So it’s just one poll position, but hey! It’s better than falling down…
The Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball team bumped up from #7 in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll to #6 on Monday, following Connecticut’s 63-68 loss at the hands of unranked Central Florida on Friday. The Huskies were previously ranked #4 in both polls, but fell to #8 in the AP and #10 in the Coaches Poll. #1 North Carolina also suffered a loss last week, falling 80-90 to UNLV on Saturday (and don’t Cardinal fans know all about battling with UNLV early in the non-conference); however, the Tar Heels managed to slide into the #5 spot just in front of the Cardinals in both polls.
The news is, of course, a bit bittersweet considering that the new #1 team in college basketball is – gulp – the Kentucky Wildcats. North Carolina gets a quick chance at redemption, though, as they will head into Rupp this Saturday (Dec. 3) to take their best shot at the new #1 Wildcats.
Should the Cats escape Carolina unscathed, it will leave both Louisville and Kentucky on a crash course for a potential top-five matchup on New Year’s Eve (knocking on wood now, hate to jinx the Cards – just like a commentator talking about how a player never misses a free throw, or how a kicker has made thirty in a row, and how the sheer mention of it somehow impedes progress).
Now, if only the Cardinals could get healthy heading into that matchup! Streaky shooting wingman Mike Marra will turn out to be a bigger loss than expected (ACL tear, done for the season); star recruit Wayne Blackshear has yet to take the floor for the Cardinals, and there is always the fear that he won’t make it on the court after shoulder surgery; and defensive big-man Gorgui Dieng is just now getting back into the thick of things after missing a huge part of last season with a broken finger. It won’t be easy though, the upcoming schedule between now and the Kentucky game is brutal for the Cards! They have a pair of current top 25 teams in Vanderbilt (#19, Home, Dec. 2) and rival Memphis (#21, Home, Dec. 17); they have to play always unpredictable Western Kentucky (Home, Dec. 23); and they have their first conference game against always tough Georgetown (Home, Dec. 28).
But it all starts tonight against Long Beach State, who toppled then #9 ranked Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh just a week and a half ago. The 49ers are led by senior guard Casper Ware, who is averaging just under 20 point a game (18.8), but exploded for 28 against Jamie Dixon’s physical defense. The buzz around Ware has died down a little since his impressive showing against the Panthers, but don’t think he isn’t looking to make another big impression at the Yum! Center tonight. The Cards will have to play better than they did against the Ohio Bobcats Friday night. The Cards’ 59-54 win was a little too close for comfort.
Here’s to a good one tonight. GO CARDS!