It wasn't easy bringing myself to write this post, but you know what else wasn't easy? Picking myself up from the spot on my friends' living room floor where I collapsed when then final buzzer sounded Saturday afternoon. But I did. Like 45 minutes ago. And here I am. Setting an example for all the young Chronicloids by proving that it only takes lying motionless for 48 hours despite the constant pleas and urgings of "it's just a game" and "you're not even on the team" from loved ones for someone to recover from a crushing loss, get off the ground, let those gross red blotches fade from your face and again become a player in the game of life.
There have been a couple of times over the last few seasons when I've conceded defeat and then been stunned to see the Cards storm back and somehow emerge with a victory. The acceptance of loss made those wins all the more satisfying.
And then there was Saturday. The first time I can remember ever feeling completely confident that a W was in hand, only to watch in horror as Louisville snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Cue the two days of face on floor.
Rick Pitino is the master of shrugging off losses, especially when they're surprising or come on a particularly big stage, but Pitino looked like he'd just been punched in the face repeatedly as he walked off the floor Saturday afternoon. After the game he called it the toughest loss to take since the famed Laettner shot in '92, and while somehow I think that the overtime loss in the '97 national title game might have stung just a little bit more than this one, the statement showed that he felt the same sledgehammer to the stomach all of us did.
Up five with less than a minute to go and you have defensive lapses, your best free-throw shooter clanking the front end of a one-and-one, one senior co-captain inexplicably fouling with 1.9 seconds to go and the other bricking 4-of-5 from the stripe. All this in a game the Cards desperately needed.
It's easy to say that everybody has to move on, but this is one I have a feeling we might very well still be talking about on Selection Sunday morning.
All right, so we're squarely on the mythical mid-January bubble, almost certainly on the outside looking in. Let's play a quick good news, bad news.
GOOD NEWS: There isn't a team in the Big East that Louisville can't beat.
BAD NEWS: It certainly appears that this year's Big East is going to feature everyone beating up on one another, making the potential for a quality win over a top five (or so) team that could negate a couple of bad losses significantly lower than it was a year ago. This means that Louisville has absolutely got to hold serve against the other teams that figure to be jumbled in the middle of the standings (Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, etc.) and then also knock off a West Virginia or Syracuse at some point.
The non-conference hole that Louisville dug itself this year is even deeper than it's been in seasons past. Charlotte and Western Carolina at home look just a tad worse than UNLV on the road or Dayton in Cincinnati. This makes the previous two losses that much harder to stomach.
GOOD NEWS: Against the best in the league, Samardo Samuels has finally looked capable of living up to the hype.
BAD NEWS: Against the best in the league, Jerry Smith and Edgar Sosa have looked worse than they did three years ago.
GOOD NEWS: Preston Knowles is still on the team.
BAD NEWS: Almost Dunking Marques Maybin's phone has been disconnected.
I said this a couple of weeks ago - and prefaced it then, as I do now, with a full-acknowledgment that this is probably me significantly over-thinking things - but I wonder if the addition of Andre Mcgee to the staff isn't having a negative effect on Edgar Sosa.
Don't get me wrong, I'm completely aware of the fact that the two are friends, but Edgar admitted at the beginning of this season that it was hard for him to play loose knowing that Andre was on the bench ready to check in at any moment. This is a guy that Sosa competed with for three seasons over the thing that mattered more to him than just about anything (PT) and now here he is back on staff, primarily working with Sosa's highly-touted backup, who just so happens to be back at full strength for the first time since the beginning of the season.
I know most of you are thinking that this is a reach, which it probably is, but honestly, I think it would bother me, and Edgar certainly hasn't looked like the same player - whether it's his play, effort or overall demeanor - we had all grown to know and love during the first half of this season.
Even if Pitino thought the above theory was 100% true, nothing would change. Why? Because he thinks he can win a national championship here in two seasons.
Pitino recently admitted that he doesn't see himself coaching more than three or four more seasons. Whether that's actually the case or not, who knows, but it's the mindset he currently possesses. With his career (perhaps) winding to a close, it's natural that the man would want to cut down the nets on the grandest of stages one more time.
If we're being real (be real real, son), it would take absolutely everything going right for this team to do it, and the odds will be even more stacked against the '10-'11 Cards. But the year after, with an experienced and (thanks to the tutelage of one, Andre McGee) defensive-minded Peyton Siva running the show and the lethal inside combo of (barring injury, transfer or professional defection) Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings coupled with (potentially) the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, well, that's a group that could accomplish tremendous things.
Now with the recruiting game being the way it is (gross), there's no way to know for sure who's going to comprise that class of 2011, but if things do shake out the way Pitino intends, don't think he isn't already thinking about the potential.
No one will ever admit it, but in the grand scheme of things, the development of younger players might be the best thing that can come out of this season.
Samardo: you can't see me, but I'm clapping for you right now. You certainly earned it. You also certainly earned a pack of Starburst, but I'm not really sure how I could get that to you and it would probably freak you out anyway, so I guess just treat yourself, man.
Can't blame the loss on a talisman, since none actually appeared on the game thread. But I know what we can blame: MS. CC'S F---ING MAC BOOK.
It's gotta be something.
Jamie Dixon's a bad ass. Seriously.
No stat may better sum up this year's team than the fact that they hit 39-of-45 (87%) free-throws in the Villanova fiasco, and then followed that up by hitting just 10-of-17 and clanking 5-of-6 (including two front ends of one-and-ones) with the game on the line against Pitt.
Edgar Sosa's taking a lot of heat (again), but I don't think the stuff about him storming off the floor after the game is warranted since on the telecast it pretty clearly showed him shaking Pitt's players hands along with the rest of the team.
Almost shattering the backboard on a crunch-time free-throw attempt is a bit tougher to defend.
I love Jerry Smith. I don't want Jerry Smith anywhere near the floor with him playing the way he is, but I still love him.
Honestly, what do you do with the lineup right now if you're Pitino?
Nobody knows what we're going to get from our threes and fours on any given night, but to expect it to be anything substantial at this point would be foolish. Preston Knowles has got to be on the floor for at least 25 minutes, but what if Jerry finally starts coming around? The three guard lineup hasn't exactly thrived when thrown out there. What if Siva keeps progressing and Sosa keeps regressing? At what point do you start worrying about Terrence Jennings potentially transferring?
I don't think there's any question that this team has the talent to make the tournament and win a game or two, but finding the right recipe to make that happen is becoming more and more difficult to decipher.
It would have been really cool to be 3-0 in a building where no one else appears capable of winning. God, this loss sucked.
The Reggie Delk fakeout of the crowd after he fouled out was pretty awesome. It would have been really awesome if we had won.
We're awful in late game situations with the outcome on the line. I mean think about all of the awful last-second shot attempts we've put up or given up in recent years. Georgetown, UConn, Texas A&M, Cincinnati, Villanova (the 15 tip in chances), I mean even the ones that have gone in have been prayers.
Jared Swopshire taking a fadeaway three from (literally) out-of-bounds should have surprised no one. Swop leaving a three-point shooter wide open in the corner after a timeout was more frustrating.
Yikes, that's hard to look at. I still love you, Swop. You're playing hard and your voice is really cool.
It's all right, we'll get these guys in the Garden. Oh yeah. Shit.
We make the tournament.