Last week I speculated that when Louisville took on Notre Dame, the Irish would be ripe for the picking. I said that after Notre Dame came off a very convincing loss to Arizona State and a win against a weak Northwestern would do little to alter that opinion. Well, Brian Kellyâ€™s men went ahead and lost to Northwesternâ€™s Wildcats on Saturday after giving up an 11-point lead. Notre Dame are now REALLY ripe for the picking.
Going into Saturday, Las Vegas has Notre Dame as nine-point favorites. I get it, theyâ€™re playing at home, on their Senior Day and have a good home record. But when youâ€™ve notched three losses in four games (no matter who itâ€™s against) your confidence is going to be shaken. When youâ€™ve lost those games because of a porous defense, it only compounds matters. Notre Dame have gone from being a team that started the season 6-0, and firmly in the conversation for the play-offs, to a team who are now teetering on the brink of the top-25.
Louisville might be playing on the road in a formidable cauldron in South Bend, but they have an offense that is firing on all cylinders. Yes, Will Gardner is gone for the season and will have to be replaced by freshman Reggie Bonnafon. But the key issue is that Michael Dyer is a charging dynamo right now, DeVante Parker is playing like a seasoned NFL wideout, while the rest of the offense is capable of delivering on any given Saturday, whether itâ€™s on the ground, courtesy of Dominique Brown, Brandon Radcliff or L.J. Scott, or in the air with wide receivers like Eli Rogers or Kai De La Cruz. With James Quick out, itâ€™s a concern, but it should be enough to inflict damage on a Notre Dame side who will be up against UofLâ€™s defense â€“ unquestionably one of the best in the nation.
Louisville can win on Saturday and if they do it could set up the beginning of a new cross state rivalry. Louisville waved goodbye to their annual game with Cincinnati last season when they departed the All-American Conference, but a semi-regular game with Notre Dame is a wonderful upgrade for a program thatâ€™s going from strength to strength. With Kentucky football on the ropes, a win against Notre Dame would make Louisville even bigger favorites over their bitter rivals in the season-ending Governorâ€™s Cup clash.
Hooping For A Good Season
While Kentucky are going into their game against Kansas after we go to press, their match-up against Grand Canyon last week illustrated a few key points about Wildcat basketball in the coming season. Firstly, while Grand Canyon may have been veritable tomato cans, Kentucky were still able to show how theyâ€™ll physically dominate a good portion of their opposition this year. When your shortest player is 6-foot-6 inches and your team boasts almost two full lineups of All-Americans, youâ€™re going to not only be favorite, but will be a victor on most occasions.
But lets be clear, just as it was last season and the season before, it may take longer than most teams for the Wildcats to gel, and reach the point where they are able to rely on coaching and tactics more than their natural physical attributes. Calipari may be the best recruiter in all of college hoops, but as a coach and tactician heâ€™s perhaps lacking and thatâ€™s masked by the sheer talent at his disposal. This year might be no different. But with so much talent â€“ more than in any years past â€“ the Wildcats and their fans should be disappointed if the national championship does not return to the Bluegrass.