1. Montrezl Harrell is the real deal: If the first game is any indication, Seth Greenberg getting fired at Virginia Tech was one of the best things that could have happened for this team. Freshman Montrezl Harrell was signed with the Hokies until then, but he ended up at U of L. He's a really talented freshman. While its true Pikeville didn't pose much of a threat inside for Harrell, he was still extremely impressive. And it wasn't just his 9 of 11 shooting for 19 points or his 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. Perhaps the most impressive part of his game was the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Harrell and his 7-foot-4 inch wingspan at the top of the Cards' full-court pressure. U of L coach Rick Pitino said he wasn't always in the right spot in the first game, but he's so athletic and so active that he will be a force in that spot for the Cardinals this season.
2. Defense will again be so solid: Yes, it was just NAIA Division I Pikeville and the Cardinals had the Bears overmatched but it's easy to see the cardinals are again going to be so solid on defense. U of L held Pikeville 47.5 points under their season average, including just 6 of 22 from three-point range. Peyton Siva and Russ Smith at guard are so quick and have such good hands that it will rattle the opposition, while the rest of the lineup has length. Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell, Gorgui Dieng on this night and when Chane Behanan and Kevin Ware get back in there, it's just long, active arms and athleticism. It's too early to compare to last year's team but this group certainly has the potential to be even better.
3. Siva is the team leader: Point guard Peyton Siva is not always the most vocal leader on the floor but he's becoming the guy for the Cardinals, showing more leadership on and off the floor. He's improved his game and was directing traffic like a senior against the Bears. Pitino said he "is playing like pro" and after the game he talked like a pro. Siva talked about his conversations with suspended players Chane Behanan and roommate Kevin Ware, noting he told both they need to take care of business and get back on the floor.
4. A few notes on the offense: There were at least two possessions where the Cardinals went from one end to the other and converted a basket without having the ball touch the floor. Quickness and passing will be a strength of this team, while many have said three-point shooting will be the weakness. In the exhibition the Cardinals hit just 3 of 13 three-pointers. I'm in the corner of coach Pitino in thinking the outside shooting won't be a strength of this team but there are plenty of guys that should be able to knock down shots, so it won't be a major weakness. Luke Hancock is the best shooter, while Russ Smith, Wayne Blackshear and Angel Nunez are among the other players expected to knock down some three's.
5. A few leftover observations: Rick Pitino was getting after Luke Hancock several times, including one timeout when he spent most of the time yelling at the transfer from George Mason. Hancock said he needs to pick up his defense and "will learn a lot from this film." . . . By all indications, sophomore Zach Price has been impressive in recent practices. He's finally coming around and had eight rebounds and two blocks – but also two turnovers – in 11 minutes. . . . . Pitino used a lot of different combinations and even got minutes for all three new walk-ons. Jordan Bond hit two free throws, while Logan Baumann hit a lay-up late. . . . The Cardinals had 20 assists and 18 turnovers with 10 blocked shots.