How did it come to this? There was an alley oop, a Cardinal boom, and an overtime win that cured it all. 18 days have passed since UNC euphoria and the only thing preventing Cardinal fans from hosting an Olympic diving contest off the Kennedy Bridge is the fact you'd turn into a human popsicle before reaching the edge.
Popular opinion tells you Louisville has hit rock bottom in 2015. Coach Pitino is frustrated and unsure, freshmen and seniors are having attitude problems, Rozier is in a slump, and the Cardinals are in the midst of a brutal losing streak. Arriving at this point comes as a shock because the Cardinal Calendar supposedly reads February.
Louisville has reached a fork in the road, and the question now is which path will they choose.
The problems for this Cardinal team were evident from day one, but Louisville kept escaping, giving us hope. They are not great shooters, point guard play has been inconsistent, and unreliable is an appropriate word when describing the bench. Attitude, effort, and work ethic weren't supposed to be issues, but reading between the lines of Coach Pitino's press conferences all year, some of these individuals refuse to buy into the system. It's simply an oil and water group. Fan favorites from the glory days of a year or two ago are struggling bridging the gap with this new generation of Cardinals and a junior college transfer continues to choose the highway over Coach Pitino's way.
Waters are choppy and times are tough Cardinal fans, but try breathing and thinking before continuing your endless parade of doom and gloom.
The year is not lost and positives exist despite the current state of depression. College basketball remains a relatively even playing field and Louisville has several games remaining to put pep and pride back in its step.
The North Carolina State collapse was the first bad loss of the season, the first game where effort was low and frustration was high. Syracuse left me encouraged, maybe not for 2015, but certainly for the next three years.
Quentin Snider displayed poise, quality ball handling, offensive ability, and confidence. Snider is the all-time scoring and assist leader at Ballard High School, let that soak in for a minute (Allan Houston & DeJuan Wheat went to Ballard). The kid has a bright future and he is the future face of this Louisville program. Chris Jones is a senior who has chosen selfishness over selflessness. I do not root against him, but we should invest in the future and Snider should remain the starting point guard regardless of whether Jones ever wears a Cardinal jersey again.
Onuaku also had one of his better games of this rookie campaign. His energy was up, he managed a dunk or two, he successfully completed a layup, and rebounded well. The kid is a young 18 and his defensive focus leaves a lot to be desired, but last night showed glimpses of the player he can become. Nanu wasn't supposed to play 30 minutes a night as a freshman; however, this experience will prove invaluable down the road.
Anas "the King of De-Nile" Mahmoud displayed a shooting touch unseen from any Cardinal center this season, and if he continues to add bulk and strength, not even the sky could limit the Sphinx.
Harrell and Rozier have to continue to be the warriors. Harrell needs to adopt Rozier's relentless attitude of forcing the issue. Montrezl hides on offense too often and an invisible Harrell has contributed greatly to all of Louisville's losses. Also worrisome is Rozier's visible frustration which is highly uncharacteristic. His shooting percentage is down, the team is losing, and in his own words, he hates seeing coach so frustrated. Terry, you'll be fine, the shots will fall, and this team cannot survive without your confidence.
Coach Pitino's new motto "Louisville Man" is reassuring and his message is clear: either buy into this school, program, and city or hit the road. I appreciate this attitude in today's society where we coddle and apologize for everything, including the truth. Life isn't easy. If you aren't willing to work hard while enjoying a full athletic scholarship to a premier university, then make room for someone who will.
Chris Jones has a choice. I hope Chris makes the right one, and it appears he is trying to. Shaqquan Aaron has a choice. Bring a work ethic and listening skills to the gym or pack bags back to Seattle. Wayne Blackshear has a choice. His legacy will read he was a part of three conference championships, two final fours, and a national championship, but only a few games remain to alter his true legacy. Step up Wayne; pretend every opponent is a final exam.
This isn't a great Louisville team, but this isn't a great year in college basketball. The Cardinals are trying to bridge generational gaps and develop into a legitimate tournament threat. My parents once purchased a paddle on a family vacation that read "Attitude Adjuster". Coach Pitino can borrow it for his players and it may be needed for some of you fans. The fork in the road for Louisville is attitude and effort. The choice is theirs and only one path can lead to Indianapolis.
All Hail UofL !!