TFST Extra: Two wins and a recruiting victory give Louisville some momentum into the new year
Inside: In a bonus Monday newsletter, we review Louisville's updated NCAA Tournament profile and the big recruiting news of the weekend.
Happy new year! Thanks for reading The Floyd Street Tribune. In the previous edition, which came out last year, we used a rapid-fire Louisville column to discuss the IARP, Chris Mack’s job status, recruiting, NCAA Tournament numbers and much more.
The new year is upon us, which means Selection Sunday draws closer and closer. We are now just 69 (nice!) days away from the bracket reveal. That, my friends, is cause for celebration. Selection Sunday is the Christmas after Christmas. Or is it the Christmas before Christmas?
We’ll get deeper into the wins over Wake Forest and Georgia Tech (and the game against Pitt) in Thursday’s weekly newsletter, but this week’s TFST Extra bonus newsletter will focus on Louisville’s NCAA Tournament resume following back-to-back ACC wins. We also discuss the recruiting news of the weekend and a crazy stat.
First up, let’s dance …
The goal here is to better educate folks on the NCAA Tournament selection process so you don’t have to listen to hot takes.
Best wins: Mississippi State (N): 37 NET; Wake Forest (H): 56 NET; Navy (H): 91
The bottom line: The Wake Forest win probably won’t end up as Louisville’s best in-conference W in terms of its NCAA Tournament resume, but that was an emotional, much-needed victory for Chris Mack and his team. The profile impact is the cherry on top: The Cards now have a quality Quadrant 2 win to bolster the Mississippi State Quad 1 victory. There are more opportunities ahead.
As we discussed in the last newsletter, the Cards don’t have an overwhelming number of marquee games in the ACC this season (a total of five Quadrant 1 matchups). And the ones that are Quad 1 games are rated as such largely because they’re on the road, adding the element of difficulty. Louisville can force its way into the NCAA Tournament by counterbalancing the three not-great nonconference losses with a heavy dose of solid, foundational league victories like the ones over Wake and at Georgia Tech. Tech is by no means a good team, but you want as little red (red means a loss) on your resume as possible, especially in the Quadrant 3-4 games.
What’s ahead: Louisville is still on the run of games we previously labeled as … well, very, very winnable — and very losable. If the Cards are a tournament team, and I don’t know yet if I think they are, they need to solidify themselves as one of the ACC’s top teams in this stretch. Can’t drop should-win games like Pitt on Wednesday. Then there’s an opportunity in Tallahassee against a weaker-than-lately FSU squad that is 68th in the NET and 42nd in KenPom. The degree of difficulty is higher than Wake because FSU is more talented and more athletic, and it’s on the road, but in terms of an NCAA resume, these two games are still in the same ballpark.
Stat of the weekend
13.6, 9.3, 1.7 … OK, OK, these are multiple stats of the weekend, but those are Malik Williams’s per-game averages in points, rebounds and steals over his past nine games. The super senior posted 20 points and 10 rebounds vs. Georgia Tech, claiming a fourth double-double of the season. In that same stretch of nine games, Williams is 40 of 58 (69%) on 2-pointers. Those are all good numbers. He is clearly Louisville’s best player right now.
A big recruiting victory
A strong, strong start to the new year for Chris Mack and company, landing the unexpected-to-many and vital commitment of Kamari Lands, a big-time scoring forward in the 2022 class. Recruiting folks thought Lands would … land … at Arizona State, as I mentioned in previous newsletters. His was a difficult recruitment to fully grasp, with his circle keeping everything relatively tight to the chest. A bunch of teams, including Kansas and Memphis, jumped in and out of the pursuit after Lands decommitted from Syracuse late last summer. Louisville’s recruiting needed a jolt, and Lands provided it — he is a top-50 prospect who can really light it up, play multiple positions and give the Cards length and athleticism in the frontcourt.
Lands averaged 15.9 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one steal in seven games at Nike Peach Jam this summer, shooting 45 of 106 (42.5%) from the field, including 10 of 40 from 3. As I mentioned last fall, Lands’s cold spell in the last two games torpedoed what had been good shooting splits through five games. He can play both forward spots in Mack’s system. He’s a good scorer at all three levels and rebounds well. He’ll likely need to add some muscle to his 6-8, 200-pound frame, but this is a guy with pro potential who is ready to contribute at a high level in college.
The Cards are still chasing another addition in the 2022 class, and Northeast guards Desmond Claude and Bryce Lindsay are on Louisville’s board. Claude, a top-100 prospect, already visited Louisville. Another prospect, former Texas A&M pledge Amaree Abram, is now on Louisville’s radar, too, with a visit set for later this month. The transfer portal is already filling up, too.
Floyd Street’s Finest podcast
790 WKRD show host and U of L hoops fantasy camp champion Nick Coffey joins Floyd Street’s Finest to talk about his harrowing pre-Christmas experience in addition to a range of hoops topics. You can find every episode on Spotify and Apple and wherever else you get your podcasts. Make sure you subscribe, rate and review the pod!
Past episodes include interviews with:
Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, Luke Hancock, Carlik Jones, Malik Williams, Ryan McMahon, Christen Cunningham, Charles Minlend, El Ellis, Mike James, Larry O’Bannon, Marques Maybin, Jarrod West, Samuell Williamson, Jae’Lyn Withers, Noah Locke, Matt Cross
Chris Mack, Mike Pegues, Ross McMains, Scott Davenport, David Padgett, Dino Gaudio, Kahil Fennell, Taylor Barnette, Jeff Walz
Jeff Borzello, Mike Rutherford, Bob Valvano, Paul Rogers, Brett Dawson
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