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Game #18: St. John's basketball at Louisville Cardinals

St. John's men (7-10, 1-5 Big East) travel to the the University of Louisville's Freedom Hall at 3:30 PM ET.

First, the five stages of grief:

1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

1. Denial: The initial stage: "St. John’s can’t possibly be this bad! It’s a fluke, and the freshmen are gonna round into shape by conference season. Anthony Mason Jr. just has to get his ankle healed, and the kids just have to get their feet wetter."

2. Anger: "What the hell is going on with the Red Storm? Why are we the crusty coffee dregs at the end of the Big East pot?"

3. Bargaining: "Come on, let’s just have St. John’s make the Big East Tournament and be better than South Florida, Rutgers, Cincy, and DePaul."

4. *Depression: "I’m too down to get excited about analyzing the game. 200 teams in Division I would wax our asses like Mop-N-Glo pants. Fordham would out-tough us."

5. Acceptance: "We’re gonna be fine, somehow.

I haven’t hit 5 yet. I’m at 4. In the end, will it be fine because I 1) stop watching the closest team to where I grew up? 2) because St. John’s decides we need a new coach? 3) or because the young players discover or rediscover their game and put some hits on the final 5 teams they play?

Louisville Cardinals Basketball LogoWe’ve got a little less than half a season to find out. Next on the schedule is Louisville, who, after a rough patch, player issues and injury, and a loss to Cincinnati that looked much worse at the time than it now does in the ultra-competitive Big East, they have righted the ship with Terrence Williams as "point-forward" in part because Edgar Sosa’s ego is still taking bad outside shots, Earl Clark and Derrick Caracter blocking shots, and solid performances from jerry Smith at guard.

Louisville has had some identity problems, and of course, the Caracter issues. But he has a lot of great players-- many from the NY area, the power of experience, a bunch of guys who know their roles and really bring it on defense, and the pressing style that brought Pitino from Kentucky to the Celtics to "Larry Bird’s not walking in that door."

But we can’t poke fun anymore. Pitino’s teams—though ALWAYS killing my NCAA Brackets (Every year I think, "they’re gonna do it!" And then when I think they won’t, they get past the second round) are successful and sharp, deep and careful with the ball. They block shots and hold teams to an eFG% of 43.4 (weighted for three-pointers) that is 10th lowest in the nation.

Louisville is much better, though unranked and with losses to Seton Hall and Cincinnati. But St. John’s is on the road, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for this one.

Louisville (14-5, 4-2) – their lineups always change and can include F Earl Clark (11.3ppg, 9.2 reb/g, 1.8 blk/g) and Derrick Caracter (10 ppg, 6.3 reb/g, 1.4 blk/g).

Starting Lineups:

F Terrence Williams 6-6, 210, Jr., 11.7 pts, 7.9 reb, 4.7 ast, 1.6 stls
F Juan Palacios 6-8, 250, Sr., 6.5 pts, 4.3 reb
C David Padgett 6-11, 245, Sr., 11.1pts, 5.0 reb, 1.4 blk
G Andre McGee 5-11, 180, Jr., 6.5 pts
G Jerry Smith 6-1, 200, So., 11.4 pts, 3.6 reb, 2.2 ast, 1.6 stl

Keys to the Game:

DJ Kennedy on the driveTurn The Page. It’s hard to take each game one at a time with a losing streak and uncompetitive results. But that’s part of the learning process for the freshmen. One game at a time. Remember the offense, take good shots, learn from mistakes. Hit the shots. Don’t force the issue.

Handle. St. John’s must handle the press and take care of the basketball. If they start forcing turnovers and getting easy shots, this just might be a game. If they can get the ball to playmakers in transition, maybe Anthony Mason Jr. won’t be the only player in double digits again. Do NOT let the Cardinals force turnovers and increase the pace of the game; this needs to be a slow game, and Louisville has to be made to execute their offense.

Pack It In. No easy shots in the paint; the Red Storm must defend well and hold Palacios/ Clark/ Williams/ Caracter/ Padgett to outside shots, which Louisville at times has had less success with.

Pitino on St. John's:

"What I hope more than anything else is St. John's is patient and gives Norm some extra time, because that program was decimated," Pitino said. "He's on the right track. Just be patient and develop these young players into a good unit, and St. John's will have their program back."

Pitino's not patient. And as he knows from his Celtics days, patience is not a virtue in this sport. I'm sure he likes having this easy win on his schedule every year... 4 years might just be enough patience.

Pitino also says:

"They run one of the best zone offenses in the league – they have a good zone attack," Pitino said.

Uhh, what? Rick Pitino, you're a damn liar. Just trying to make it look like this game is something more than a practice.