Louisville may have needed Chris Jones more than they thought.
Once the guard was dismissed from the team, the Cardinals survived a scare on Monday against Georgia Tech, scoring the go-ahead bucket to secure the victory.
While they won’t headline any glamorous media or news in the state of Kentucky (Big Blue Nation is now 28-0), can Louisville be a dangerous team come March Madness?
Luckily I was able to snag some time from The Courier-Journal’s Jeff Greer for some insight. He expects a handful of players to thrive down the home stretch, although it’ll require a great deal of maturing within a short amount of time.
“I don’t know that Louisville has all that much of a chance at a national title, but I thought the same thing about UConn last year. Louisville will need a Shabazz Napier-like performance from Terry Rozier to make that kind of run. The 6-foot-1 guard has all the tools a player needs to carry his team deep into the tournament, but he’ll need to be consistent shooting his midrange jumper, and he’ll have to figure out ways to avoid getting his shot blocked as much as it has in recent weeks. Beyond Rozier, All-American forward Montrezl Harrell has to find a way to impact every game, no matter the size of the opposing frontcourt, and Wayne Blackshear needs to step out of a role player mentality and thrive,” said Greer.
I’ve rarely spent time on Today’s U giving my own personal opinion, but here’s my reaction to Greer’s assesment:
Terry Rozier Jr. is as shifty of a guard that you’ll find in the nation. However, he often plays out of control. I’ve witnessed Rozier sprint down the court in three dribbles, virtually perform a handful of backflips in the air while attempting a layup, swapping the ball twice between his legs, flex for the cameras, and fail to even graze the rim. But I’ve also had the luxury of watching the sophomore guard take over a game, drilling smooth, 23-foot treys that ignite his team.
As for Blackshear, sure, the improvement is a plus. The forward has increased his scoring production each year since donning the black and red, but Louisville needs another threat besides Rozier and Harrell. Blackshear needs to want the rock in his hands and use his size and physicality to his advantage.
While Pitino may not expect 15-20 from Blackshear, remember that he’s only tallied double-digit scoring in three of the ten road games, which will play a key factor in how long Louisville wants to keep its 2015 season going.
One determining factor will be Louisville’s ability to maintain a lead. I witnessed a team a month ago that continuously took blows from North Carolina in front of their home crowd, yet with each basket and stop, Harrell’s intensity sent a shock throughout the entire arena and led the Cardinals to a win. I almost felt terrified for the Tar Heels.
We’ll see how resilient this team is sooner rather than later. If Louisville can rack up a win or two in the ACC tournament, that’s enough momentum for a solid run in the NCAA bracket.
Come March Madness, Louisville seems like a team that could hang with each competitor up to the Elite 8, or they could suffer a first-round loss to Cleveland State.
Only time will tell, and I believe Louisville show their true colors quite soon.
All quotes were obtained first hand.