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Christmas wish list: What does Louisville want and need?

Dec 21, 2011, 11:30 AM EDT

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For the next five days, Beyond the Arc will detail what some teams need. Hey, we’re in a giving mood.

There is no team in the country that looks more comfortable and in control playing a game that is completely out of control than Louisville. At times, it seems like Rick Pitino is coaching his team by simply saying “the sloppier the better”.

With Christmas right around the corner, here is a look into just what Pitino has requested from Santa Claus:

Must have: Claire Bennett’s powers

I know you watched the first season of Heroes, back before the show had an Entourage-esque collapse. Claire Bennett was the cheerleader played by Hayden Panettiere — “Save the cheerleader, save the word”. Remember? — that had the power of regeneration. In other words, she couldn’t get injured, which would be a perfect skill for this Louisville team to have after the first month of the season. Wayne Blackshear is done for the season with a shoulder injury. Mike Marra and Steven VanTreese are out with knee injuries. Peyton Siva and Russ Smith have missed a couple of games this season. Jared Swopshire and Rakeem Buckles are still recovering from injuries that ended their season in 2011.

Now, Louisville still has talent on their roster. Siva and Smith provide a dynamic back court, Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith are the veterans on the wing while Gorgui Dieng and Behanan have been excellent inside. But, as I said earlier, Louisville is at their best when the game becomes unorganized and out of sync. The best way to do that is to press, but given the limit that Pitino has on his bench players right now, the Cards can’t exactly press for 40 minutes, not with their limited bench. Louisville needs depth, and that depth will come with their health.

Stocking stuffer: Three-point range

Last season, Louisville shot 36.2% from beyond the arc and shot threes at the 28th highest rate nationally. While they aren’t attempting nearly as many this season, their percentage has dropped all the way down to 32.0%. Kyle Kuric has gone form a 44.9% shooter to 32.7%. Russ Smith has dropped from 41.2% to 38.5%. Chris Smith is down slightly from 40.4% at 39.5%. Rakeem Buckles, who shot 42.3% last season before he was injured, has taken just two three pointers this season. Hell, even Peyton Siva has gone from a 27.2% three point shooter to 23.3%.

The Cardinals are playing a big of a different style this season. They aren’t playing quite as uptempo as they have been known for and they are more concerned about getting the ball into the paint, whether it be off the dribble or on a post touch. Part of the reason for that is the penetration abilities of Siva and Russ Smith and the play of Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng inside. But the fact that the Cardinals aren’t shooting it that well has played a role; when the threes aren’t dropping, you start doing something else. Louisville has too many guys that can stroke the ball to continue struggling like this.

Planning to re-gift: Guards

Pitino already has a million of them. Kyle Kuric, Russ Smith, Chris Smith, Peyton Siva, Elisha Justice, Tim Henderson, Kevin Ware, Mark Jackson. Those are a lot of players to try and find minutes for. What’s more is that two of Pitino’s top six back court players — Wayne Blackshear and Mike Marra — are out for the season. The good news? The battles in practice as guys try to earn minutes must be intense.

What other teams have Christmas wish lists? Click here.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

  1. concernedcitizen001 - Dec 21, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    Actually the number one Christmas wish list item should be HEALTH. The Cards are a walking M*A*S*H* unit, but they keep finding ways to win.

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