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.)
Unlike the battle that ended with U of L’s championship in ’13 — what we tend these days to call an “instant classic” — Monday’s slogfest shall easily be forgotten. The only way you’ll be able to research the game in the future will be to descend some creaky steps to a dank storage basement, ask some dottering clerk for the file, and wait while he asks you to repeat your request then finds his glasses and stumbles down aisles of moldy filing cabinets until he can locate it.
It wasn’t the worst title game of our lifetime. But it does reside for posterity but a wafer thin niche above the UConn/ Butler abomination of several years back. Only the peach baskets remain from that one.
So, I guess, Louisville fans should be glad their team wasn’t a part of Monday’s fiasco, though such thoughts are but faint respite for a campaign that ended abruptly with a less than ascendant but hardly unexpected performance against Michigan during the tournament’s first weekend.
But I’m not here to yet again diagnose the issues that plagued the ’16-’17 edition of the Cardinals. Those considerations have been rode hard and put up wet.
Then again it’s never to early to consider the next campaign. And those predictions started hitting the wires nanoseconds after Kennedy Meeks’ daring game-secruring block sealed the Bulldogs’ fate as the team that also ran.
U of L is a consensus choice to be a Top 5 national contender next season.
I hope so.
I’m not sure.
One must assume there shall be the natural improvement from continued instruction and maturation.
What the returnees really need is an infusion of grit. The one recurring vision that sums up last season for me is that ball rolling down the floor in the UVa game, and only orange shirts chasing after it.
Then there’s the matter of V.J. King, the team’s only Golden Arches A-A.
This past rookie season, he led the Cardinals in three point percentage, free throw percentage, and field goal percentage, the latter if you don’t factor in the bigs playing at what should be point blank range.
Yet he only played 13 1/2 minutes a game. The Rick, when he offered an opinion why, would mention defensive deficiencies. I say the whole team was defensively flawed, despite the meme that is almost universal among the “experts,” that Louisville always plays great defense.
So, there’s that King thing. Which is an adjunct to the expectations that Louisville has a top recruiting class coming in.
I hope so.
I’m not sure.
And not sure we’ll find out next season.
If we’ve learned anything about Rick Pitino, it’s that he’s old school, and generally loathe to give significant playing time to rookies, V.J. being but the most recent example.
Samardo Samuels was an exception.
Francisco Garcia, maybe.
Can’t immediately think of anybody else, though there might be another outlier or two.
But, you know what, I’m going to let it sit.
The sun’s come out.
The Cardinal nine plays arch rival tonight at The Jim.
It’s time to seize this day, and fret over next b-ball season when it draws nigh.
— Seedy K