Category Archives: Basketball

And Then There Were But Four

In a seriously compelling four days of battles, when the Big Dance field was whittled from 16 to 8, then halved again to Four for the Final weekend of the college hoops campaign, one sequence, for me anyway, stands out above all the other moments, both boffo and otherwise, depending on one’s particular and peculiar rooting interest.

With about five seconds to play, the Virginia Cavaliers were down three to Purdue, and perilously close to another Tony Bennett failure to make to the season’s last roundup. PG Ty Jerome was at the charity line with the possibility of cutting the lead to a single digit.

Jerome made the first. Jerome missed the second. He says his intent was to make the free throw. I’ve watched the video any number of times and it seems so. Though there is a contrarian view that he really intended to miss the shot, that UVa practices for such scenarios every day in practice.

Whatever. Here’s the deal. Here’s what Bennett’s charges do that most teams of caliber do not. And did do in that moment. Continue reading And Then There Were But Four

Sixteen As Sweet & Chalky as the Candy of My Youth

If you are old enough to remember the Bard Theater, now long gone from its spot on Bardstown Road just northwest of the Taylorsville Road split, where you like me might have spent adolescent Saturday afternoons cutting up with pals, terrorizing the manager and taking in double feature matinees of Red Skelton and Abbott & Costello; if that registers in any way, then you might remember, or perhaps even have savored the candy of my youth.

Necco Wafers. A nickel at the concession stand after your mom dropped you off so she could play cards with her friends in peace for a few hours. They were the go to treat, since they lasted so long. Though that braying you hear in the background is some contrarian feedback from the Milk Duds crowd.

Anyway, Necco Wafers came rolled up like quarters in waxed paper and were a mix of mildly fruit flavored discs, plus chocolate and cinnamon and maybe clove. I took to getting the all chocolate roll when available, which was like, you know, a really cool development when you are 11 years old and only had that nickel to spend after the twenty cent admission.

Like I indicated the candy’s longevity was its primary asset.

Because, to be honest, those flavors were but a vague hint. There was sweetness, since they were probably all sugar, but the primary recollection, which never dissuaded me, mind you, is that they tasted mostly like chalk

Sweet. Chalk. Like this season’s last sixteen standing. Continue reading Sixteen As Sweet & Chalky as the Candy of My Youth

Louisville CardFile: Minnesota

Now is not the time for coulda woulda shouldas.

Neither for the finale, a ten point loss to the Golden Gophers, nor for the season as a whole.

This Louisville contingent, as Reggie Miller pointed out, composed of last year’s subs and three unheralded grad transfers, won 20 games, and, beyond any reasonable expectations, made it to the Dance.

It is time to cherish the positives of this transition season, not to belabor the issues that have discussed ad nauseum from the get go.

Soooooo, if you’re looking for the Cards mighta been in it, mighta moved on for a rematch with Michigan State, if this guy had drained this three, if that guy hadn’t lost the ball trying to do too much, or if Mack hadn’t subbed Z for Y with XX:XX minutes to go, you need to look elsewhere.

There are no breakdowns contained herein, no exposition on turning point moments, no strategic extrapolation. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Minnesota

Louisville CardFile: North Carolina

Every team with a legitimate shot at sitting on the top shelf, every quintet that yearns to be among the upper echelon, needs a go to guy.

A baller who can hit the J, who can get it to the tin, who has the will and talent to take over a game if need be. At both ends of the hardwood.

In this regard, the Cardinal moment I often refer back upon came in Knoxville in ’83. The Cards couldn’t quite catch up with the Cats in the 2d at Stokely. After a Big Blue score, Lancaster Gordon grabbed the ball as it dropped from the net, slammed it to the floor and exclaimed with force and conviction, “Enough of this shit!”

I needn’t explain to U of L fans what Caster and his mates did from then on.

It is this ’18-’19 overachieving but still not-quite-ready Louisville Cardinal contingent in microcosm that Jordan Nwora aspires to be that guy. There are instances when it works, for him and the Cards. And just as many, probably more when it doesn’t.

At the 7:35 media break of the 1st, the Tar Heels iconic transition game had the Cardinals heads spinning. Jay Bilas noted, “it looks like a lay up line for Carolina.” U of L was down 21-34.

Then came this boffo interlude. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: North Carolina

Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame

The good news for the University of Louisville Cardinals is they got to play Notre Dame in their ACC tourney opener.

The Cards notched their 20th W of the campaign against the Irish, as woeful a league foe as U of L has faced since the strange days of the Metro. The 75-53 victory is the largest margin in the history of the series.

The bad news for the University of Louisville Cardinals is they won’t get to play Notre Dame again this season.

The potholed road for post-season success gets significantly more arduous, commencing tonight against North Carolina in the league tourney quarterfinals.

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Other than as a confidence booster, there’s not much to be gleaned about the future from Wednesday evening’s walkover.

The Cardinals took care of biz.

Which, given some recent inexplicably underwhelming efforts, is a good thing. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame

The Brackets are Coming, the Brackets are Coming: Part III

Before we walk a step further, it is imperative that we revisit what is Rule #1 in March.

Which is, all together now class, “You only play who you play.”

Period. End of lesson. Truth be told, all other rules pale in comparison.

This was underscored yesterday when Coach Chris Mack met the media in advance of the ACC tournament. Asked what he thought about the tourney bracket, he advised he’d only considered Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, one of whom the Cards will battle Wednesday evening, and North Carolina, whom U of L would play if the Cardinals win their opener.

Of considering other possible foes, he asked, “What’s the point?”

Do not project, kids, it’s one game at a time. Cliché? Of course. Still: The Truth.

So, here’s my mea culpa, about my moment of not heeding my own admonition. I’ve researched whom the Cards might meet in the Dance, should they land on the projected 7,8, or 9 line. For which transgression, I am sheepishly wearing a hair shirt as I write.

I’ll reveal those names if and when Louisville’s next game is in the NCAA tournament. Continue reading The Brackets are Coming, the Brackets are Coming: Part III

Louisville CardFile: Virginia

During the halcyon days of the 80s, when the University of Louisville Cardinals were the Team of the Decade, the Professor and I would often speak of our love of “program wins.”

Those would be victories when the Cards would be a bit off their feed, not shooting so well, out of kilter at the offensive end, not shutting down their foes’ biggest weapons, but when the fundamentals, proper technique, developed habitual techniques, fortitude, inner swagger, and talent would out, when the course would be stayed, when the opponent eventually, frustrated, would make critical mistakes that cost them the games.

Saturday’s 73-68 defeat was a program win for UVa.

The Cavaliers didn’t shoot it especially well overall. They surrendered more points than usual, allowed themselves to be outpointed underneath, and were outrebounded by nine.

Yet, they stayed the course. The victors were ready to win, the defeated were not. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Virginia

The Brackets are Coming, The Brackets are Coming, Part Deux

Like the hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, my Basketball Jones needs to be fed.

Thus I found myself Friday evening, still more than a week and a nation full of conference tournaments away from Selection Sunday, surfing hither and yon for a fix.

During which fixation, I happened upon Little Ricky’s Golden Gophers, finishing their less than scintillating regular campaign with a clunk in College Park. And who should be manning the pivot but none other than Matz Stockman in his umpteenth year of mostly pine time in the States.

Unless I again happen upon almost-but-not-quite-on-the-bubble Minnesota in some Wednesday afternoon B10 tourney afterthought, my last vision of Matz, a U of L Cardinal until cast off by Rick the Elder like a scuffed pair of tassel loafers, was of him missing a point blank layup against the Terps. But let’s give credit where it’s due. Earlier in the week, he had a career game — such as it was — against Purdue’s similarly oversized foreigner Matt Haarms.

Everybody who told me back when that Matz would be a significant force for the Cards by his junior or at least senior year, The Rick’s next Nazr Mohammed, raise your hands.

Uh, yoo hoo, where all y’all be?

 * * * * *

Unless you’re a fan of, say, Texas or IU, a couple of multi-loss schools still considered Dance possibilities, you want to be rooting for Murray State in Saturday night’s OVC Tourney final. Continue reading The Brackets are Coming, The Brackets are Coming, Part Deux

The Brackets are Coming, The Brackets are Coming, Part I

I’ve double checked my algorithms, hacked into the ACC database, perused the conference standings, studied the league tourney bracket, invoked the spirit of Billy Packer, crunched the numbers, consulted Madame Ruth at 34th and Vine, and thus make this prognostication:

The University of Louisville Cardinals will be the #7 seed in next week’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Which, if said prediction is correct, means the Cards will play at 7:00 PM next Wednesday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, and on your telly at Spectrum Channel 924.

They’ll play the victor of the 1st round matchup between the #10 and #15 seeds. Which could be any of the six bottom feeders of the league. When I tried to calculate which schools are more likely to settle into those spots, my computer said, “No Mas!”

 * * * * *

As long as we are looking and longing toward the horizon, let’s talk about Sunday a week, and the week that follows. Continue reading The Brackets are Coming, The Brackets are Coming, Part I

Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame

Soon enough we shall come to praise VJ King, as he deserves to be praised, as he deserves any and all accolades coming his way after his revivification Sunday afternoon.

But first, there’s this.

At this time of year when fan bases are entering gymnasiums across the land, wondering whether their favorite teams are pre- or post-bubblicious, when they are thinking maybe they should save themselves some grief and accept that dinner party invite the evening of March 17 at the home of their neighbors who just moved to town and don’t understand how sacrosanct that moment is around these parts, there’s a phrase that echoes across Hoopsylvania: “This game is a must win.”

For the reeling Louisville Cardinals, Notre Dame was indeed a “must win.”

If for self esteem alone.

And so V I C T O R Y That’s the Senior Battle Cry came to pass in a workmanlike manner, 75-61, over the underwhelming Fighting Irish.

There are any number of reasons why the Cards prevailed, the most important of which might be they not only didn’t fold down the stretch, not only did they hold on for the victory, but they actually increased the margin in the final quarter of the game.

They cut off the head of the beast to slay it. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Notre Dame