Tag Archives: NCAA Tournament

The Coach, His AD, A Provocateur & His Provocation

There are some arguments, to which there is essentially no resolution, back and forths that simply get carried on until lungs are depleted of breath.

Until then, the protagonists bray on.

These are common when the issues involved are local in nature and many people have a significant vested emotional interest.

I’ve just returned from my 31st New Orleans JazzFest, the original and sole focus of which from the get go was as a showcase for the indigenous music, food and culture of the Crescent City and Louisiana. But the economic realities of modern times have forced the festival, in order to survive, to feature big name acts with zero connection to the area, but are a draw for enough patrons to keep the Fest financially alive.

In the festival’s chatrooms, purists have railed year around about the situation for more than a decade. The Fest and the arguments proceed.

It was no surprise really that during Derby season, when the focus is usually on whether to buy the blue or pink patched Madras sportcoat, or which hat the size of a beach umbrella to wear on the 1st Saturday in May, that a new brouhaha broke out, when the winning thoroughbred was set down.

But this is Louisville, where basketball is the overriding passion of the populace but for two weeks a year, and the University of Louisville Cardinals are the beloved favorite of the city. Which brings me to the argument that will never end.

Even during Derby time, the fire was stoked yet again. Continue reading The Coach, His AD, A Provocateur & His Provocation

UVa’s Not So Cavalier Road to Redemption

The conversation with the former U of L Cardinal hoopster took place on a school charter flight to New Orleans for the ’82 Final Four.

He shall remain anonymous. He’d spent the wait before departure at one of SDF’s mini-bars, and didn’t have the clearest of heads.

To be fair, I was more than a bit jacked up myself. One, because that trip to the season’s last weekend was far from a given for my favorite team, all things considered. And, two, because, well, it was back in the day, and you know, well, you know. Let’s just say, my pal who drove me to the airport suggested I might consider a Thorazine drip as an antidote.

Anyway, when the two of us were chatting in our excitement, I kept mentioning how the Cards were going to the Final Four and vaunted, Ralph Samspon-led UVa was not.

“Yeah,” he responded, quizzically since I wasn’t really making my point clearly, “they lost to UAB.” Which U of L had then dispatched on their home court in Birmingham to advance, after the Blazers had upset Virginia, who easily had U of L’s number.

OK, not a great story, but my point — then and now — is that Virginia has been viewed as one of college basketball’s chronic underachievers. Going back to the that era, when Sampson & Mates, often ranked #1, only made it to one Final Four, and an Elite Eight.

Plus, the Wahoos have been at the wrong end of inarguably the two biggest upsets in the sport’s history. To Chaminade in December of ’82. And, yes I know you know, by twenty points last season in the first round as the highest seed to UMBC, the lowest seed.

Coach Tony Bennett has for a number of years carried around the same baggage as such as Dean Smith and Jay Wright before him, “best coach never to win the crown.” Bennett, for his regular season successes had never even made it past the regionals.

Which is to say this monkey on Virginia’s back goes back further than just last year’s wipeout during the first No Break on the Dance floor.

Which is not to say Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy and  De’Andre Hunter, who didn’t even play in that infamous L because he was injured, and their teammates haven’t had to deal daily with that devastating setback 24/7 for 52 weeks, plus 3 more.

Until last night. Continue reading UVa’s Not So Cavalier Road to Redemption

UVa vs. Texas Tech: There Will Be D

There was the moment when it fell apart for Virginia.

More than any other team in the land, Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers stick to the plan, never wavering from their disciplined, measured style.

Then they didn’t. To ill effect.

Up 57-48 with just under five minutes to play, Ty Jerome had the rock, in the post with a smaller Auburn defender checking him. The Cavaliers usually beauteous offense flow stopped. As his teammates ceased their normal cutting and weaving and picking to watch, Jerome tom-tomed the ball, backing the War Eagle down for a close in turnaround.

He missed. He thought he was fouled. And compounded the disruption and failure to tally by committing his fourth personal immediately thereafter in the backcourt with 4:32 left. Virginia’s catalyst took a seat on the pine.

Bryce Brown netted a trey. Then another after a Samir Doughty offensive board. Then Danjel Purifoy drained yet another second chance three.

Then, after Mamadi Diakite missed two freebies, Brown bullseyed another triple at 1:56. 59-57 in favor of the Bark-leys.

One guy’s opinion, that one little departure totally took the Cavaliers out of their flow. Emboldened, devoid of quit, Auburn took advantage.

Two Auburn FTs, and UVa was down four and :17 seconds from a second seriously disturbing  NCAA tournament meltdown in a row. Continue reading UVa vs. Texas Tech: There Will Be D

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

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

Five but Not All ’13 Cards Sue NCAA

I am he/ As you are he/ As you are me/ And we are all together

Those would be the lyrics of the Beatles iconic tune that Russ Smith and Peyton Siva and Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell are likely not singing this day, if they’ve digested the gist of the lawsuit filed by their 2013 teammates against the NCAA.

Those plaintiffs are Luke Hancock and Gorgui Dieng and Tim Henderson and Michael Marra and Stephann Van Treese, who have in essence demanded that ruling body of college sports clear their names but not those of their teammates, declare the claimants again champions and winners of the victories taken away.

Maybe it’s just me, but the whole deal smells like those involved in the suit are throwing their teammates under the bus. Where’s the one for all, all for one team spirit?

And who’s the Walrus? Continue reading Five but Not All ’13 Cards Sue NCAA

Brooms ‘r’ Us: Cards Sweep Cats, CWS Next

Well, then, the University of Louisville nine swept through arch rival Kentucky in the Supers, as it had the weekend before through Radford, Xavier and Oklahoma in the Regional.

Like a team being sponsored by O-Cedar Brooms.

Like a team hellbent on returning to the College World Series after two frustrating years of walk off disappointments when heavy favorites.

Like a team focused such that no impediment would prove an obstacle.

Such as, you know, the somewhat disturbing reality that the best player in the history of the program, who happens to be the best player in the sport this year, has so far hit a less than glossy .148 (3/21) for the NCAA tourney so far, including an ofer in the two Ws over UK.

But the dude in hurler mode was all that on the mound for six and two-thirds in the capper. He hit a batter for the first time all season. No biggie. Then, with Cats on 1st and 2d and one gone in the bottom of the 6th, he flinched while on the rubber. It was his first balk of the season.

No biggie. With the runners each having advanced a sack on the gaffe, Brendan McKay went K and K.

From the bullpen, Sam Bordner, as he’d done the weekend before, was brilliant and closed the deal.

Meanwhile, McKay’s Bash Bro, Drew Ellis rocked two more taters over the wall — he also homered in the series opener — going 3/4 and drawing a walk. Logan Taylor had two hits, scored twice and knocked one across. Devin Hairston was also 3/4, with a BB and a run scored. Continue reading Brooms ‘r’ Us: Cards Sweep Cats, CWS Next

Moxie Meets Its Match: Resilient Cards Meet Comeback Cats in Supers

High Noon.

Would we want it any other way?

Arch rivals U of L and UK are set to battle for a trip to the CWS in Omaha.

First pitch. Friday. 12:00 Noon.

The University of Louisville Cardinal nine had to dig deep into its reserve of pluck and guile to capture a fifth straight regional crown.

Do not be mislead by 11-6 and 11-1 victories over Radford and Oklahoma in Games #1 and #2. Each was fraught with peril, victory far from a certain until late.

The come from behind, come from behind, come from behind finale, a back and forth 8-7 escape over Xavier to live for another weekend, is a far more accurate portrayal of the Cards fifth consecutive NCAA Regional sweep.

Ahead: The Cardinals’ hated arch rival.

Meanwhile down the road, Kentucky’s Wildcats survived rain delays, and captured three straight elimination games, including a comeback against NC State in the finale, to advance to their first ever Super Regional.

Ahead: The Wildcats hated arch rival. Continue reading Moxie Meets Its Match: Resilient Cards Meet Comeback Cats in Supers