None of it matters now. What he actually did, whether he was too selfish on the offensive end of the court, if his inability to keep his emotions in check had a negative effect on the rest of the team. That's all a conversation for yesterday.
Chris Jones, one of the most discussed and debated Louisville basketball players in recent memory, will never wear a Cardinal uniform again. The news comes with just four games left in the regular season, and with exactly three weeks to go until Selection Sunday.
Rick Pitino is a coach who believes in a season-long process, and that process typically involves his team knowing exactly who it is at this point in the season, and using that knowledge to get on a roll so it can be in the best possible position for an NCAA Tournament run. It's safe to say the process has never taken a hit like this so late in the game.
Regardless of your stance on Jones, it's not debatable that he accounted for almost 20 percent of the team's scoring and 30 percent of the team's assist total. He was also widely regarded as one of the better on-ball defending guards in the country, and was the team-leader in steals with 53. Now all of that is gone, and there's no time for this team to guess and check when it comes to figuring out the best way to replace it.
The bad side is apparent here. The good side will remain 95 percent speculative until we actually see some of it start to develop. That doesn't mean we can't talk about it.
Louisville beat Miami on Saturday, which was important for team morale, but I left the game actually feeling less encouraged about the squad's long term prospects than I did heading into the afternoon. The team had been put through a lot in the past week, and this was a proverbial back-to-the wall moment. While you loved seeing the green W pop up next to U of L's name when all was said and done, it was impossible to ignore that the road there included most of the same problems that made folks pessimistic about their chances of a tournament run all season long.
The Cards played selfishly at times against Miami, and instances of players being unable to keep their frustrations internal were once again on full display. The team played much better defense than they had been, there's no question, but ultimately it took a missed 3 at the buzzer to hold on to a 2-point victory over a Hurricane squad the Cards had gone on the road and beaten by 8 at the beginning of this month.
Now maybe this win would have served as the proverbial rally moment for this team as it makes the final turn towards March, but my hunch was (and still is) that wasn't going to be the case. The team had seemed to hit its lowest point last week, with a surprising two-game losing streak and its senior point guard suspended. This was the time to finally bond, to finally buy in completely to the notion of team, and to understand that your shot at making a run and becoming a part of history was less than a month away. I'm not sure I saw any of that Saturday afternoon.
Jones' dismissal is either going to be what finally causes this team to link arms and understand that they're all fighting together, or it's going to be what finally breaks them. Even if the former happens, it might not lead to monster success, but it'll at least be a lot more satisfying to watch and to cheer for than the last few weeks have been.
Here's the other thing: the guy stepping into Jones' shoes is not going to be overwhelmed by the moment. We've been hearing that for the last month, and we got a taste of it last Wednesday at Syracuse.
I pray Chris finds his way. Good kid. I've spent many 2am, 3am nights in the Yum this summer and Snider was there every time. Once he get— taquan dean (@taquandean55) February 22, 2015
His confidence he'll make Louisville proud. Mark this down I told u 1st— taquan dean (@taquandean55) February 22, 2015
Not too many people push me to work harder but he did. So please Card fam give him all the support he needs and show him that love u gave me— taquan dean (@taquandean55) February 22, 2015
But don't make the mistake of thinking this is only about Quentin Snider. If everyone doesn't commit to doing more, then the team certainly isn't going to do more.
Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier have to play like All-Americans who aren't going to let anything stand in the way of writing a stellar (presumably) final chapter of their Louisville legacies. Rozier has to become the leader in the backcourt, the guy who knows where everyone is supposed to be and who picks up the intensity level of everyone around him. Harrell has to be the captain he supposedly isn't, dominating the middle on both ends of the court when the game's on the line, and inspiring those around him to put the clamps down when they have an opportunity to put an opponent away.
Wayne Blackshear needs to build on his newfound aggressiveness. He needs to view this as a final opportunity to play a contorted version of the savior role so many assigned to him four years ago. He needs to utilize his experience and his maturity to serve as a bridge between the veterans with NCAA Tournament experience and the newcomers who have no idea what to expect from March Madness.
Shaqquan Aaron and Anton Gill have to view this as an opportunity as well, a chance for an unexpected massive upgrade in late season production. A chance to both help the team win now, and to build momentum for the rest of their Cardinal careers. The big men have to work harder and take on the same mindset.
When you unexpectedly get tossed in a hole and there isn't much time to get out, it doesn't really matter if you have two or three guys who are better equipped to make the climb than everyone else. For a successful scale to happen, it's going to require every individual finally getting on the same page and carrying their respective weight.
If you're looking at this from the standpoint of being a fan, the silver lining has to be that any serious run in March is going to be way more special now than it would have been otherwise. This change could result in the return of the familiar good vibes of the last four years that have been noticeably absent during this season, which has felt (and I think we can all admit this) oddly unsatisfying even when the team was winning. If nothing else, that potential is exciting.
Last week, we described this as the final fight or flight moment for Chris Jones. The answer arrived more quickly than anyone could have expected, and it was flight.
Now, unexpectedly, the entire team has been thrust into the same situation. There's no time to think or to feel sorry for themselves, because a new season starts in Atlanta in less than 24 hours.