The College Basketball Notebook

December 15, 2010 8:19 AM

What To Make Of Louisville?

LouisvilleHoops.jpgLouisville was off to a nice start this season, being undefeated and moving to #21 in the polls. An early win over Butler might not have been as good as it looked at the time, but the Cardinals were impressive in beating UNLV this past weekend. Rick Pitino's club gave it all back last night by dropping a 52-46 decision to Drexel. With only one more test left in non-conference--a New Year's Eve date with archrival Kentucky--how does Pitino's team look as non-conference play nears?

There's not a lot of experience here, which explains the inability to stay focused off the UNLV win and undoubtedly the head coach is going to use this loss as a teaching tool to his young players about what it takes to compete and win at this level. The 'Ville is built around the backcourt, with senior Preston Knowles surrounded by youth, in sophomores Mike Marra and Peyton Siva. There's no true post presence and the main rebounder is sophomore forward Rakeem Buckles. Right now, the Cards are still looking for a combination, as nine players get a decent amount of playing time and no one--not even Knowles, who is the leading scorer--plays more than 25 minutes a game. In this day and age of college basketball, inexperience and the lack of a legitimate post player aren't flaws that automatically rule you out of the NCAA Tournament, but they still mean you won't win at the highest level. It looks like the up-and-down roller coaster of the past four days is going to be a way of life for Louisville fans in the Big East schedule, with better things ahead next season.

And as long as we're in the Big East let's move just up the road to Cincinnati, where the Bearcats are undefeated, although Dayton is the only opponent of any significance they've beaten. Cincy is more settled in its rotation, with six players drawing the bulk of the minutes and they are well-balanced. Like Louisville, they are young in the backcourt with freshman Sean Kilpatrick and sophomore Cashmere Wright being part of a three-guard unit that includes Dion Dixon. All three are scoring in double-digits, and they are supported by a strong group down low, led by Yancy Gates who can both score and rebound. What potentially sets the Bearcats apart in the Big East is that 6'11" Ibrahima Thomas is the kind of post player who can be a difference-maker. His consistency hasn't always been there and how he plays will determine whether the early promise can be translated into wins against Big East teams. The Bearcats play Oklahoma on Saturday and then coast on in to conference play after the New Year's.

Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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