Cards start Slow then Roll, Monster Mash a-comin’? & More from Day 4

The Battle of the Behemoths is inevitable.

I, without a scintilla of prevarication, absolutely, positively guarantee it shall come to pass.

Walter Sobchak, mark it ten.

If not Baylor vs. Gonzaga, and more about that in just a sec, there shall be Godzilla vs. Kong at a cineplex near you starting this Thursday.

(FYI, there are actual odds on that battle. King Kong is -150. I’m goin’ with the ‘Zill, because it rhymes with the Ville.)

As for the Dance, the Bears vs. the Bulldogs is far from a given.

But, as much as I hate chalk, it would be a fitting end to this berserko season, and the Big Dance that always — always — delivers.

Here’s my analogy, a stretch perhaps. Won”t be my first, or the last. Continue reading Cards start Slow then Roll, Monster Mash a-comin’? & More from Day 4

Big Dance Cliché Rules: NCAA Day 3

“This is what the NCAA tournament is all about!”

How many times have we heard it? Through the years? The last three days?

A lot.

When the visual is Javion Hamlet’s dad, in his homemade North Texas sweatshirt, running up and down the aisles. Or Eric Musselman, flush with a Wooooo Pig Soooey victory, standing on a table.

Or, iconic Sister Jean in her Loyola jacket, applauding the Ramblers take down of the Illini.

The story about how Rutgers’ Jacob Young is the son of Phi Slamma Jama’s Michael Young. (Though I could do without the footage of the ’83 semi-final game.)

I’m somewhat more inclined to think of it describing the moments actually on the court.

Like 15 seed Oral Roberts, ranked #129 by Ken Pomeroy, coming from 11 down with under ten minutes to play to upend Florida.

Or, Oregon State, whom neither you nor I gave a nanosecond of thought to during the season, taking down Oklahoma State, who we heard about every day because of the Cowboys’ star freshman.

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But, for me, “This is what the NCAA tournament is all about” is about Loyola (Chicago) 71, Illinois 58. Continue reading Big Dance Cliché Rules: NCAA Day 3

Card Loyalty, JP Soars: Lights Out @ NC2A Part Deux

It was Lights Out on Day 2 of our favorite annual basketball indulgence.

Figuratively.

Literally.

First of all in Assembly Hall, Saturday’s surprise team in green, the Ohio U Bobcats were trailing favorite UVa, 39-40, with a smidge less than 8:00 to play.

Then Ben Vander Plas, besties pal and rival of Sam Hauser since youth, went Lights Out. Triple with assist from Jason Preston, about whom you’ll read more in a bit. 42-40. Another trey by BVP, after another assist by Preston. 45-40. Followed by a crafty, slithering deuce at the hoop, then more of the same, after a Wahoo tally. 49-42 Bobcats with less than 4:00 to play.

Then it was Lights Out at Seedy K’s Hoops Hacienda.

As in, I mean really, a power outage. Darkness. Continue reading Card Loyalty, JP Soars: Lights Out @ NC2A Part Deux

Has the Party Started, or What!!!

“The Bobs and the Bucks. Whoa, Nellie.”

Smart Guy’s text as Oral Roberts and The Ohio State University were headed to OT, captured the whole gloriosity perfectly.

We are dancin’, doin’ the Time Warp again.

The missive was sort of a response to a digital exclamation of mine to him during the First Four. When either Drake or Wichita State hit a late trey to make that tussle a one possession battle with seconds to play — Forgive me for lack of details, my memory has turned into a gumbo immersion of delightful hoops memories — and I less poetically opined, “I love college hoops.”

As an exclamation point, during that ORU stunner, Ian Eagle, the best of the play by play guys, more excited than usual, sang out, “Overtime Wedgie,” when the ball got stuck between hoop and backboard.

Oh, how I love this. Continue reading Has the Party Started, or What!!!

One Last Cardinal Post Mortem (As if We Need It)

The phrase jumped out at me.

It was in theathletic.com’s Justin Williams’ autopsy of the travails of Cincinnati basketball, and the mass exodus of Bearcat netters, unhappy with the style of their coach.

Louisville fans are far from the only ones wallowing in angst, while watching 68 schools other than their favorite dance.

Given my forgiving and, I believe, understanding view of the Cardinals’ underwhelming performance this campaign, the words resonated.

Referring to the mental strain of college aged youngsters playing in this weird, COVID-impacted season, Williams underscored the difficulties, citing this:

“restrictions of the pandemic and the emotional anguish it levied” Continue reading One Last Cardinal Post Mortem (As if We Need It)

Cardinals’ Bubble Popped

Slip slidin’ away/ Slip slidin’ away/ You know the nearer your destination/ The more you’re slip slidin’ away

Not that after their late season swoon, I was ever in any way really confidant that U of L would make the Dance, my attitude, if wary, was for some inexplicable reason tipping toward the positive until 3:34 Saturday afternoon. It was then revealed in the ESPN scrawl, that Bracketologist inventor Joe Lunardi had lowered the Cards to the First Four Play In Round. Just a week before, they were a projected 9 seed.

Even though Lunardi invented the whole guessing the 68 thing, he’s not proven to be the most accurate through the years. But he has a sense of what’s happening. And it was the trend spiraling downward by the day that dampened my spirits.

Twelve minutes later, Dan Gavett, NCAA hoops guru, was interviewed. He mentioned how 39 teams were locks. Then that there were something like 3-7 others to chose from. Queasiness ensued. Continue reading Cardinals’ Bubble Popped

Sittin’ on a Bubble, Is it Selection Sunday yet?

As hard as I tried to write out the time-clock-countdown music from the $64,000 Question, I couldn’t properly align the consonants and verbs, so it would make sense.

So, you, my loyal readers, will have to get in touch with your inner Hal March and conjure them on your own.*

*If you don’t even know the cultural reference I’m talking about, ask your Aunt Martha what TV show grabbed everybody’s attention in the mid 50s.

The point — yes this is about hoops — is that the Louisville Cardinals and their diehard fans are ticktocking along precariously, hoping the pins and needles they are sitting upon don’t burst the bubble underneath.

Six o’clock Sunday evening seems so very far in the future, especially when you keep looking at your watch every 68 seconds, and learning you have to root for a team with a coach you absolutely loathe, LSU, to beat Ole Miss. Because the Rebs are similarly situated to the Cards. Continue reading Sittin’ on a Bubble, Is it Selection Sunday yet?

Louisville CardFile: Duke

This is the way the season ends/ This is the way the season ends/ This is the way the season ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper.

I’ve stolen and skewed T.S. Eliot before. And do so again.

It’s never quite as appropriate as the right now, is it?

It applies figuratively, if not literally.

In its 56-70 loss to Duke in the ACC tourney 2d round, the Louisville Cardinals looked tired, forlorn, and without a clue how to attack the Blue Devils’ defense. Or stop Matthew Hurt. Or stop Mark Williams, who in the absence of any Cardinal presence in the middle had his way.

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There’s a reason why no school has bested a Mike Krzyzewski squad thrice in a season since the Ralph Sampson/ Rick Carlisle/ Othell Wilson Virginia Cavaliers of ’82-’83. Chris Mack is far from the first coach to get outmaneuvered by the best in the history of the game.

Which doesn’t make it any less hard to watch. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Duke

A Bubblicious Hoopaholic On Tenterhooks

Mr. Bunny’s call before U of L’s regular season finale began, as is his MO, not with a salutation, but a leading question.

“You agree, right, the Cardinals are a lock for the NCAA?”

“Uh, no.”

Louisville lost to Virginia, as they most always do, and didn’t look especially good doing it.

Thus, I am fully in touch with my inner Seth Greenberg.

Not the guy in the studio with ‘Phons, who sometime Wednesday night will be discussing the state of the Cardinals amid the Championship Week chitter chatter.

The Cards will have beaten Duke. At which point, the conversation will hearken back to some time in the long distant past when the talking heads will wonder if anybody’s bested the Blue Devils thrice in a season? Like maybe the Tar Heels back in the day of Charlie Scott or Lennie Rosenbluth. Duke will be the focus; U of L, an afterthought. Continue reading A Bubblicious Hoopaholic On Tenterhooks

Louisville CardFile: Virginia

When the pack line defense is working at its best, the purpose is to funnel the offense into a clogged middle, where the player with the ball will be surrounded and smothered.

Even in an off season defensively, Virginia plays that defense better than just about everybody else.

So, it’s a head scratcher that Louisville’s offensive game plan appeared to be: Give the ball to Indispensable Carlik Jones or David Johnson on the pick and roll, and have them drive the ball into . . .

. . . the middle, which is clogged, and where they will be surrounded. And, especially in diminutive ICJ’s case, smothered.

So, it is only mildly surprising that Jones did not tally from the field until the 16:50 mark of the second half. He was 0/8 in the first, 2/15 from the game, while having several shots blocked. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Virginia