The Floyd Street Tribune: What we learned (and didn't learn) from the Bahamas and Michigan State
Inside: Sifting through a momentous week of basketball for Louisville, from the highs of the Bahamas to the lows in East Lansing.
Thanks for reading The Floyd Street Tribune! Missed the previous newsletters? That’s OK. With a paid subscription, you can access all of ‘em here. In the previous edition, we worked through a selection of reader questions and revisited my preseason predictions.
One of the many benefits of a weekly newsletter is getting a handful of games between each edition, allowing for the chance to sift through larger sample sizes as opposed to single games. It’s through that lens that this week’s Floyd Street Tribune hits your inbox.
Let’s start with this: I did not anticipate the fury from so many Louisville fans during and after the Michigan State loss. I have to think really high tensions related to the football program (don’t blame you) influenced that reaction quite a bit, because otherwise, I’m not sure I get it. Michigan State is a top-25 opponent (in KenPom) with the second-most efficient defense in the country, hosting the game in one of the toughest places to play in college basketball, and hit 10 of 18 from 3. Most teams lose a game like that in East Lansing. And don’t forget: Louisville beat two good teams in the Bahamas with back-to-back strong performances, too.
That said, I do understand the frustration with a few lingering issues, namely the turnovers and shot selection, and I want to dive into them while also exploring the areas where Louisville has done well or improved over the past three games. There is a lot to like about the past week for Louisville — even with its loss Wednesday night — and plenty to build on. There’s also a lot that Chris Mack and his staff still have to figure out.
The turnovers and the shooting woes
Louisville’s offense isn’t what it can be, and the turnovers and poor 3-point shooting stand out as glaring reasons for that.
Mack, Mike Pegues and Ross McMains have all talked about the difference between playing with tempo and purpose versus playing with tempo just to play with tempo. There are still a number of occasions when Louisville rushes. Players throw ill-advised passes (like the one below) in transition or the secondary break that sometimes come across as passes thrown for the sake of maintaining the rapidity of the moment. As in, “We just got a steal, let’s capitalize right this second,” even when the initial moment to capitalize has passed.
Now, this is somewhat to be expected. Turnovers will come as Louisville works out the kinks of a new system. The goal is players developing the kind of game and situational familiarity that leads to conceptual confidence and better decisions. But as frustrating as this is to see, that process takes time, and there will be more poor passes in the coming weeks. The key is cutting back on them and (especially) limiting the number of times they result in quick run-outs for opponents back in the other direction.
Now, about the 3-point shooting. In addition to the turnovers, the poor 3-point percentage is a huge factor in Louisville ranking 92nd in KenPom’s offensive efficiency ratings. More than 42% of Louisville’s shot attempts have been 3s, and that’s a big, bad number because Louisville also happens to be shooting 29.2% from 3 as a team. Yes, there has to be better decision-making in some cases — guys who don’t shoot 3s very well should probably take fewer 3s — but you also have to think the numbers will even themselves out. Noah Locke (39.7%) and Jarrod West (37.2%) have been good shooters through their college careers, but they are a combined 22 of 69 (31.9%) so far. That clip will get better.