well against slow-down teams this season so as long as it’s not Pitt-Cincy slow, I don’t expect it to be a big deal. If I’m Cronin, maybe that’s how I give my team the best chance to win though. Slow it down, foul a lot, grab 20 offensive rebounds and let Titus Rubles have his day against an inferior defender/rebounder. I’m anxious about this turning into a hard-to-watch rock fight now, thanks for that.
Louisville is going to zone Cincinnati to death, aren't they?
Yes. Unless they picked up something from the Temple game tape.
One of the things, probably the only thing, Louisville does not do well is rebound. Cincinnati has rebounded pretty poorly in conference play as well. What team do you think is going to take advantage on the glass?
Cincinnati, but that’s more so me being bearish on Louisville’s woeful rebounding because I’ve witnessed most of it in HD and the occasional internet stream whereas I’ve not seen enough Cincinnati rebounding failure to doubt them.
Would beating Cincinnati be Louisville's biggest win of the season so far?
No question. It’s a rivalry for the fans and most importantly, a conference game against a top 15 opponent that sits atop the league standings, so this is pretty important. Southern Miss and SMU are their big wins. Enough said. And there’s not another tournament team again on the U of L’s schedule until Louisville travels to play at Cincinnati in the mirror game some three weeks away. Gross.
We just saw Temple run a box and one at Sean Kilpatrick Sunday. Will Rick Pitino run the Stephan Curry defense where 2 players double team him the entire game?
Did the Owls really do that? Did it work? Man, I really need to watch that Temple game now. That would be entertaining to see freshman Terry Rozier and former walk-on Tim Henderson running a box-and-one on Kila during crunch time, but I don’t know if Pitino has it in him. If Fran Dunphy runs it, can’t be all bad, right? Pitino thought the same thing while watching the tape, I’m sure.
If they ran the double team, who would they sag off of—Guyn/Caupain? I would love to see it but instead of Kila, Pitino has them double someone else to create chaos. “Yes, I said double Troy Caupain. I know it doesn’t make sense, just do it.” Ok, that’s stupid. Don’t put this in the post. You’re putting this in the post, aren’t you?
What player does Sean Kilpatrick remind you of? If you were to say 'There's so much _____ in Sean Kilpatrick,' who would it be?
Oh yikes, great question. I can’t think of anyone right away, so I’m going to submit this to a random comparison generator I found on twitter and oh, it says Reece Gaines. How ‘bout that.
Let's talk for 5 minutes about how Jon Rothstein is the worst. Did you know every unit on every team was either the best in the nation or the most underrated?
5 minutes? I can’t possibly cover every all-toughness, underrated glue guy, team that hasn’t won a conference game but might win it all angle in 5 minutes and tell you about my favorite pizza spot in Memphis. Did you know Rutgers had the best backcourt in the Big East last year? FACT. So did Cincinnati and Connecticut because best means top 50%. What’s done is done, Scott. Death, taxes, [Bo Ryan or Bill Self; note to self: remember to delete one before hitting send]. Ok, enough Rothstein.
There is no trophy for the basketball series like the Keg of Nails. Should there have been a Keg LeGree?
Hahaha, why don’t basketball rivalries have awesome trophies like football? I’m sure there’s a good reason but I don’t like it. Keith LeGree could be a living trophy that shows up for every game in the series. If Louisville wins, he has to walk out to midcourt, don an infrared pink jersey with a red sport coat and recite Denny Crum quotes. If Cincinnati wins, he has to put on the black-with-white-stripes Huggy-era Jordan Brand UC uniforms and get dunked on by Melvin Levett. Don’t think about it too hard, just run with it.
The sad part about this question is Louisville choosing Memphis over Cincinnati when creating their non-conference schedule in the ACC (too soon?) the next couple years. I think we’ll see them play each other again in the near future, it’s stupid not to, but it does suck this could be the last chance Louisville plays Cincy at home and vice versa for several years. Maybe Keith LeGree can step in and negotiate a neutral site game.