February may be the shortest month on the calendar, but it's mighty.
It kicks off (pun in 3..2..1..) with the Super Bowl (get it?) on the first Sunday of the month, but its importance doesn't stop there. February is Black History Month, the universally beloved Valentines Day is in the middle of the month, and the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are in there, too, making it the perfect month for Presidents Day.
Other fun days include Wear Red Day (this Friday), Mardi Gras and Marmot Day in Alaska. Past fun days often included a DePaul Day. Really, February only has one shortcoming aside from the fact that it only lasts for 28 days.
It's the month that gets in the way of March.
March Madness fever isn't exactly here yet. It's only February 3. But it's growing and Louisville plays its first game of the month tonight in Miami. February is annoying for getting in March's way, but it's an important time of the season in college basketball.
Louisville is obviously no exception this season, as Rick Pitino is still fine tuning things for the real season that comes next month. The Cards enter this February with a three-game winning streak and some momentum after the fantastic victory over North Carolina at the Yum! Center.
In the last couple of seasons, February has been the month that Louisville figures things out after some bothersome/head-scratching performances shortly after the new year. For example, an undefeated February after two January losses helped propel Louisville to an AAC championship last season. In 2013, the Cards lost three straight in January before starting a winning streak in February that ended with a national championship.
Here's a quick look at Louisville's February performances since we started a new decade:
2009-10 (6-2): W vs. UConn, W vs. Rutgers, L at St. Johns, W at Syracuse, W vs. Notre Dame, W at DePaul (miss you), L vs. Georgetown, W at Marquette
2010-11 (5-2): W vs. DePaul, L at Notre Dame, W vs. Syracuse, L at Cincinnati, W vs. UConn, W at Rutgers, W vs. Pittsburgh
2011-12 (5-3): W vs. Rutgers, W vs. UConn, W at West Virginia, L vs. Syracuse, W at DePaul (OT gave us some free DePaul Day), L at Cincinnati, W vs. Pittsburgh, L vs. USF
2012-13 (6-1): W at Rutgers, (utterly exhausting) L at Notre Dame, W vs. St. Johns, W at USF, W at DePaul (farewell to the good times)
2013-14 (7-0): W vs. UCF, W at Houston, W at Temple, W vs. Rutgers, W vs. USF, W at Cincinnati, W vs. Temple
So recent success in February has set up Louisville for some very successful runs in March. This one is set up with a similar blueprint outside of the big challenge that will come with a trip to Virginia on Saturday.
After the Cavaliers, Pitt, NC State, Syracuse, Miami, Georgia Tech and Florida State will follow. Of the six teams that Louisville will play after Virginia, only Syracuse has a winning in-conference record at 5-3. If the recent victory over North Carolina was an indication of how things are trending at this point in the season, February looks pretty bright.
Some promising hallmarks of good Louisville basketball were present in the second half against the Tar Heels, including but not limited to a "possessed" Montrezl Harrell, pressure that created turnovers and strong performances from Terry Rozier and Chris Jones. A switch seemingly flipped, and we got a look at how dangerous Louisville can be when they execute and play with energy.
It's too early to know if the North Carolina game can be called some sort of turning point for this season, but the mood of the team and Pitino afterwards certainly would suggest that it might be. If a similar style of play carries over to this month, Louisville will be fun to watch. Of course, the beards also have to have something to do with all of this.
February is here. It's not March, but it's as close as we can get for now. So grow a beard, enjoy Valentines Day if you have one (treat yo self if you don't), wear red on Friday and don't forget about our presidents and Mardi Gras later on.
Most of all, though, get ready. March is only a month away.