Louisville CardFile: Florida State

Well then, that turned out to be not so much fun, didn’t it?

Not very much fun at all.

My thoughts are as discombobulated as the play of the Louisville Cardinals in the final 16:18 of the dispiriting setback in Tallahassee, when a 51-40 second half lead turned into a 67-82 loss.

So, I’m just going to just throw out some random observations, and leave it at that.

If some of this doesn’t make sense, my apologies. I’m as disoriented by Florida State’s withering pressure as the Cardinals were.

Malik Williams going out hurt on Florida State’t fourth possession after tip was big. For the game. And for the season if it’s serious. At that point, the fellow who has ascended to team leader status in recent weeks had already scored on an inbounds play and fed Jordan Nwora for a deuce.

At the other end of the court, Williams is key to any success U of L will have. Chris Mack emphasized that after the game, “On the defensive end we are always going to miss Malik no matter who we play; he’s our best defensive player.  He defends the rim, very vocal, he sees the game.”

Still, the Cardinals led for the entirety of the 1st, heading to the locker room with a 40-32 advantage. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Florida State

Louisville CardFile: North Carolina

These game stories are Cardinal-centric for obvious reasons.

There are some in which an opposing player or coach is never mentioned. The focus is on U of L, it’s development toward March, etc, etc.

But, so out of character is this North Carolina program, I feel compelled to make mention of them at the top, then I’ll move on.

These Tar Heels are inept. There’s simply no softer word to describe them. Given the history of the program, its successes through the decades, it’s just weird. There was the outlier of the short-lived Matt Doherty era, when the team went from #1 to 8-20 to 17-15 in three years.

But this is gosh dang Roy Williams, and whatever you think of him — set aside that his players might have been taking Legos 101 in the classroom to stay eligible — he can recruit and coach and win national titles.

But that team in baby blue at the Yum! yesterday was awful. Yes, they were down two players, including Garrison Brooks, their second leading scorer/leading rebounder, and still reeling from that loss to Duke, but . . . geesh. Who were these guys?

 * * * * *

Which brings me to the matter at hand, the 23-5 (14-3) University of Louisville Cardinals, who somewhat fell prey to a disturbing tendency, as is said in the biz, to play down to the level of their foes. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: North Carolina

Louisville CardFile: Syracuse

How appropriate that Montrezl Harrell et familia spent part of the NBA All-Star break courtside for U of L’s getback-to-winning-in-a-big-way 90-66 annihilation of Syracuse.

Anyone who remembers or has watched a highlight video of the Cards’ scintillating comeback W over ‘Cuse in the ’13 ACC tourney on their way to the national title can confirm: In the 2d, Silent L, a freshman on that championship squad, dunked his way into Cardinal lore, turning the battle into a MSG Monster Slam Jubilee.

He was open at the rim because that gang of Cardinals did what needs to be done to defeat Jim Boeheim’s ever effective zone. Move the rock quickly. Get it to a guy who can pass at the high post. Zip to your spots at the wings, and lurking underneath the hoop for the ball to be delivered there.

Which is exactly what the Cardinals did Wednesday evening against an admittedly lesser Orange contingent than usual. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Syracuse

Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Full Access & the Lunardi Rule

As an unrepentant, untreated hoopaholic, one of my favorite things in life is the trend toward 6:30 tipoffs.

Why wait all the way to 7:00 for the first fix of the night?

So, God bless ya, Fox for moving to 6:30/ 8:30 weeknight tips. That the network has contracts with the Big East and Big Ten, this year’s premier leagues, makes these games especially attractive.

I am somewhat bereft that Super Tuesday is the new Big Monday. I mean, come on, can’t we have both?

Anyway, I threw together a contemporary equivalent of Swanson’s TV Dinner (salmon and veggies, no tripartite disposable tray) and turned on the telly Tuesday evening to FS1 for Illinois at Penn State?

And, who among us would ever have believed that in February, 2020, that would be a game of significance? Both in the conference. And for seeding purposes. But, yeah, believe it.

I was immediately distraught by the image(s) on the screen. Which, unlike my dinner plate, was split three ways. Game action to the left, and both coaches roaming the sidelines one over the other on the right.

“Who cares what the coaches look like on the sidelines while the game’s going on,” I screamed to nobody in particular, except perhaps Naismithius, Greek God of Hoops, who could, given his infinite powers, remedy the situation immediately if he would so chose. Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Full Access & the Lunardi Rule

Turning Point: Contemplating the Cardinals’ Conundrum

It is at this juncture, this moment of discouragement, that I must remember my vow.

My beloved University of Louisville Cardinals basketballers have dropped two in a row. On the road. To schools they “should have handled.” One by a margin almost unfathomable. Which sudden, bracing comeuppance followed a fantasy-inducing ten game winning streak which vaulted them to a spot as one of the nation’s darlings.

The slump has coach Chris Mack in full reconsideration mode.

The slump has the fan base in panic mode.

High expectations, both real and faux, have clashed with reality. The future, always uncertain by definition, is way more so than this time last week.

So, I must remember my vow, made in the joyous late evening delirium of April 8, 2013. Continue reading Turning Point: Contemplating the Cardinals’ Conundrum

Louisville CardFile: Clemson

So eery was U of L ‘s performance in Saturday’s 62-77 meltdown to Clemson, so fragile does this Cardinal contingent’s psyche seem to be given the context of the last several seasons underlying the reality of this past week’s road trip from hell, it was good to hear these words from second season headman Chris Mack.

On the immediate past: “It’s my fault. I have to figure it out. We as a coaching staff have to figure it out. Generally, it looks like we’re not playing for anything. Really frustrating. But it’s my job to figure it out, and I’ve failed so far.”

On the immediate future: “I don’t have all the answers right now. I just don’t. It’s my job. We’ll watch film. I’m going to have a lot of one-on-one conversations, and we’ll figure out a way to be better against Syracuse on Wednesday.”

Though not the centerpiece of the David Padgett-coached team that choked up a “sure win” over UVa season before last, the core of this squad was there then and wilted last season against Duke, then staggered to the finish line, beating only hapless Notre Dame twice while losing the other six of its last eight.

The watchword of the offseason was “Finish.” Finish workouts. Finish practice. Finish games. Finish the season. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Clemson

Louisville CardFile: Georgia Tech

As a lifelong U of L diehard, who at times has sadly allowed the fortunes and misfortunes of the Cardinals to dictate the nature of his well being, there’s little in life as depressing as watching your team simply not show up.

With that as context, this reporter of sorts understands there’s nothing quite as loathsome as getting up before dawn the morning after and crafting a game recap, especially when it’s Louisville’s first really bad loss of the campaign, to an under .500 squad. To a team Louisville had conquered nine times in a row. (Hmm, that sounds familiar.)

So, instead of waiting until morning, I’m writing this before slumber. To get it out of the way. To purge the pain. So I can awake on the morrow looking ahead instead of behind.

Behind being what the Cardinals were against Georgia Tech for the full 40.

Jose Alvarado canned a trey on the first possession of the game.

The Yellow Jackets never relinquished the lead. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Georgia Tech

Hoopaholic’s Gazette: The Zen of Reconciliation

I’ve always been a firm believer that talented people should be respected for their achievements.

I’ve also felt adamantly that being a good, decent, respectful human being is more important than accomplishments.

Which is why I’ve never had much good to say about Bobby Knight, even given the obvious reality that he is one of the great college basketball coaches of forever. Despite that begrudging recognition, it’s always been difficult for me to deal with the guy, whom I’ve dissed often at various venues through the decades.

But, as I slip precipitously and more firmly into my dotage, I am also a staunch believer in the power and necessity of reconciliation.

So, I was seriously and deeply touched, watching his halftime return to IU’s Assembly Hall Saturday for the first time since he was fired, surrounded by a phalanx of his former players. I was in the Media Room at the Yum! before the U of L game, and can say that all other conversations stopped, and all eyes were focused on the televised proceedings with Knight.

It was sweet. It was healing. I am grateful I experienced the moment.

On this Monday, there’s an interview at theathletic.com with Knight’s son, Pat, about how the return came about. Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: The Zen of Reconciliation

Louisville CardFile: Virginia

Caveat: This is written bleary-eyed, at a very early hour, after short, fitful sleep. I’ve double checked myself, but if I’ve missed a number here and there, or there’s a typo, be gentle.

At his pregame press conference on Friday afternoon, Chris Mack was asked about the importance of getting a strong start, especially against a team like UVa, which slows the game down with its style of play?

While acknowledging that starts are always important, the U of L mentor explained how he views the game in ten four-minute segments, the delineations dictated by media timeouts. The team that wins the most segments, he offered, usually wins the game.

Which response I adored, since I’ve always organized my game notes, such as that organization is, by breaks in the action, both media and team-called stoppages.

Well, then. let’s see.

Saturday’s segments, Seedy-style. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Virginia

Louisville CardFile: Wake Forest

It was the worst of halves. It was the best of halves.

It is not the first time I’ve appropriated Dickens. It is not the last time I’ll appropriate Dickens.

It was in the first half: Louisville 34, Wake Forest 46. It was in the second half: Louisville 52, Wake Forest 30.

Somewhere in Demon Deacon Country during the first half, there was a fanatic named DeFarge, knitting the names of Cardinal defenders getting beat. Somewhere in Demon Deacon Country during the second half, there was a partially knit shawl beside Madame with no more names to be knitted.

Cardinals 86, Wake Forest 76.

All’s well that ends well. I guess. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Wake Forest