Louisville CardFile: Virginia Tech

So, before the game, Doc, SmartGuy and I are sitting around, fidgeting nervously, lamenting the state of the Cardinals, arguing about this and that before tip.

Among the topics bantered around was the assistant coaches.

Without access to practices, and little empirical observation, we wondered how much input they have, who might be responsible for what, etc, etc?

During the conversation, I brought up Trent Johnson, a fellow whose career resumé is lengthy but not especially noteworthy, noting how he doesn’t seem to coach much during the games, sitting as he seems to do at David Padgett’s side with a dour expression, like he’s constipated or something.

But now that we have learned he’s become a Ralph Willard-style whisperer, I feel compelled to apologize for my negativitude.

For we know it was Johnson who sagely urged Padgett to start Dwayne Sutton in Blacksburg. (As Ralph Willard urged Rick Pitino to sign, then not run off Russ Smith, changing the course of the Cards; Trent Johnson may have done the same somewhat similarly getting Padgett to insert Sutton as a starter.)

The DuPont Manual grad’s thirty six minutes on the hardwood, 17 points, 11 rebounds, relentless, dare I say tenacious D, and an explosion of a season’s worth of pent up pine time hustle were undeniably the catalyst for the Cardinals’ most intense performance of the campaign.

His high motor revved redline all game. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Virginia Tech

Louisville CardFile: Duke

There is of course a scintilla of hope, the aspiration that this put upon band of Cardinals can muster a rally in the next two weeks and salvage a season rapidly unraveling.

Yet, for some eery reason, it seems that midway through the opening half last night at Cameron Indoor, the winters of discontent facing U of L basketball descended earlier than expected.

U of L was hanging with an obviously superior Blue Devil squad. The Cards were patient on offense, getting the ball into the middle of the zone, sticking to a game plan that was based on going high/low.

They had overcome early jitters — turnovers on two of their first three possessions — and were hanging tough at both ends, behind only 15-16.

Grayson Allen — a consummate college basketball player whatever you might think of him — netted one of his six treys.

Then Deng Adel, as he’s wont to do, drove into No Man’s Land in the paint, where he remained in stasis after attempting to get the ball to a teammate. Three second call.

David Padgett rotated in Jordan Nwora and Malik Williams during a timeout. The rookies, lynchpins of the Cardinals’ increasingly bleak near future, appeared bewildered by the environment. In a blink, U of L lost contact, was down eleven before the interim coach could reinsert some experience.

From then on, Duke scored essentially at will. From beyond the arc, from which distance they drained nine. From point blank range, where they flushed, what, 13, 14, 15 dunks. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Duke

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