One Quick Look Back & A Peek Ahead

Despite the misguided musings of more than a few national pundits, the University of Louisville Cardinals — my favorite team — did not come within three time zones and the same number of victories of University of Phoenix Stadium, the behemoth football complex with its sliding turf on a tray that hosted the Final Four.

Thus we didn’t discover whether the same malaise that caused full bearded Polish mountain man Przemek Karnowski to short arm seven of his eight field goal attempts would have similarly adversely affected Anas Mahmoud, the Cardinals’ lanky Egyptian pivot man with his sometimes on sometimes off close to the hoop game?

Nor did we find out whether the lack of focus havoc engendered by Jim Nantz’s cloying play by play and Bill Raftery’s silliness would have crimped Donovan Mitchell’s long range bombing as it did Tar Heel Justin Jackson’s. (Though some credit is due Nigel Williams-Goss for his D that was more tenacious than Jack Black, and so energy-sapping it undermined NW-G’s O.)

One never knows how the glare that is ever present on the last Monday night of the season is going to crimp or not the plans and schemes of the last duo of contestants standing.

Or others involved, like the zebras, who didn’t seem to understand this time around that they didn’t need to blow their whistles every twenty seconds whether an infraction occurred or not. And, failed to comprehend that when a player at their feet is touching the ball while his hand is resting on the hardwood a foot out of bounds means the other team gets the ball.

(Though the striped shirts should be eternally grateful that the Gonzaga faithful appear a more circumspect lot than those of some other schools whose vociferous and feral fans feel they wuz robbed by the refs during the Dance.) Continue reading One Quick Look Back & A Peek Ahead

Louisville CardFile: Michigan

And, that’s that.

Louisville’s season ends a way more than respectable 25 up, 9 down, a victory short of the NCAA Round of 16, .

Losing to the hottest team in the land, a well coached, mature Michigan Wolverine outfit is disappointing — obviously — but not a surprise, truth be told.

73-69. But, the Cards never stopped pushing.

My personal take on my beloved favorite team has been that the Sweet 16 was the best it would be able to achieve. U of L didn’t make it quite that far. That said, I, for one, have no complaints.

At moments like this, when the sweaty unis are in a pile on the locker room floor to be cleaned and stored until the next campaign, there is but one consideration: Did the Cardinals give their all, even if it ended in defeat.

They did.

Frankly you can’t ask for more. Okay, maybe you can. I can’t.  Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Michigan

Louisville CardFile: Jacksonville State

Deng Adel played just about a perfect game on offense.

Mangok Mathiang continued his late season/ end of career spurt.

And Donovan Mitchell went ofer most of the game until a minute and a half personal coup d’etat gave the Cardinals game securing measure late . . .

. . . but first let’s begin with U of L’s wobbly start in its NCAA tourney opener.

As weirdly chalk as this tourney has been for the first day and a half — at least the games I watched before crashing mid Thursday night — there had been one thing missing. Which is a team or two that seems too nervous, too not ready for the moment. (Except, of course, that kid from Vandy who had a brain fart that cost the Commodores, and the New Orleans coach who let Mount St. Mary’s run out the clock as it wound down.)

OK, but other than those instances until, that is, the Cards took the floor in Indy against the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State, a middle of the pack Ohio Valley Conference #15 seed, which surprisingly snuck into the Dance with a league tourney title.

The school that shouldn’tabeen nervous was. The 20 point underdog was beyond the top of its game at tipoff. The highly regarded favorite Cardinals’ knees were knockin’. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Jacksonville State

Bracing Start to Best Week of the Year

What a bracing hoopaholic morning I had here at the beginning of the most wonderful week of the year.

The best four days in sports are just days away. Hours away actually, if you include the hors d’oeuvres that are those first four play in games in Dayton. And I do include them, because the appetizers simply whet the appetite for the grande 84 hour, 48 tilt buffet to come, commencing Thursday noon.

(Let’s hope they’ve filmed enough commercials with Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee and Charles Barkley so we don’t get tired of them.)

So, with my coffee this A.M., as is my wont, I opened the laptop and went to the b-ball sites to dive into the ocean of info available, ostensibly to help one fill out his bracket. (Which I haven’t done actually in several years, but might this time around for some odd reason not having anything to do with any sense I might win one.) Or, make a wager or deux.

The first thing I came upon was a reality check reminder, yet another memorandum of the absolute certainty of my most fervent adage of the season . . .

. . . You only play whom you play.

One of the sites counted down the top 10 moments in NCAA tourney history. With video.

Right off the bat, #10 on the list was one of the most excruciating. I’ll just leave it at this: U.S. Reed. Continue reading Bracing Start to Best Week of the Year

Louisville CardFile: Duke

So, the University of Louisville Cardinals, coached by a guy who loves to win conference tourneys as meaningless as they generally are, remain ofer the ACC tourney.

U of L, the higher seeded slight favorite over everybody’s favorite villain, succumbed to the Duke Blue Devils in a loss, the only significance of which might technically be to drop the Cardinals a seed line or two.

In terms of closing the deal, playing smart, rising to the occasion, and displaying dig in and git ‘er done moxie in the post season, Cardinal fans can only hope the quarterfinal setback isn’t a harbinger. Otherwise the Cards are in a heap o’ heap.

U of L can play one more game.

U of L can play six more games.

I’d take the under.

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U of L netted three more FGs than its conquerors.

U of L grabbed three more rebounds than the victors.

U of L had six blocks, doubling that of Duke.

U of L had 15 assists, six more than the BDs.

U of L dominated in the paint, 46-28.

U of L committed only 8 turnovers.

U of L led by a dozen with 13:07 to play, and were storming.

U of L lost 81-77. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Duke

Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame

Where to start?

Well, we could begin with arguably the gutsiest set out of bounds play in the history of U of L hoops.

Or, a git ‘er done second half performance for the ages.

Or, how a mediocre at best, anemic at worst FT shooting squad shot bester than the best in the land at the charity stripe. (Which nominates me for the award for Best Use of A  Word and its Permutations in a Single Sentence.)

Or, how the Ladybirds overcame serious technical difficulties to prove yet again how their discipline is one of America’s Great Endeavors.

Or, how the Cards didn’t let a mediocre effort at the end of the first, and an even lamer beginning to the second get them down.

Or, how U of L wobbled near the conclusion, but remained steadfast and, following the sage words of Mr. Bunny, “did not relinquish the lead.”

Or, how the guys in the white unis played a single defense all night — man to man — and thwarted one of the best coached, best executing teams extant.

And, time permitting, I’ll get to all that.

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But, first, let’s chat about Mangok Mathiang. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame

Louisville CardFile: Wake Forest

Two opportunities presented themselves Wednesday to express my trepidations in advance of last night’s road encounter with Wake Forest.

First came at my weekly lunch with a couple of pals, both Cardinal fans, one of whom played collegiately, albeit in the Ivy League. After we’d chatted about family, friends, Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” the president’s speech, the cockamamie weather, when we’d finished our meal with napkins crumpled on the table, I interjected, “We haven’t talked about what’s really important.

“Tonight’s game is really big. A win against Wake who is anxious for a big win to get into the tourney will be a real positive.”

Later in the day, an old comrade who has moved away to Gonzaga Country wondered on Facebook why U of L was only a three point favorite?

I posted something about the Demon Deacons being hungry, perched precariously on the bubble, better than their record, that it was a conference game on the road which is always a tough task, ending with “A Cardinal win would be HUGE.”

Not that a loss would be fatal, post season seeding is about in position, give or take a seed line, but that with a W, U of L could prove that it’s truly beginning to jell and is a legitimate national title contender.

Sigh.

It was not to be. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Wake Forest

Louisville CardFile: Syracuse

Throw back game.

Throw Down game.

(Donovan Mitchell wins the Dunking Cardinal Look Alike award for his leaping, one-handed exclamation point that put the Cardinals up 86-63.)

And down the stretch they come.

In the last tilt before the final week of the regular season, U of L dispatched Jim Boeheim’s short and under-manned Syracuse Orange, 88-68.

When these teams battled in OT game in the Carrier Dome, the Cards were stalwart early on D, holding the Orange scoreless on their first five possessions. Sunday afternoon, the Cards — with a new starting five which included V.J. King, Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding — were moving their feet, communicating and similarly stingy.

They forced a shot clock violation on the visitors’ first possession and turnovers on two others. ‘Cuse’s only tallies were a couple FTs. They even had to call a timeout two and a half minutes in.

In that last OT victory — Syracuse’s only home league loss this season — U of L scored 4 in its first handful of opportunities. This second time around, Louisville didn’t waste any early opportunities.

Donovan Mitchell trey. Anas Mahmoud follow. Ray Spalding oop slam on a pass from Quentin Snider. Q then netted a deuce, followed by another Spalding score.

Crisp and effective at both ends, Louisville was as sharp as they’ve been all season.

Then they got wobbly, giving up the advantage and falling behind at 13-14. Syracuse held the lead for 2:10, when the Cards grabbed the game for good on a Q threeball for an 18-17 lead with 8:57 to go before intermission.

Aided by an 18-4 run, their lead steadily increased, and stood at 16 at the break, 41-25.

The Orange kept pushing and the Cards lost some focus in the second. But never led by less than 11 after the break.

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So, with only dangerous Wake Forest and nemesis Notre Dame to face between now and Brooklyn and Selection Sunday, what did we learn from Sunday’s fun win? Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Syracuse

Louisville CardFile: North Carolina

Now that’s a setback.

As gritty as this Cardinal team has been playing in recent weeks, it is difficult nigh impossible to beat legitimate national contenders on their home court in the last week of February.

The Tar Heels, many of whom were significant contributors on last year’s NCAA runner up, are nothing if not a legit contenda for the crown.

So a victory last night would have indeed been an upset of consequence.

But, after savoring Syracuse’s delicious victory over Duke on last night’s undercard, I became oddly hopeful. The only ACC team to beat the Orange at home is Louisville. Not only did the Blue Devils fall in the Dome, but so too Florida State, Miami, Virginia along with a few other league wannabes.

So, even though U of L has been winning more with grit and determination lately than excellent play, there were reasons to believe the Cardinals would perform well in Chapel Hill.

But, they didn’t.

And now have lost 10 in a row to ranked foes on the road. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: North Carolina

Louisville CardFile: Virginia Tech

After a quick five zero Cardinal run to push U of L’s advantage to a unusually precarious 77-70, college hoops shivztingest coach Buzz Williams called timeout with 7:41 of destined to be harrowing time left.

During the stoppage, local weathercaster Kevin Harned came on the video board to announce tomorrow’s Fahrenheit. On the the 19th day of what is traditionally Mother Nature’s coldest, nastiest time of the year — February, the cruelest month — it’s forecasted to be 70 degrees in Derby City.

Which, since there’s no such thing as global warming, is plenty damn dumbfounding.

But not as wacky as this berserk reality. At that juncture of the who wants it more battle, the visitors were exceeding that 70 standard with their shooting behind the arc.

They had hit 15/21 long balls. 71%. Gimme a break.

The Hokies ended up 17/26 from beyond the arc. Still an absurd 65%. Of those, 11 were wide open, uncontested attempts. But only two of those came after intermission, meaning the Cards started sticking closer. VT still made 8/12 while being mostly closely guarded in the second.

This marksmanship was produced against the homestanding University of Louisville Cardinals, which coming into the game were 3d in the land in Three Point FG % D. No more. (U of L also was #1 before the game in D efficiency, according to hoops guru Ken Pomeroy. By sundown, after giving up all those long balls, 59% shooting overall and 90 points, Louisville’s rank fell to #5.)

Yet, the Cards prevailed, posting 94, their third largest output of the campaign.

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And how did that victory happen, you might ask? Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Virginia Tech