Monday, January 07, 2008

Louisville at Kentucky

If this was a movie, an appropriate title would be "The Return of the Injured". Juan Diego Tello Palacios and David Padgett for the Cardinals and Jodie Meeks and Derrick Jasper for Kentucky. This was not their first game since returning from injury but it was their first high profile game on national network TV (CBS Sports).

A new wrinkle was added to this rivarly last March, when Billy Gillispie beat Rick Pitino at Rupp Arena in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament in dramatic fashion. Fast forward now, Billy G is the Kentucky coach, once again squaring off with Pitino as the place of his coronation.

Despite Earl Clark being suspended for a game for undisclosed reasons, the presence of Palacios and Padgett seems to have kept the Pitinoville youngster in check and they grabbed the game early and were able to hold on when Kentucky attempted a couple of comebacks. But really the game was decided early on.

Billy G is a very stubborn man by his own admission, which is perhaps why he insists on full gameday practices which goes against conventional wisdom and UK tradition. But if that wasn't enough, Billy G is developing a scorched earth / sour loser late game strategy where he fouls and fouls even when the game is clearly decided. He did this once again, prolonging the game to save his arse from further embarrassement. I'm sure his interpretation is playing tough.

Given that Billy G was able to turn around both UTEP and A&M in similar fashion he can point to his past and excuse all the struggles of this year. At UTEP and A&M no one would even notice, but at a large stage like this, you can't just get away with it. This looked like it was going to be an easy transition in the pre-season, but things are going to get ugly before they get pretty. Given time, I'm sure he can turn it around, but he'd better get to the NCAAs in Year 2!

With Palacios and Padgett providing experience and stability, Louisville is on a path to finding its preseason ranking. With the addition of the football guy (can't spell his name), Pitino has a rotation of five forwards, T-Will, four perimeter guards and a designated shooter (Scott). Plenty of bodies to play Pitino-style basketball without worrying too much about fatigue. Just like in years past, Pitino's seasons seem to have a designated slump and a winning streak in them. The question for this team is whether the winnning streak comes in late January or late February and March.

PS> I forgot to mention, Billy Packer had his senior moment when he mentioned Eddie Sutton as the Kentucky basketball coach. Oh Billy, did you forget to drink your Coca Cola? :)

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