Football is certainly king of the college sports universe in today's athletic landscape. Louisville however is a city that clings to basketball in the same manner a 12 year old cherishes "bankey" or "Mr. Bear" from their crib sleeping yesteryears. Basketball rules this region with an iron fist and the recent success of the University of Louisville Men's Basketball program has ensured basketball's occupation of the driver's seat for another generation of red and black supporters.
I am an odd ball of Cardinal Nation. College football and college basketball are complete equals in my perspective. Both offer undeniable thrills and inescapable frustrations, and basketball's one advantage of a tournament declaring its National Champion is suddenly being encroached upon by the College Football Playoff. As Mr. Rutherford declared, this is a great time of year for Cardinal fans due to the coexistence of football and basketball over the next two months.
As I watched the first public display of Cardinal Basketball Sunday afternoon only three thoughts were consistently in the front of my mind. First, can Verne Lundquist call every single one of our televised games because correct pronunciation of the Cardinal roster is virtually impossible? Second, Montrezl's hair styles will become a national sensation by the end of December. Third, the 2014-2015 season will be one of the most unique, fun, and exciting seasons Louisville fans will ever be able to witness and participate in.
Since the 2010-2011 season there was this core group of Cardinals that never seemed to graduate, and we all hoped they never would. Only two players from the championship team remain, and the adorned legends named Siva, Gorgui, Luke, and irreplaceable Russ are forever memories. Change happens in every aspect of life and handling this transition into a new dawn of Cardinal success will certainly be a massive adjustment. Cardinal Basketball just completed the most successful period in its history and a new journey now begins with six new kids, a first team All-American, an underachieving-but-reborn senior, one mighty mouse, a Gorgui clone, and a number zero whose smile, heart, and skillset leave him destined to be the next Cardinal legend.
The only bold prediction I will make for this basketball team is that an up and down roller coaster of fun will define the season. Each one of our Cardinals has a backstory and personality deserving a front page spread, and the laughs and cheers brought about already from Pitino and the players is beyond encouraging. Louisville's first six or seven players are just as good as and possibly better than every team outside of the borders of the bluegrass. Montrezl will continue to be the most dominating force in college basketball, and coaches will profess weekly that Louisville has the quickest and best defensive backcourt in basketball.
Outside of Harrell, Rozier, and Chris Jones Louisville Basketball will be an unknown and constantly changing entity until mid-February. The Flying Egyptian appears to have a great sense for the game and could challenge Pitino's redshirt claim. Onuaku has the body and will be helped immensely by consistent abuse and leadership from Montrezl. Mangok has certainly added the necessary weight, but his offensive and defensive improvement is still unknown. Wayne has committed himself to a breakout year, and a Larry O'Bannon sendoff would be a welcomed surprise. Anton Gill appears ready for a sophomore leap, but Pitino preaches defense and to see the floor Gill must continue to improve his understanding of Cardinal pressure.
Cardinal Basketball is back and a new era is rapidly descending upon the city of Louisville. These kids have the weight of rebuilding and continuing the most successful era of Louisville Basketball resting squarely on their shoulders, but their smiles and passion showcase nothing aside from pure enjoyment. This team will deliver flawless wins emboldening the optimists, lose matchups in excruciating fashion that will beckon the cliff jumpers, and by March round into form for a championship run. Who knows how good these Cardinals will be, and frankly it isn't a concern. These kids hustle, smile, laugh, and are undoubtedly Louisville First, Cardinals Forever. A new generation of Cardinal Basketball is born, let's have some fun.
All Hail UofL !!