Usually you wake up from bad dreams or nightmares but I am not waking up from this one.I usually hope that this pain goes away and after several hours of severe depression where my friends entitled me "Debbie Downer" during tonight's festivities because I would have rather be in a corner punching the wall then watching entertaining football I came to a conclusion. In order for me to sleep tonight, I must put my thoughts down on paper otherwise I may go crazy. First of all, not many people no much about me except I was born and bred in Louisville but attended school at TCU (undergraduate and graduate). My love for UofL sports, especially men's basketball, is only surpassed by my love for Christ. Yes, it trumps my love of women.Whenever UofL loses a game, all of my friends will tell you I am beyond consolation. As an aspiring coach and basketball enthusiast I feel like I have some adequate thoughts to share. I may not be Rick Pitino (nobody should want him fired yet. Chill out people) but I do know the game (or at least I think so anyways if that means much. Here are my thoughts, not in any order:
1. Louisville's biggest problem is the lack of a true superstar. Team basketball can only get you so far but there are games where you need an Austin Rivers or a Terrence Jones (gag but the guy is immensely talented) to carry your team when the games are close. Our lack of a go-to player is killing us. I love Siva but he is inconsistent. Russ Smith is inefficient and Kuric makes himself easy to guard by floating around the perimeter. Without a go-to scorer, Louisville is in trouble. Deep trouble.
2. Outside shooting. In college basketball, games are won beyond the arc. If you don't have superior athletes the easiest way to win is to make threes. That has been a staple of Pitino basketball for years and this year, we just don't make enough of them. Unless someone gets white hot from beyond the arc, Louisville will struggle. This is where we miss Mike Marra. Marra may have been boom or bust but you had to guard him because he could make it. Russ Smith is inconsistent. Kuric has been ice cold and disappears for too long. Chris Smith has been abducted by aliens and has forgotten how to play basketball. Somebody from UofL has to start making 3s or I will be having nightmares for many more nights this season.
3. Rebounding.This Notre Dame team should not have gotten so many offensive rebounds. I don't know how Behanan or Dieng or Buckles don't completely own the defensive backboards but their second shot opportunities killed us. When you're playing a team that has decided to deliberately slow the game down you have to rebound. I don't think it was for lack of effort. I think it was lack of fundamentals. Nobody was boxing out and nobody was in position for long rebounds. Sometimes you just have to keep it simple and you can see it on the faces of our players: panic. They knew they couldn't afford to lose this game so they made little mistakes and made gambles they shouldn't have made (here's looking at you Russ Smith who reaches in late in the game instead of staying between your man and the basketball.That's basketball 101. You reach. I teach. C'mon son!) I believe that panic also led to poor decisions which leads to my fourth point...
4. Do What You Do. I love this phrase. Do what you do and do it well and I think UofL has forgotten what has gotten them 13 wins so far. They have forgotten that it takes a full 40 minutes and we have fooled ourselves into thinking we can play with zero intensity for half a game, turn it on, and beat you. Twice at home it has failed. Miserably. Eventually, you're going to lose games that shouldn't have been close to begin with. UofL was up 7 late in this game. They started out fast against Georgetown and just turned off the gas pedal and let the Hoyas hang around and eventually allowed them to take a double digit 2nd half lead. You can't do that! Louisville has been accustomed to winning games like this- and losing a game like this should teach them a lesson (but the same could've been said about the Georgetown game).
At the end of the day I have came to this realization. I usually come to this same conclusion after every lost: There is more to life than Louisville basketball but to me, Louisville basketball remains important. Never have I wanted a national title so bad. With every season that passes, my desire for Louisville to have the One Shining Moment increases and it kills me that after going 12-0 I believed this could be our year but now we have lost 3 out of 4 and hope is fading fast however I find inspiration in the immortal words of Coach Taylor:
Give all of us gathered here tonight the strength to remember that life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable and we will all at some point in our lives fall; we will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts…that what we have is special. That it can be taken from us and that when it is taken from us we will be tested…we will be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times…it is this pain that allows us to look inside ourselves.
To all Cardinals fans, this game, the remainder of this season, is a test. How does the Louisville Cardinal basketball team respond to adversity? Will they crumble and fade into the night? Or will they rise like champions and make our dreams come true? How does a fan base respond? Do you lose hope and say we suck? Or do we keep the faith in spite of the difficulties that lie ahead? Iron sharpens Iron, gentlemen.