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Miami Basketball Vs Louisville Preview with Card Chronicle

We caught up Mike Rutherford of SB Nation's Louisville site to talks about the Cards, the game, the ACC as whole, and much more.

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The 'Canes (17-9, 7-6) and #12 Louisville (20-6, 8-5) battle tomorrow, in a game that is important to both squads.

For UM, a win would be a huge boost to their NCAA Tournament resume, one that currently has them squarely on the bubble.

U of L looks like a lock to make the field of 68, but coming off two consecutive losses, they need to stop the bleeding if they hope to reach their goal of a deep March run.

Below is our full Q&A with Card Chronicle.   For all the keys to the game and more, please take a look.

SOTU: Chris Jones absolutely destroyed UM last time these teams met with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 steals.  So you can imagine 'Canes fans breathed a sigh of relief when we heard he might be suspended for this game. Now we hear he might play. What is the latest status if any on Jones?  How do they Cardinals recover if he can't play, and what does he mean overall to this squad?

CC: Well, it looks like there's a good chance he's not going to start, but he's definitely going to play.
Jones' best and worst asset is his emotion, but lately it's done him more harm than good. You never know how he's going to respond to adversity, so all of us in Louisville are pretty intrigued to see how much he plays and he how he performs against the Canes.
Jones was actually benched earlier in the season for playing selfishly, and his initial response to that was to simply stop shooting once he got back on the floor, which only angered Rick Pitino even more. Once he got it down, he was tremendous for the first five weeks of ACC play, including that game in Miami.
It takes a lot of time for guys to figure out exactly what Pitino expects from them, and even though Jones is a senior, this is just his second year in the Louisville program. That said, this is the kind of his last chance to get his head on straight and realize that he needs the team as much as the team needs him. If he does that (starting Saturday), then it gives the Cards the best chance to reach their ceiling come March. If he doesn't, then there's a chance Pitino simply chooses to ride with true freshman point guard Quentin Snider the rest of the way.

SOTU: Is Montrezl Harrell the best PF in the country?   What makes him so good?  Can you talk a little bit about how he found his way to Louisville?

CC: Power forward is probably the weakest overall position in the country, so Harrell might be the best. That said, I think the likelihood of him being a first team All-American is probably small at this point, since his production has dropped fairly noticeably over the last month or so.
Trez has been better in recent weeks because he's gotten back to doing what made him so good in the first place: running the floor, finishing around the rim, and chasing down rebounds and loose balls. At the beginning of the season he got caught up in trying to impress NBA scouts by proving he could shoot threes and score when he caught the ball with his back to the basket. He definitely has a much-improves midrange jumper that he's utilizing, but the shots from beyond the arc have become a welcome thing of the past.
Originally, Harrell was actually committed to Virginia Tech, but was let out of his letter of intent when Seth Greenberg got fired. Louisville then was able to lock him up very late in the game heading into the 2012-13 season. It's also notable that Jim Larrnaga taking the Miami job is what resulted in Luke Hancock transferring from George Mason into Louisville, so two ACC coaching moves ended up landing the Cards two of their biggest contributors on the 2013 national championship team.

SOTU: If the season ended today,  who are your first and second team ALL ACC squads?

CC: I'll go....
Jahlil Okafor, Duke 
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse
Terry Rozier, Louisville
Justin Anderson, Virginia
Tyus Jones, Duke 
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Olivier Hanlan, Boston College
Marcus Paige, North Carolina
I feel like sort of a homer putting two guys on the first team, but pretty much every statistic you can think of shows they deserve. Both Harrell and Rozier have been tremendous on a team that, aside from Jones and occasionally Wayne Blackshear, has given them virtually no support.

SOTU: Please give me your all time Louisville starting 5?

CC: Oh, man. We do a "best Louisville players of all-time" list pretty much every summer, and it's always an enormous debate, so I'm going to have to think about this.
I'll say:
G - Darrell Griffith
G - Butch Beard
F - Wes Unseld
F - Charlie Tyra
C - Pervis Ellison
Feels wrong keeping Russ Smith off the squad, but Butch Beard was an NBA All-Star. Plus I'm not sure Russ would be cool with sharing the wealth on that squad.

SOTU: How are U of L fans liking their inaugural season in the Conference?   Any teams fans just despise more than others?

CC: Well I think everyone was liking it a lot more before this two-game losing streak. But no, it's been great. There haven't really been any nasty fan interactions, although Virginia beating us in both football and basketball has made them pretty to easy to dislike. Other than that, we're still just thrilled to be here.

SOTU: Who wins this contest and why?   What are the keys to victory for both teams?

CC: I think Louisville does, but at this point it wouldn't exactly shock me if they didn't.
The good thing for the Cardinals is that Miami is a pretty good match-up for them, just as they were when the two teams played at the beginning of the month. The biggest thing for U of L is to get back to turning people over. They've forced fewer than eight turnovers in back-to-back games for the first time since the stat started being tracked in 1969, and their steal total over the last four games is the lowest it's been since 1985. If they can frustrate Miami's guards the same way they did in the first meeting, I think they'll win.
For the Canes, obviously you need a much better outings from Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan on both ends of the floor. It sounds simple, but you can't overstate how hard it is to win a game when your two best players play as poorly as those two did against the Cards the first time. Davon Reed going berserk from the outside again wouldn't hurt either.

Thanks again to Mike for answering our questions.  For all things Louisville, be sure to check out Card Chronicle.
And be sure to check out the game, tomorrow at 2PM EST, on ESPN.