Today sort of feels like the first day back from a really special vacation.
Between last Wednesday and Saturday we were privy to another world, and it was glorious. We all developed new routines, and for a period time, albeit a brief one, those routines became life.
I already miss having the same core group of friends arriving at CC Headquarters a short while after the sun disappears, putting on the same outfit - jeans, red/white Cardinal bird hat, 2009 Big East Tournament champions shirt (which had to be folded and placed in drawer four every night) - about an hour before tip, unleashing Santa Strong on the world and then living and dying with you equally insane people in the game threads for two hours, raising my halftime Bud Heavy (red cans) in mock freeze-frame during the nightly Cox's Smokers Outlet and Spirit Shoppes "Here's to the Good Life" commercial, postgame hugs and high-fives, the unexpected onslaught of Jared Swopshire puns (Swopster Fest, New York Swop Exchange, etc.) reliving the wins both on the Internet and through conversations, and then doing all of it again the next night.
It was a special week for anyone who loves Louisville basketball, and one that I don't think any of us will be forgetting anytime soon.
But unlike the first day back from most vacations, we don't find ourselves at "home." It's the first week of the NCAA Tournament and the fighting Cardinals are a four seed in the West with all the momentum in the world. There's more basketball to be played, and this time the sport's ultimate prize is the goal. It's sort of like going from one vacation to another.
The issue now becomes which traditions demand carryover. I spent about two hours of my morning debating whether or not I should shave. I have to be seen in public tonight (get your cameras ready), but as of right now I'm still looking like I haven't showered in three days...part of that is because I haven't showered in three days, but whatever.
And what about the gatherings? Some people can't get out of class, some people can't get off work; it's all extremely troublesome. I'm not even going to get into the issue of clothing because I can't...there are just too many....it's all a little bit overwh.....IT'S JUST TOO MUCH. YOU WANT TO BREAK ME DOWN?! YOU WANT ME TO ADMIT IT?! I'M SCARED, ALL RIGHT. I DON'T WANT TO MESS THIS UP. I DON'T WANT TO MESS THIS UP FOR ALL OF US.
All right, I'm cool.
Louisville's run to the Big East title would have been a special experience in any year, but being so unexpected just made it all the more enjoyable. I think I speak for all of us when I say that I want more of it. Call me selfish, call me an addict, whatever, I want more of what last week brought to the table.
Let's all enjoy the hell out of this until it stops.
I'm not sure anyone who's worn the Cardinal uniform deserved something like last week any more than Peyton Siva did. The kid has heard chatter about his play for the past three months, and has himself admitted that he let it get in his head. I think all of us who have followed the program closely have heard the same sorts of things regarding Peyton, and while it's natural to be frustrated when a player with so much talent doesn't perform to the best of his ability, a lot of the things said have been way, way over-the-top.
By all accounts, Siva is one of the best people to ever play basketball at the University of Louisville. That alone should be enough to quell things like personal insults and play critique laced with obscenities. Lord knows Peyton didn't want to make those turnovers or miss those jump shots.
Siva is the main cog of the Cardinal offense, something which has been obvious since day one of the season. The result of that is if he messes up, it's impossible for him to get away with it without everybody noticing. He messed up more times than he should have during the regular season, everybody noticed it, and neither side handled it well.
I think those days are over. I really do. Setting the world on fire for four straight nights inside Madison Square Garden is about as much evidence of a corner turned as anyone could ask for.
Peyton Siva earned his moment this weekend, and now he'll take that experience and that confidence with him to the biggest stage, where he has the added motivation of having never tasted victory.
It's still your show, young man.
Louisville is now the lone BCS conference team in the country to win a championship in both football and basketball.
Can't say it enough, I love being a Cardinal.
Couldn't be more bummed that we don't have a chance to wear the infra-reds again until (potentially) the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The whites worked well enough against Seton Hall, I suppose, but I'm still all infra-red everything right now.
My favorite part of the closing seconds was the insanely excited Kyle Kuric fist-pump, twist and jump all at the same time. It's so rare to see the King show extreme emotion one way or the other, so when it happens it makes me really happy.
In my mind there's a picture right after this where Kyle is face-down on the floor about 20 feet further downcourt and Wayne is staring in shock with his hands on his head.
Follow up note: I love Wayne. The kid is a two-time player of the year from Illinois who isn't getting a whole lot of clock right now, and he's still as into the game and as excited as anyone on the bench. He belongs here.
Wayne's talent is also impossible to miss, even when he's making ill-advised passes or losing his man on defense. When he's on the floor he just looks like that next-level player we've so noticeably lacking in recent years. That combination of size and skill is going to be invaluable going forward.
Blackshear is going to be fantastic as a sophomore, there's no question about it, and I still really think he's got at least one more game as a major contributor in him this year.
Coolest moment of the game Saturday (outside of all the celebration stuff) was the Wayne dish to Gorgui where he started running back down the court right after the ball left his hands. Either that or Russ getting down on one knee while on the bench for absolutely no reason in the second half.
Thanks to Infra-Russ, my Russ Crush has now reached unprecedented heights.
He didn't play especially well against Cincinnati, but he made the biggest plays for the team in the final two minutes, including a pair of free-throws just three nights after he air-balled one and barely drew iron on the next in a similar situation.
And, like your faithful narrator, he's not afraid to get emotional when the situation calls for it:
And he's a hugger.
Thursday will mark Russ' debut appearance in an NCAA Tournament game. He will mark the occasion by shooting the basketball ("I was open").
Hearing that Cashmere Wright's dad said everyone was cheering for Louisville the night before because "Cash kills Louisville" and then Wright's cocky head shake at the start of the game made the win feel that much better.
Another veteran guard who had received some criticism but really stepped up on the big stage was Chris Smith, who hit some big shots early on to help calm everyone's nerves and push the Cards to a lead they'd never relinquish. People forget, he was really the only one who played especially well in the Morehead State loss last year. Playing tight won't be an issue for CS5 on Thursday.
He didn't have a particularly stellar shooting week, but that was still the Kyle Kuric a lot of us have been hoping to see for a long time. Fighting his way into the lane, scrapping for loose balls, blocking shots; he really seemed to come of age inside the Garden. Siva taking his game to the next level was the most encouraging aspect of the tournament, but Kyle starting to do the little things this team needs him to in order to have a shot at a deep run wasn't all that far behind.
I'd pick death before choosing between "Championship Gorgs" and "Floorgui."
From giggling after Pitino's ass-ripping to "I don't know colors" to "one option, win it," I'm not sure any Cardinal athlete of the CC era has had a better off-the-court week than the Gorgster.
He also set the U of L single-season record for blocked shots and didn't miss a field goal attempt against Notre Dame, so yeah, decent week on the court too.
Going to have to give the Louisville basketball fan of the week award to Eric Wood, who came home for the game on Friday and then flew back to New York Saturday morning for the championship bout.
It was worth the effort, as he made several appearances on TV, witnessed a championship, and then got to spend some quality father/son time.
I saved this picture under "Gorgwood," and now I kind of wish it was my last name.
Nice to see Preston!, Jerry, Edgar and T-Will all in attendance.
God last week was awesome.
Females are incredibly concerned with whatever the mark on Rick Pitino's left ear is. I've received several emails and tweets about this, and not one has come from a man. I was talking about this phenomenon on Saturday night, and literally right when I finished I got a text message from a lady friend asking about it.
Also, it's coconut water...coconut water is what he's drinking on the sidelines.
Women are strange.
Can't say enough about what Swop did all week. Every time you felt like things were getting a little too chaotic or that some of the guys on the floor were starting to panic, it was Swop who would do something to calm everyone down. I started calling him "Swoppa" midway through the Marquette game and don't plan on stopping anytime soon. He came out of seemingly nowhere to fill the role of team dad, and I love it.
I just want a few more chances to listen to him talk.
Got "We Found Love in a Gorgui Place" stuck in my head at some point on Friday afternoon, and it didn't really leave until I became adequately intoxicated on Saturday. People got annoyed. Didn't care. It's insanely fun to sing really loudly. That much has been established.
Solid coach GIF action from Saturday:
A major shoutout to all of you for reading, commenting and in general just making things around here so much fun last week. It's been a bit difficult to produce content for CC with so much going on at the dot com, but you all have made the extra effort more than worth it.
I'm insanely excited about what might happen here over the next few weeks.
A radio station in New York asked me about the Peyton/Russ - Woody/Buzz analogy on Saturday afternoon. It was a surreal moment.
Ran from the bottom to the best, no auto-tune.
So much good came out of Louisville's Big East championship run, but I don't think there's any doubt that the most valuable result is the positive vibe everyone associated with the program is carrying into the big dance.
You can talk about being shipped out West, you can talk about Davidson being a bad matchup, you can talk about deserving a three seed, you can talk about the similarities between this draw and last year's draw; but when it comes down to it, who in that bracket do you look at and say "there's no way we can beat them?" The answer right now should be no one, and I'm not sure any of us would have said that a week ago.
All you can ask for in life is a shot, and starting on Thursday this Louisville team gets its shot at a national championship.
This is what we wait for all year. Let's savor it.