Louisville CardFile: North Carolina

Prepare yourselves, Cardinal fans.

The University of Louisville men’s basketball team is on a collision course with the most dreaded initials in college hoops.

N I T

Time isn’t really a variable. The date of Selection Doomsday is a known.

I watched a lot of ball on Saturday. Though I am weary of viewing games, while trying to figure out which teams to root for and against so as to increase the Cards chances of sneaking into the Dance, I took the measure of all I saw.

Syracuse. Miami. Texas. Oklahoma. Alabama. Kentucky. Auburn. South Carolina. Villanova. Xavier. West Virginia. Kansas. Indiana. Michigan State. Northwestern.

Using the well worn measuring stick we are wont to trot out — How many would your team win if the schools played ten times? — the only one of those outfits I believe the Cards would beat more often than not would be Chris Collins’ Wildcats. And they’ll be spending the post season catching up on school work in Evanston.

Attribute Louisville’s diminished station in the hierarchy of the winter pastime we love so very very much upon the scapegoat of your choice. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: North Carolina

Louisville CardFile: Pittsburgh

The time is now for the Louisville Cardinals.

Not that a 34 point victory in the conference on the road, even against one of the worst teams in the history of a Power 5 league, isn’t worthy of some consideration. After all. . .

. . . it came with Deng Adel watching again in sweats. With Ray Spalding committing his first foul 14 seconds in. With the Cards up 35 with 7:28 to play, and only giving away a digit off that margin at the final buzzer, while playing everyone at the end of the bench except Vinny Tatum.

In the heart of the game, Pitt — oh my, what a woeful contingent Kevin Stallings has fashioned — went 11:59 without a field goal.

So, as ready and energized as U of L was, I’m disinclined to hold this game in much store.

But I’ll get to all that in a bit. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Pittsburgh

Louisville CardFile: Georgia Tech

We all have favorites; we the faithful who pray at the Basilica of the Cardinals.

Favorite games. Favorite players. Favorite seasons.

Even favorite plays. I know I do.

One of mine came in the game that was a harbinger of U of L’s first title and the program’s success that was to come in the seasons that followed.

12/19/80. Cardinals 75, #2 Ohio State 65.

The good guys rattled the stunned Buckeyes early on with that intense, disruptive full court press Denny Crum brought with him from UCLA. Discombobulated, the visitors had trouble getting into their offense, getting the ball past midcourt.

At one point a Buckeye tried to pass the ball from backcourt past the center stripe to a teammate in the corner forty plus feet away. Derek Smith, with his long arms and huge hands, was checking that guy with the ball from about five feet away.

As the befuddled visitor attempted to hurl the rock over Smith’s head, the Cardinal guard, like a Venus Fly Trap snaring an unsuspecting visitor buzzing close by, reached up and snared the rock, firing it to a teammate streaking toward the hoop for an easy deuce.

Which memorable moment of Cardinal hoops history flashbacked last evening at the 11:03 mark of the opening stanza of U of L’s workmanlike dismantlement of the hapless Ramblin’ Wreck. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Georgia Tech

Louisville CardFile: Syracuse

So distraught was I after Louisville’s disturbing loss to Florida State on Saturday that I simply couldn’t bring myself to write about that game.

(To those who noticed, and asked after me, asked if I was OK, thank you. The reason for my absence was I simply couldn’t find words.)

And, this early morning after U of L’s fourth loss in its last five, to Syracuse which had fallen in six of its last nine, I have been sitting for minutes, fingers poised at the keyboard, awaiting the formulation of some inroad to discuss the critical situation at hand.

It would be of little consequence to reconsider this moment or that from last night’s most distressing setback, the Cardinals’ first this season to a squad not its equal or better. To look at this stat or that, a play here or there, really doesn’t address what really matters.

There are bigger issues. This is now, hate to say it, a season on the brink.  Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Syracuse

Louisville CardFile: Virginia

The metrics indicated before the game that UVa is a ten point better team than U of L.

The oddsmakers advised before the game that Virginia is a ten point better team than Louisville.

So it came to pass.

Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers are indeed a better offensive team than Louisville, a better defensive team, more focused and mature.

Ten points better all around.

74-64.

In recent years, I’ve taken to using the same word to describe UVa’s performance when outmatching the Cards, so clearly superior has their play been. The Cavaliers “schooled” Louisville.

But, while UVa was clearly the better team last night, easily one of the best in the land as the college hoops season begins the turn for home, that whole teacher/pupil analogy doesn’t resonate for me this time around. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Virginia

Louisville CardFile: Wake Forest

‘Cause Saturday night’s the night I like/ Saturday night’s alright alright alright.

This used to be the thing, right? The highlight of a winter’s week here in Hoopsylvania?

Saturday night B-ball.

Not so much what with The World Wide Leader taking over, and tilts on Friday afternoons and Sunday nights and noon and all points between.

So, what a treat. Pizza, tacos, burgers, a brewski or deux with the gang, then a date with the Cardinals at the Yum!.

Sure, the visitors were shorthanded. And, let’s be honest, not a very good basketball team. I mean Wake Forest has now lost 7 in a row now, nine of their last ten.

But still . . . when the Cards wreck a lot of havoc on some conference carpetbaggers, it’s always fun.

All of which is especially boffo when the good guys have a seven and a half minute stretch like last night over Danny Manning’s hapless Demon Deacons.

With 16:27 left the Cards were up 9 at 54-45. They had scored on 5 of their first six possessions after intermission, but had surrendered just as many as they had tallied. The Demon Deacs didn’t seem to be going away.

Then BOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Wake Forest

Louisville CardFile: Miami

Those tuning in who are longer in the tooth should remember Charles Schulz’s iconic contribution to the comic pages, Peanuts. The world observed through the eyes of Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and, of course, the ever beleaguered Charlie Brown.

The latter of whom along with his creator was apparently a big baseball fan, who, given the large number of strips devoted to it, had trouble coming to grips with the memorable ending of the ’62 World Series.

That was what was rolling around in my mind as I fitfully attempted to fall asleep after the Cards dropped a most winnable road game last night to Miami.

Here’s why.  Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Miami

Louisville CardFile: Boston College

When a team is still not fully developed, after a close encounter, it is not uncommon to hear a coach say he’d prefer to learn a lesson with a win than a loss.

David Padgett and his four freshmen, first timers all, learned a biggie Sunday afternoon at the Yum!

With 2:47 to go, U of L held its biggest lead of the game over Boston College, a team that had defeated both Duke and Florida State, at 67-49.

To interim mentor Padgett, it obviously felt like the game was won. Why not give the neophytes some minutes late? Let ’em learn how to close. Get some garbage points maybe. Finish the deal, let the fans line up for discounted tickets for the women’s half of the double dip.

It, uh, didn’t exactly work out like that.

Quentin & The Rookies. Not rising up the Top 40 charts with a bullet. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Boston College

Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame

Note: This was written early in the AM, without a full night’s sleep. There may be mistakes. Be gentle with your corrections.

Get ready for it.

I’m going to lead with a trope scribes oft invoke at such euphoric moments.

The last time a University of Louisville basketball team won in South Bend, Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley were newlyweds, the Jennifer Anniston “Rachel” was the hairstyle du jour, Kenneth Starr was sitting behind the desk now used by Robert Mueller, “You know what they call a quarter pounder in Paris?” was the question being asked, Kenny G had the biggest holiday album on the charts, Rick Pitino was wearing a blue tie and David Padgett was nine years old.

On a night when Clemson remained ofer Chapel Hill, Louisville’s ascending Cardinals broke another streak. Days after ending Florida State’s long home winning skein, the Cards beat the Fighting Irish on their home court for the first time since 1994.

Of course, it took an overtime. Then another. That’s what happens when these two meet on the hardwood.

It took overcoming a double digit disadvantage in the 2d.

On a night when it surrendered an unfathomable 26 offensive rebounds, U of L again persevered. In front of a raucous crowd, the Cards stayed the course, never panicked and won 82-78. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame

Louisville CardFile: Virginia Tech

Back in the day, professional degree on the wall, but when I was still trying to figure what I wanted to do when I grew up, there was a period I’ve called my “first retirement.” During which I made do with this and that endeavor, one of which was managing a nascent blues band.

The members were an enthusiastic lot, but still finding their chops. Especially the guitar player, a fellow of gentle demeanor who had come from a different tradition and had trouble letting it rip on his Les Paul.

Until one weeknight at a local haunt in front of a smattering of stragglers, when out of the blue during a Muddy Waters cover, he let rip a ringing, stinging solo of the nastiest sort. Unlike any he’d played before. The band’s leader and I locked eyes, both of us with the look of “Where’s this been before?”

That sort of moment and what it could portend for this U of L team came to mind twice late during the Cardinals’ intense win yesterday over Buzz Williams’ Hokies.

David Padgett called an astute timeout with 2:51 to play. The previous five minutes of back and forth, et tu Brute action had been especially fierce. Bucket matched bucket. Charity toss matched charity toss. Defensive stop matched defensive stop.

The Cards couldn’t shake Tech. Q hit a couple FTs for a 76-74 lead. The visitors were thwarted the ensuing trip when Ray Spalding blocked a second chance effort and Deng Adel was fouled while grabbing the board. He converted the 1+1 for a four point advantage, but that was matched by the Hokies at their end. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Virginia Tech