Louisville's home loss to Memphis two Thursdays ago has given rise to a number of discussions about the program's tendency to struggle in the month of January before kicking things into gear once the calendar turns. But is this a problem specific to the Cards?
Let's look at the past 11 teams to cut down the nets and their setbacks in the month of January.
Louisville (2013) - vs. No. 6 Syracuse (70-68); at Villanova (73-64); at Georgetown (53-51)
Kentucky (2012) - Did not lose
Connecticut (2011) - At No. 14 Notre Dame (73-70); vs. No. 23 Louisville (79-78)
Duke (2010) - At No. 20 Georgia Tech (71-67); At NC State (88-74); At No. 7 Georgetown (89-77)
North Carolina (2009) - vs. Boston College (85-78); At No. 4 Wake Forest (92-89)
Kansas (2008) - At No. 24 Kansas State (84-75)
Florida (2007) - Did not lose
Florida (2006) - At Tennessee (80-76); At South Carolina (68-62)
North Carolina (2005) - At No. 4 Wake Forest (95-82)
Connecticut (2004) - At No. 11 North Carolina (86-83); vs. Providence (66-56)
Syracuse (2003) - At No. 3 Pittsburgh (73-60); At Rutgers (68-65)
In summary, five of the past 11 national champions lost twice in the month of January, two of the past champs did not lose at all, two lost only once and two more (including U of L last season) tasted defeat three times.
Of the 18 total losses suffered by these champions, 10 came against ranked opponents. Only three of those teams pulling the upsets ultimately failed to make the NCAA Tournament (Rutgers in '03, South Carolina in '06 and NC State in '10), an achievement which shouldn't be a problem for the Memphis squad that knocked off U of L. Also notable is the fact that last year's Louisville team and the 2006 Florida squad are the only ones to lose consecutive games and to lose to multiple unranked opponents.
Louisville has two games remaining this month: Wednesday's tilt at South Florida and a home game against a Cincinnati team that is the only current unbeaten in the AAC and which figures to bring a national ranking into the KFC Yum Center. The Cards will likely be favored to win both of these games, but even if they slip up, history shows it'd be foolish to dismiss U of L as a title contender just yet.
Most of the best teams in college basketball over the past decade have gone through some growing pains in the first month of conference play. It's just part of the process. I think last week gave us a glimpse of the type of team that Louisville could ultimately wind up being, but as always we won't know for sure until February and March.