For those who may be unfamiliar with the Socratic Method, after one semester of Law School I can tell you that it is a method of learning that imposes its will upon you once you've been immersed. It is a method of learning that never gives you a real answer, yet stimulates your mind into constantly thinking about the possibilities of what a better answer may be. A question is asked, a seemingly brilliant answer is given, and the original question poser basically responds with, "so what?" Another seemingly brilliant answer is given, only to receive another, "so what?"
Frustrating? Yes. Effective? I think so,... and apparently so do generations of analytical thinkers.
A college basketball season if filled with ups and downs. There are markers throughout the year which give fans the opportunity to praise and criticize performances. Some moments mean more than others. Games against teams that seem to be equipped for deep runs in March present the opportunity for analysis of how fans think their team will fare come tournament time.
Thus far, Louisville has played two games against top ten teams. In case you hadn't noticed, they lost both. Have they played well in both of those games? I would say for the most part, yes. Well, so what? They lost both of those games in similar fashion, by making critical mistakes down the stretch and not taking advantage of the opportunities that were clearly laid before them.
Does that mean that they are incapable of beating a top ten team? I would say no, because they clearly had the chance to do just that in games against Duke and Syracuse. So what? The end result of both games were losses.
The optimist in me says that this team has yet to reach its ceiling, while the realist in me says the same is true for every other team in America, including Duke and Syracuse. The optimist in me says that Louisville's A game is better than Duke's (with a healthy Gorgui) and that it's better than Syracuse's too. The optimist in me says that there is about a 15% chance that we see another game this year where Siva and Gorgui combine for 7 points.
The skeptical Law Student inside of me says,... so what? Why will the ultimate result be different the next time? What leads me to believe that critical mistakes down the stretch will be eliminated come March? Simple, because if years of watching Pitino coached teams has taught me anything at all, it's that they are always playing their best basketball come tournament time. We call that precedent, baby.
There will be one more opportunity in the regular season for this team to answer these questions against a top ten team, a March 2nd date in the Carrier Dome. Until then, precedent tells me that this group will continue to get better, and if they stay healthy, they should be playing their A game heading into the Tournament. Being #1 during the regular season means about as much to me as a hand full unsalted almonds (FYI: unsalted almonds are gross but very filling and effective to help lose weight when you're less than 60 days from your wedding), it's somewhat satisfying, but not nearly as much as it could be.
The only thing I learned on Saturday was that our C+ to B- game will get us beat if another team plays their A game and has a player get red hot from outside. Even with that as a given, our defense and toughness will have us right there in the final seconds. It is the execution in those final seconds that must improve, and I have no doubt that it will. Through nine Final Fours, and two National Championships, being #1 during the regular season was never a predictor for success in March.The ultimate goal for this club is a National Championship, we all knew that coming into this season. We all knew that heading into Saturday's game.
As far as I'm concerned we are no more, or less, capable of attaining that goal than we were before the final minutes that doomed us to defeat on Saturday.