LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A few quick thoughts following Louisville’s thumping of Butler.
I’m not sure if Louisville is this good any more than I’m certain Butler is this bad. Certainly I’m impressed by the Cardinals and mystified by the lackluster Bulldogs, but I’m not cashing in all my chips yet. Remember, Butler looked pretty mediocre in the nonconference season last year -- losing to Minnesota, Clemson, Georgetown and UAB -- and everyone wrote their preseason hype off as baloney. That didn’t last. And Louisville started the season pretty well, rolling to a 10-3 record by the end of December. That didn’t last, either.
Matt Howard absolutely has to get over his chronic foul syndrome. Without Gordon Hayward, the Bulldogs don’t have enough offensive weapons and can ill-afford Howard lounging on the bench like he did for much of the first half against the Cards. This isn’t a new problem. He lingered on the sidelines during the Final Four and probably has logged as much time in a cushioned chair as the court in his collegiate career. But the stakes are higher now and Howard has to figure out how to play tough and not play foolish.
Gorgui Dieng's eligibility is a big bonus for Louisville. In an offseason littered with bad news and players deemed ineligible, the U of L's appeal victory for Deng was a welcomed change. But it’s more than that. The big man can play. He only had two points against Butler, but he added an active three rebounds and a block and gave Terrence Jennings a breather.
If you can get past the ribbon of ads circling the court that look something like a phone book, the KFC Yum! Center is a pretty sweet venue. It’s big, it's open, and most stunning, it’s a 22,000-palace built only for a college basketball team. Louisville is the main tenant, not an NBA team. And trust me, this is an NBA arena. For the arena debut, Louisville welcomed a school-record home crowd of 22,723, a record the Cards are sure to break over and over again.