LOUISVILLE KY - DECEMBER 31: Rick Pitino the Head Coach of the Louisville Cardinals gives instructions to his team during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at the KFC Yum! Center on December 31 2010 in Louisville Kentucky. Kentucky won 78-63. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
This edition of Walk the Plank features our good friend Mike Rutherford at Card Chronicle, the SB Nation blog for the Louisville Cardinals. We hit Mike with five questions about tonight's matchup between the Pirates and Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center to gain some insight on his thoughts regarding the game as well as Kevin Willard's return to Kentucky.
Without further ado, Card Chronicle Walks the Plank:
SOJ: What (if anything) can you speak on regarding Rick Pitino's ten-year (six with the cardinals) assistant Kevin Willard? Was there belief around the program at the time that he had the potential to wind up as a Big East caliber head coach in a few years? Was he expected to hang around the MAAC a bit longer?
CC: I love Kevin Willard and had little doubt while he was here that he would eventually become a big-time head coach. That said, I was very surprised that it didn't take anymore than a couple of improved seasons at Iona for him to land a Big east gig. Still, I think he'll end up being a good one for you guys whenever this run of bad luck ends.
Also, he was in my mom's lamaze class while he lived here and she said he was very nice. So...there's that.
SOJ: Terrence Jennings and Gorgui Dieng appear to be the obvious Cardinals who need to increase their rebounding totals in the wake of Rakeem Buckles injury. Their RPG numbers are quite similar despite Dieng playing 8MPG fewer than Jennings. Who do you see stepping up in Buckles absence?
CC: Well Jennings had a key opportunity to against Kentucky last Friday and instead gave perhaps his worst overall performance as a Cardinal. Dieng wasn't quite as bad, but wasn't exactly dominating the glass before he left the game with an injury.
The Buckles injury is a really bad one for Louisville, especially since the man who was supposed to start at the four, Jared Swopshire
, is also out with an injury. Pitino tried to use both Kyle Kuric
and Mike Marra (also injured) at the four against UK and neither were able to get much done. Whomever he throws out there at this point is pretty much going to be forced to learn the position on the fly.
Basically, if Louisville wants to compete on the boards it's going to have to be a team thing.
SOJ: The KFC Yum! Center looks like an outstanding facility, yet how does the atmosphere compare with the once-intimidating Freedom Hall? Furthermore, how ridiculous is the naming of the endorsement (13.5M aside) for the venue? They couldn't keep it at Yum Center? Or KFC Center? Did KFC pay extra for getting their name tangled into that? At least your concessions must be on-point.
CC: The atmosphere for the Kentucky game was great, but the sheer size of the place and the increased distance between the upper level and the floor, I think, make it a tad less intimidating for visiting teams. Time will tell though.
I think everyone's kind of over the name thing at this point. There's a split between those who refer to it as "The Bucket" and those who just go with "The Yum," but pretty much no one in town ever actually says "KFC Yum Center."
Plenty of food options. All will cost you significantly though.
SOJ: After losing to Kentucky by 15, is there any team you'd rather be opening your Big East schedule against than Seton Hall? Is this the perfect remedy for the Cardinals?
CC: Probably DePaul, since we haven't lost to them in ever, but it could definitely be worse. If the game were being played in Jersey, however, I'd be far less complacent.
SOJ: Your prediction (and score) for Wednesday night?
CC: Louisville really needs this one, so anything beneath their best shot would be extremely disappointing.
Louisville 77, Seton Hall 70