It seemed like a mental hurdle that had to be cleared in order to achieve the proper mindset before Thursday night. It's a half day later and I'm still not sure whether it was right or it was wrong, but there's no question that it happened.
I watched the entire Louisville/Michigan State 2009 Elite Eight game.
The wave of memories I expected to hit me did so like a sack of Chane Behanan's legs. The inexplicable lack of effort, Kalin Lucas' banked-in three, the shock, the dazed walk back to the hotel, the wall-to-wall traffic on 65 that boubled the length of the drive home, Suton, Suton, Suton.
Anyway, for those who don't want to hear anything else about the game ever, I completely understand. For those who want to face it head on before the rematch tomorrow night, I'm going to share a few observations.
What's remarkable to me watching that game after following this year's team for the past three months is how much looser our zone was in '09 than it has been this year. Credit our guys. The statistics aren't an anomaly, we defend the hell out of the perimeter, and do it better than a group that was the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
Lucas did a tremendous job handling Louisville's pressure, but I still don't think calling off the dogs was the right move. When we did so we played right into Izzo's hands. The game turned into a halfcourt battle where Michigan State was able to play it's usual style and maintain intensity, but we looked totally out of our element and almost lazy.
Considering that the '09 Cards were a better halfcourt team than this group and only managed to put up 52 points, I can't imagine any scenario where Pitino stops bringing pressure tomorrow night.
T-Will was awful. He made just one shot (an alley-oop to start the second half), consistently forced jumpers early on in possessions, and didn't do any of those little things that made him an All-American candidate.
Never has the up-and-down attitudes that were on that team been more readily apparent than in that game. The best thing about our Cards this year is that we're heading into tomorrow night with the full knowledge that lack of effort or concern won't be an issue whether they win or lose.
The Lucas banked-in three was as crushing a back-breaker as I can remember. Jerry Smith had just hit a huge three to pull Louisville back within six and it looked like Lucas had just taken a bad shot which might lead to a run out. When it clanked in and I saw him laughing, it was the first time I genuinely thought we might be in trouble.
Earl Clark's talent was on full display and he played exceptionally hard. Everyone liked to lump E5 in as one of the "problem children" on those Louisville teams, and while it may have been true at times it absolutely was not on this day.
Yes, Goran Suton went nuts in the first half, but people forget that he didn't really do a whole lot after the break. Durell Summers was the guy who went nuts out-of-nowhere and keyed the run that put the Spartans ahead for good.
I'd forgotten how well Preston Knowles played. Love you, !.
Draymond Green did some serious damage in this game...and that was three years ago when he was a freshman. Seeing him beat out our junior and senior lottery picks for loose balls and rebounds was the most terrifying aspect of the entire viewing experience.
When all was said and done I was a little depressed because of the memories, but also a bit more optimistic about Thursday than I thought I'd be. This will be a completely different game than the one in '09, and not just because both teams play slightly different styles. No off-the-court distractions, no let up in pressure, and no questions about heart or focus; these are things to be excited about.
If Michigan State knocks off Louisville again on Thursday, at least we'll have the peace of mind of knowing they did so while taking an honest shot from the Cards. We couldn't say that three years ago.