Thursday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

– Spread check (football): Louisville at 4.

– The Louisville men’s soccer team opens the NCAA tournament game against Western Michigan tonight at 7 p.m. If you can’t make it to Lynn Stadium, you can catch the game on ESPN+.

– Kenny Payne said after Tuesday night’s loss his team needs to train better if they want to win.

—Jeff Greer’s latest U of L Hoops newsletter paints a pretty bleak picture for the program, both on the pitch and in terms of recruitment at the moment.

The current fighting in Louisville, caused in part by poor roster construction, only adds to last spring’s glaring recruit shortfalls while also putting significant pressure on the 2023 cycle. The cards tracked a number of starter-quality guards in the transfer portal and whistled at them all.

Tyrese Hunter, Kendric Davis, Malachi Smith, etc. would all have helped Louisville significantly. There were plenty of minutes and a chance to share backcourt with El Ellis, who has cleaned and is Louisville’s best away player this season. What happened in the recruiting process that Louisville missed out on everyone?

To that end, I’m hearing from a reliable industry source that Texas is the favorite and LSU is the only other college contender to AJ Johnson, who for months was the highly rated alternative to DJ Wagner in the Louisville recruiting hunt. He canceled his visit the week he was due to join Louisville Live and while some recruiters are keeping alive the possibility of a postponement, I have my serious doubts that will happen. That leaves U of L with… what other guards in Class 2023 exactly?

This all leads to the biggest point of the day: A terrible start to the 2022-23 campaign for a staffer hoping to build some momentum and attract big talent to Louisville is far less than ideal. The good news is that college basketball’s recruiting safety net — the transfer portal — will flow again this spring. If Louisville has been taught anything in the past few months, it’s that there’s no way Payne and company can do without impact transfers for the 2023-24 campaign and beyond.

– The fourth-ranked Louisville volleyball team will celebrate Senior Night on Friday by shooting for revenge (and possibly an ACC championship) against No. 7 Pitt. The Cards are 15-1 in conference play while the Panthers are a perfect 15-0.

– The 10th Louisville swim team sits in first place after night one of the 3-day Purdue Invitational.

– Donovan Mitchell had 23 points and Jordan Nwora 21 in last night’s Bucks-Cavs game. The Bucks won, 113-98.

—Will Stein makes this list of college football assistants on the rise.

– This story about Bronco Mendenhall reaching out to his players and the Virginia football community following this week’s tragedy is heartbreaking.

– The Louisville defense fell six places (Athletic Link) to 16th in the stopping rate after losing to Clemson last week.

– The future cardinal is a bad, bad man.

– The first preseason top 25 poll for the upcoming Kentucky High School boys’ basketball season is here.

– The “Starting 502” podcast reacts to Louisville’s 0-3 start here.

– Yasir Abdullah is in the midst of one of the best individual seasons we’ve seen from a Louisville defender. We hope he gets a proper farewell on Saturday.

– For the second straight week, Claire Chaussee of Louisville is the ACC Volleyball Player of the Week.

—Louisville Report goes behind enemy lines with an NC State writer.

—Big Red Louie hands out player grades from the Appalachian state loss.

– Dan McDonnell runs The Prairie State.

– The attendance list for this weekend’s Louisville soccer game against NC State is pretty big.

– The CJ gives us three things to know ahead of Saturday’s game against the Wolfpack.

—Eric Crawford writes about the challenge of reporting lost seasons.

It won’t be news to Louisville fans to hear they’ll be seeing more of this type of thing.

There are inexplicable parts of it. How Louisville’s players can perform flat as the program seeks its first win prompts more questions than answers.

While most of my friends in the media focus on some obvious mistakes in the last 30 seconds of the game (why not foul sooner?), many of my questions are more concerned with what happened in the first 32 minutes. How do you get out so flat? Why can’t you defend straight-ahead drives? How does your best player end up with zero points or rebounds but five fouls?

Why is it only one of your great men who gets any post at a time and why aren’t the guards looking for him anymore?

How come so many possessions don’t color the ball?

Where are basic things like proper defensive stance, hard running on the ground, blockouts?

I, too, have been in the business long enough to know this: often simple basketball topics are linked to other topics unrelated to the game. And god knows, this group of gamers has every excuse in the book – rightly so – given what this program has put them through over the past two years.

Whatever the reason, it seems to me that the players didn’t buy in. It also seems to me that a lot of fans didn’t buy in. Maybe 10,000 showed up for Louisville’s season opener against Bellarmine. Maybe half for the cardinals’ exhibitions.

“Yeah, there won’t be 6,000 people on the game anymore,” Darrell Griffith told me when Payne was hired.

Except that’s exactly what it is. This is Louisville basketball right now: a program that draws poorly, that just escaped the NCAA shadow, its talent level has plummeted and it’s in dire need of a shot of adrenaline. That’s not the program hanging on the beams in the arena. It’s the program of empty seats and last-minute defeats.

– A look at how Louisville players have fared in the NFL in 10 weeks.

– If Malik Cunningham is unable to leave on Saturday, the Louisville players are counting on Brock Domann’s ability to get the job done.

– Matt McGavic from Louisville Report will join me this afternoon from 3-6 on 1450/96.1 on The Mike Rutherford Show. You can stream the show here.

– And finally beat western Michigan.

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