The great team streak in February and March is one of the biggest aspiratons for any college team, but especially one like Louisville. This year they only managed half of that, but were sent home following a disappointing March.
Every time a team that has high aspirations coming into the season and fails to meet them they are always subject to “what-ifs.”
What if Kyle Kuric played more over the course of the season? What if there was a better backcourt rotation? What if Rick Pitino stretched out his young but talented bench? These are the questions I asked myself after watching Louisville’s season go down the drain.
Now while they are in the off-season, Pitino should take a new approach for 2011.
This season, the backcourt mostly relied on its streaky shooting to prevail—next season should be totally different.
The Cardinals have the two guards in Peyton Siva and Kyle Kuric that are not afraid to bang their body inside to get the basket, nor are they selfish enough to only think about themselves on the offense.
To go along with Siva at the point guard position, Pitino has acquired "Mr. Basketball" in the state of Kentucky, and flashy 6’1’’ Russell Smith. Both players can step right in and help the backcourt out a lot.
That doesn’t conclude the Louisville recruiting class.
Justin Coleman is the best recruit out of the three and Kuric will have a tough time grabbing the starting position with Coleman on the campus.
Coleman is a 6’5’ animal on the court. He has the athleticism, explosiveness, toughness, and the body to finish around the rim. Many teams backed off him early, leaving Louisville to make its approach.
He is one of the bigger steals in the recruiting process, and his commitment might help Louisville attract another great recruit.
A high school teammate of Coleman, Gorgui Sy Dieng has showed interest in Louisville and has decided to make his decision soon.
So what kind of approach is Louisville going to take next season?
Louisville has acquired players to spark the backcourt and compliment the frontcourt. Now it’s all about these kids coming together and playing as a team. Here are some things that should happen next season:
Man, was Louisville excited after the season sweep of Syracuse. That was a great way to start the Big East conference tournament. But Louisville blew it. Louisville was an up-and-down team all season.
One night you will see a Louisville team that can compete with anyone in the country, then another night you will see a Louisville team play with no energy and settle for the jump shot.
For everybody and certainly in basketball you have to learn from your mistakes and improve. To get better next season, the Cardinals are going to need to play with the same energy every night and make sure they stay consistent throughout the season.
You cannot doubt the Louisville defense because it did its fair share of locking teams down. It was more of a “when” than anything, when it came to this Louisville defense.
Sometime you will see this Louisville defense play a tough zone that will aggravate the opponent, or if you are really lucky you will catch a perfect press and 2-3 zone.
More often than not, it was one or the other, and the Louisville defense broke down at the wrong part of the year. If they want to get better over the off-season, start by running more defensive sets to throw the offense off guard. Like a 1-3-1, half court trap, 3-2 zone, or just a plain out full court press.
Take better shots
The Cardinals' shots weren’t the problem—it was when they took them. When down or in need of a basket, Louisville sometimes forced the action and it only pushed the deficit out more. With Pitino having to lean on prospective starter Siva, he will need to lead this offense and set him team up for better shots.
If this cannot be fixed, look for yet another disappointing season from the Cardinals.
It is always bad when you have players that are all about “me” rather than “we.”
Last season there was no sign of this, but with these younger players with lesser experience, that possibility of that happening is more likely than not.
Pitino needs to force that his Cardinals play like a team, and give a team effort. No one player should be shooting the ball more than anybody—it should be a balanced team attack among the frontcourt and backcourt. One player can only take you so far. It’s the programs that have all-around efforts that win in March.
Following a disappointing season you are going to have that tag on your back. Everybody is going to be looking at you and observing how well you handled the losses, and the rebound from last season.
The new approach consists of: Score, rebound, defend, team basketball, and the little things. If Pitino can stick it to these kids early—which I think he will—Louisville will have a productive season.
My very early prediction for the Louisville Cardinals is, they will finish 23-11 overall and 11-5 in the conference.