First off, my apologies for the lack of content on the site this week. I got floored by your standard "it's officially spring in Louisville, here's your sinus assault" on Monday night and everything has been a struggle since. It's been the perfect cherry on top for the first week without Louisville basketball in a little more than five months.
Every year, with the exception of 2013, the week after Louisville loses in the NCAA Tournament is the worst for me. Sure, I love the Kentucky Derby as much as the next Louisvillian, I love drinking outside during the summer and playing rounds of golf with friends, but none of that sounds appealing just yet. I want more basketball ... or at least something that strikes my emotions the way the last few weeks have.
Instead, for the first time in months there's no longer a game to look forward to, and the readjustment to that life which you can hardly remember is, for lack of a better word, awkward. It's time for everyone to re-discover who they are without UofL hoops, a process which always includes an odd mixture of sadness, relief and confusion.
The strangest aspect of this time of the year is how quickly things move. I mean, just think about how long ago the ACC Tournament seems at right now. Louisville's loss to North Carolina was barely over three weeks ago. Suddenly, the guys who were suiting up for your favorite team less than a week ago are now being paid to host autograph events where they're introduced for the first time as bona fide professionals. Others have already announced their intentions to transfer, other unfamiliar names are being rumored as potential additions to the roster, and there are already discussions about the style of play next year's tram will adopt. It all just seems sort of wrong.
Louisville was a made free-throw or two away from advancing to the Final Four, a fact which is borderline unbelievable when you consider their offensive limitations and the Chris Jones saga that rocked the team in late February. Despite both of those things, Rick Pitino had his team in a position where it was just one more made shot away from playing in a national semifinal. As painful as that is to stomach right now, it's also important to remember that there are 351 teams in Division-I, and only four fan bases have been able to celebrate the 2014-15 season longer than Cardinal fans were able to. That's not bad.
Perhaps the biggest bit of solace Louisville fans can take from this time and this feeling is the fact that the only way a loss like last Sunday's could possibly hurt so much is for the team doing the losing to have been so overwhelmingly enjoyable. An overtime loss in the Elite Eight would be tough to stomach in any of the 101 years Louisville has played basketball, but the fact that it ranks so high on the scale of soul-crushing Cardinal losses is a testament to the character and the work ethic of our guys, in particular the departing trio of Wayne Blackshear, Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier.
For each day that Blackshear, Harrell and Rozier have worn the red and black, Cardinal fans have never had to question the side they support or fake any enthusiasm. It's the same reason why I'm not sure it's possible for a fan base to experience more joy than we did 24 months ago.
Runs like the one we just experienced are far too convoluted for a single post-week emotion to dominate all others. There's a reason why time and perspective are best friends while perspective and the present have a much more complicated relationship. Eventually, I think, we'll all be able to look back at this March's journey and recognize it in the proper light.
It hurts now, only because it was so great then. As green takes over the city, Derby Day arrives and the countdown to year two of ACC football begins, that fact will only become more apparent and things will only become easier to digest.