Well, that was a close one! It is an obvious fact that the Cards HAD TO win to the stay alive in the tournament. Yet, I'm thinking there may be more to this win than simply, #surviveandadvance. I have really thought about our match versus Manhattan, because it did not go how I expected. It did not go how I wanted it to.
Even with the risk of sounding like Tony Kornheiser or Mike Greenberg, I must admit, I wanted to go to bed last night! I am working today just as you probably are. I still stayed up late watch our squad fight and finish last night. Since then, a couple things have come to mind. First, the selection committee was probably watching, if they were awake, and saying, "See, we told you so. Louisville's schedule was weak. They blew out some crappy teams. Lost to good ones. See, they aren't all that great cause they're struggling against an 11 seed. They have no marquee wins..." BLAH BLAH BLAH. Maybe the Cardinals' performance last night was evidence to your 4-seed.
Or maybe, the selection committee did us a favor without even knowing it. Maybe, this was the right win at the right time. For me, I have not seen this year's team muscle-out a hard-fought, gritty win like they did last night in their 2nd Round win over Manhattan. Some of you may immediately think of our win in Cincinnati during the regular season. I can see that might fall into such a description.
However, with time running out the Cards had a 50/50 chance (or 47% chance if you use Russ's average FG%) that Russ's shot becomes a heroic one. It was exciting and a close win. That win was different than what I witnessed last night.
Against Manhattan, the Cards fought for the entirety of two halves, even with a notable scoring drought. They held tight to small leads. They negotiated through foul trouble. They lost their lead, and quickly gained it back again. They got big on the boards and made second chance baskets. And of course, they put their opponent away at the end of the game a la Russ and Hancock.
For a team whose accused of not having enough challenges on their regular season schedule, the Cards certainly proved themselves last night. I saw grit and resolve last night, and just in time. Just in time to make another deep run? To make their way to a third straight Final Four? I sure as hell hope so. It will be a fun ride to the "House that Jerry Built" if this win helps propel us through the tournament challenges to come.