Sometimes a team (Virginia) is just meant to lose a game. When the opposing team’s 5th scoring option (Louisville’s Mangok Mathiang) calmly swishes the game winning 15 footer with 2.7 seconds left, then it’s one of those times. This was Louisville’s game to win, and a great game to watch. These were two well-coached, hard-nosed team battling it out throughout the night, neither wilting under the pressure, each team hitting clutch shots down the stretch. Virginia will benefit from this game as they head in to tournament play if they can use the rotten feeling of losing a game on an opposing team’s home court as motivation.
Coach Rick Pitino and the 9th ranked Louisville Cardinals will make their first ACC trip to Charlottesville this evening for their match-up against the 3rd ranked Cavaliers. This should be a fun game to watch with the suave, high profile Pitino. Louisville likes to play an all-court, full-court press style of play while feeding the ball into physical presence Montrezl Harrell down low in the post. Virginia, if they can handle Louisville’s press, and I think they can, could get easy baskets in transition off the press (think Justin Anderson hanging-on- the- rim- kind-of-dunks). Still, Louisville is clearly an established program with a Hall of Fame coach and the championship pedigree to prove it. Virginia, the newcomer to the national block, must stay disciplined, play their game, and stay hungry, one possession, one defensive stop at a time. Until Virginia proves they can win championships, they are the challenger.
The No.1 Kentucky Wildcats, 22-0, will play later tonight in Gainesville, Florida, against Pitino protégé Billy Donovan and the struggling Florida Gators. Kentucky should win, but never say never playing on the road in a hostile environment against a traditional rival.
Speaking of the Louisville/Virginia match-up, this writer had the opportunity to watch several of tonight’s players up-close back in the April 2012 Capital Classic All-Star basketball at T.C. Williams high school. That would be UVA players Justin Anderson, Mike Tobey, and Evan Nolte, and Louisville star Montrezl Harrell (who was clearly the most dominating player during that game).