It's official, I'm excited. Not because beating Connecticut at home is a monumental win, or because I think this team is going to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, but because they've put themselves in a position where they now have a shot to achieve some things that a month ago looked completely out of reach.
It's late January, a time in 2006 when it was becoming more and more apparent that Louisville's only hope of making the Big Dance was to make a miracle run in the Big East Tournament. A year later the Cardinals are 4-2 in conference play and own wins over a trio of their main competitors in the cluttered middle of the league.
A quick glance at U of L's remaining schedule shows three games that should be gimmies (Cincinnati, South Florida and Seton Hall), four winnable games that could go either way (Syracuse, Seton Hall, Villanova and a second dance with Uconn), and three chances to pick up a much needed signature win (Pitt, Marquette and Georgetown). Winning six of these games should leave the Cardinals squarely on the bubble headed when they head to New York, winning seven would make things a bit more comfortable, anything less and a championship run will likely be required.
You'll have to forgive me if it seems like I'm playing the resume game a bit prematurely, it's just that the opportunity to do so within reason hasn't been present in what seems like an eternity, and I've missed it.
As far as the game goes, all talk should begin and end with David Padgett, who was an absolute warrior for the second time in as many games against a dominant Connecticut front court. Padgett finished with 19 points and 11 boards, and was the main reason Louisville managed to finish the game even with the Huskies in rebounding.
--JDP came up big again, scoring 16 points and seemingly hitting a big shot every time we needed one. When Palacios needed a breather, Earl Clark came in and gave what I thought was his best performance of the season. He may have scored only two points, but he was all over the place, and really showed all the signs of a freshman who is finally feeling comfortable and confident playing big time college basketball.
--With about six minutes left in the game, the referees apparently made the decision that they were going to ruin what had been a highly enjoyable half of basketball up to that point. After letting both teams get away with murder in the first half, Tim Higgins, Mike Kitts, and Ted Hillary decided they needed some face time and completely took over the game.
Louisville and Connecticut combined to shoot three free-throws in the first half, and 56 (38 total fouls whistled) in the second. It was an abomination.
--The crowd was fantastic. As expected there were a few of the Freedom Hall Noopsies who apparently hadn't gotten wind of the white out promotion, or just chose to ignore it, but as usual the vast majority of Cardinal nation came through.
--Louisville is such an enigma in that they're an up-tempo team that wins low scoring games with defense. On paper (or screen) it doesn't make sense, but if you've seen them play there's really no other way to describe them.
--Terrence Williams is a guy who can be having a completely awful game where he's turning the ball over, taking bad shots and missong open ones, but still whenever the shot clock's running down he's always, always, the guy I instinctively yell for to take the ball. Also without his rebounding we'd have at least two more losses.
He was superb again last night hitting back-to-back threes during the run that propelled the Cards to victory, and finishing the game with 18 points and 9 rebounds.
--I hope that we don't completely abandon Derrick Caracter, even if we do seem to play amazingly whenever he's not in the builidng.
The worst thing for DC right now would be for him to see the Louisville staff completely give up on him. I have no problem with continuing to hold him out of action if he fails to meet any of the requirements set forth in the contract he signed, but I do hope that he's given a chance if he does meet said requirements because I still think he could help this team.
--Brandon Jenkins' defense has been phenomenal all season and he hasn't gotten enough credit for it. For the second time in as many games he was nearly a non-factor on offense, but he was extremely active on the defensive end and I think the rest of the team fed off of his energy.
--I don't like AJ Price.
Peace, love, Cards.