Cards & Cats Through a Crystal Ball

Am I hallucinating? Did I watch the U of L hoopsters piss away a 7-point lead with 50 seconds to go, then beat UK on a trey right before the buzzer? From 25 feet? From Edgar Sosa?

Is the kid on top of the press table screaming? Are the fans who days ago were blaspheming him now hearing “One Shining Moment?”

It’s a couple hours after that celebration has faded into its own wacky parade. I’m watching the DVR of U of L’s fuhrschlunginer three-point escape. I’m still rubbing my eyes, not hearing that CBS tourney theme or “This is It!” But, wondering if Sosa is now somebody to love, I’m hearing the Airplane: When the truth is found to be lies

What I’m supposed to be doing is something else entirely with a deadline drawing nigh (sorry Mr. Glorious Editor). Which is complementing Bill Doolittle’s exposition on the state of the trey in college hoops. He’s going for the insightful, a heady consideration of the game’s big issues, while my assignment is to take the inventory of the local squads, peruse the ledger of pluses and minuses, make a few predictions, passing along astute observations on the Red’s and Blue’s chances as the league seasons begin.

Well and good.

But I can’t shake the phantasmagoric images of what I saw — or think I saw — at Freedom Hall on Sunday. Is this one of those brown-acid flashbacks they warned us about?

I just checked online to see who won the second NFL playoff game, only to discover that North Carolina — the mighty mighty Tar Heels for chrissakes — took it on the chin in their ACC opener to unranked Boston College. In the Dean Dome. This after Georgetown smacked UConn in Hartford, then days later broke down before Pitt at home. On the same day, young Wake Forest — they’re still teething — broke the country’s longest home winning streak at always-mature BYU.

Which is to say, my fellow hoopaholics, we’re not in Kansas anymore. It’s a new year.

Game On.

Well, what about the locals?

Undefeated Bellarmine is in good shape. Their squad beat Northern Kentucky the other night worse than U of L did. One of the Knights was asked if he thought they were better than the Cards? Smart fellow, he. Bellarmine’s one of them academic schools, you know. He said something to the effect that if Louisville played like a team, “which is what we do,” they’d be real good.

As for the Cards and the Cats, well, hm?

My guess is, when push comes to shove, when the real contendas are making their push for NCAA seedings and a run to the Final Four, U of L will be on the outside looking in. Not that they won’t make it into the tourney, mind you. One guy’s opinion is that this team has too many psychological flaws for even a Ph.D. therapist like Rick Pitino.

Against UK, the Cards shot 47 percent (11-20 from beyond the arc), made their free throws (19-23), were the beneficiary of 21 turnovers, some of which they actually forced. They still needed a Hail Mary three at the end to steal the W.

In the last five minutes, with margins to build on, Terrence Williams and Earl Clark each committed two critical turnovers. They displayed all the savvy of biddy ballers at St. Polycarp. Clark, in a trance, played like there was a Globetrotters scout in the Hall. In the last minute with a 7-point advantage, Jerry Smith fouled Jodie Meeks on a trey, after a timeout when Coach had emphasized not to foul the shooter. No leadership seminar there.

So you tell me: Do the Cards look like a team that can survive, let alone conquer, the rigors of the Big East? What happens when they play Notre Dame and Pitt back to back? Samardo, allow me to introduce Mr. Harangody and Mr. Blair. Cincy and Georgetown on the road with only a day in between? West Virginia and UConn only three days apart?

Beating the Cats was a good thing. The Cards played their best game of the year. Such as it was. Buuuut … they committed 10 turnovers in the second half, blew the entirety of that comfy lead with less than a minute on the clock and were battered on the boards. All this at home, in front of a raucous throng that actually got in a few cheers between T-shirt tosses.

Some might think the W money in the bank. I say it’s fool’s gold. U of L looks like a 10-8 conference team at best. Then again, I might still be tripping.

UK is harder to figure out. Eliminate just half the unforced turnovers and they would have had Louisville measured the whole way. Get those guys some resin. Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson are the deal. The others, though often tentative, know what to do and mostly try to do it. When they’re not coughing up the rock, that is.

Now comes SEC play. It’s a league with only a suspect Tennessee team in the Top 25. John Pelphrey has Arkansas on the uptick. LSU might be legit now that John Brady’s gone. Darrin Horn’s got the Gamecocks humming. Other than that, it’s a teenage wasteland.

Which is to offer that the Wildcats may be a legit challenger, that they’re the ones who should be singing.

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