Rick Pitino has a type. It starts with the mentality of a shooting guard in the body of a point guard. Elite speed and a signature ability to finish at the rim are the first requirement. He has to be a pest defensively, too, mastering the ball pressure that’s been central to Pitino’s success for four decades. His shooting might be a question, but the ability to rack up points never is.
As Pitino has ushered in a new golden era of Louisville basketball, his best teams have been led by these relentless guards. Russ Smith became a legend for willing the Cards to the program’s third national championship in 2013. Terry Rozier followed next, leading an Elite Eight run and developing into a first round NBA draft pick in the process.
This season, there’s no doubt it’s Donovan Mitchell’s turn.
And let’s address the elephant in the room that list above brought in. Steve Ott and Luke Glendening are possession drains. As a line, the three were effective as a whole but not individually. That line started in the defensive zone 43.5 percent of the time. That’s a shut-down, bottom-six role. Not one that Sheahan’s numbers will do anything in.
Meanwhile, not only did Sheahan find success with Nyquist last season, he found it thanks to 51.6 of those shifts starting in the offensive zone. For whatever reason, Sheahan and Nyquist never found the same chemistry early in the season, leading to their separation for the last few months.
Which kind of leads to a simple conclusion: Sheahan is going through a difficult season like a lot of players do at some point early in their careers. His stagnant offense coincides with the team’s decline. We can probably boil down his bizarre goal drought to an oddity.
But what a strong metaphorical oddity it is. The Sports Gods couldn’t have chosen a better symbol for the Red Wings’ fall from grace. Sheahan’s luck, play, and promising outlook faded away as suddenly and inevitably as the franchise he plays for.