As I sat in my recliner today watching the very good game between UK & Wichita State, I have to say that my mind was racing immensely. Was I pulling for WS? A little. Was I heavily invested in today's game? Somewhat. As the minutes wound down & the 'Cats began to pull through I was already playing this Friday's game against them in my mind. It was/is impossible to not begin thinking about this game so much that it will be very difficult to get anything done this week.
Before I get too far into this post I want to clear the air on a few things that need to be understood by you the reader(s). My history with the 'Ville goes back over 30 years. I've experienced the highest of highs with the Cards & the lowest of lows with them for most of my life. I am a Cardinal through & through & my allegiance & loyalties are unwavering. You might say that I'm sometimes emotionally too much invested in this program & our results. At 42, I'm more like a college kid about this than I am a father of two. I love Cardinal basketball...PERIOD!
Mike said it best in his post earlier today about this being the ultimate fight or flight time for U of L. Let me say this: This game may very well be the most important Card- Cat game ever! Yes...EVER! Why? For starters, since Calapari's arrival in Lexington we're a dismal 1- 5. Our only victory in the past 5 years was a 3 point win over an NIT team last year on our own stinkin' court. Another loss to the Cats & this begins to become an old Yankee's/Red Sox type of rivalry: one-sided. To go 1- 6 and lose twice to a team of Freshmen would not bode well for our team, program, or fanbase (to say the least). This game is EVERYTHING!
I've already been scanning the posts & came across a comment that just sent me into orbit. Here is what was written on here: "Of course losing to them at this point is the worst thing that could happen.. but, it’s just another game". Are you crazy? Are you really serious? This is "just another game"? Evidently some don't remember the 85-51 drumming we took at Freedom Hall in 1987. Some don't seem to remember the 1994 seniors who NEVER beat UK. In every decade they've won the head-to-head series against us. Now, before some of you curse me, label me, or call me names, look at the facts I'm giving you & get mad at those rather than me. Ask any Auburn or Alabama football fan if the Iron Bowl is "just another game". This is not just another game. Not to me or any other fan who is genuinely engaged in "L1C4".
This year there's no question that if we want to be National Champions we must first be State Champions! That's an inevitable fact. The 1983 Senior Class of Cards are the most decorated class in school history. Three Final Fours, a National Championship, and....a State Championship! They left Louisville Kings of Commonwealth & decorated nationally. Now we have Russ Smith, a 4 year player that has captured the hearts of all Louisville fans forever. What he's done in the 3 years he's received playing time is incredible. He has a chance to leave as one of the most, if not the most, decorated Cardinal of all time. A win this Friday will only propel him further into an incredible history with the 'Ville. Oh how we need this win!
I was there in Rupp that December day when I heard an annoying pUKe fan sitting a few rows behind me say (when UK was taking control down the stretch) "Kentucky's talent is beginning to take over...Louisville's experience isn't enough". Oh how I wanted to flatten that guys nose. However, I had to sit there & watch, painfully, what he said come to pass. I rode home that night with a sick stomach that a bunch of Freshmen- FRESHMEN, beat a team of National Champion experienced veterans & a Hall of Fame coach. It still sickens me. This is not just another game. This is everything. It's either put up or shut up. Another loss to Lexington would only solidify (in their minds & many college basketball pundits) that their way is better & leave us with a sour taste in our mouth for an entire summer and fall. I don't want that feeling & I especially don't want to hear Calapari talk about "players first". This is not just another game! We must win & we must win Friday! It's now or never. That's how I see it!
Pitino has never lost in the Sweet 16. I trust that he will prepare a game plan that will be slightly different than the game in December. For us to win we have to take care of the ball, make free throws, & keep the rebounding margin in our favor or very close. Trezl has to step up, not get in foul trouble, & keep his composure. Luke has to make shots and free throws (He & Russ were 5 for 12 from the line in Rupp). SVT has to run through a brick wall if necessary to get rebounds or "Steve's". Mangok can't be wild, Chris must steady & defensively ready, Wayne has got to stay out of foul trouble. Then there's Russ. He's not played or shot particularly well thus far in the tourney. He's due for a big game. Guys, we need this. Our team needs this, our program needs this; and we as a fanbase, who love our Cards & hang on every game as if our lives depend on it...we need this game. We need this. This is not just another game. It never has been and it never will be! Go Cards!