Predictions about the upcoming college sports season are every bit as abundant as mosquito bites around this time of year, and in a lot of cases they're just as annoying. With that being the case, let's talk about some of the things we'd like to see Louisville accomplish in 2015-16 .... outside of just "win the national championship," because late summer is a time for thanks, not for greed.
Cardinal football to knock off either Florida State or Clemson (or both)
For the second straight summer, the UofL football team has seen experts across the country consistently lump the Cards into a "top tier" of the ACC's Atlantic Division that also includes Florida State and Clemson. As flattering as that is considering the national profile of both the Seminoles and Tigers, Louisville needs to actually knock off one of their new "rivals" if they want the designation to stick.
The Cards were oh-so-close to getting the better of both league powerhouses last year, coming up three yards short of upsetting a Clemson squad that hung on despite not scoring an offensive touchdown, and then squandering a 21-0 lead against Florida State in a Thursday night showdown a couple weeks later. The potential for Thursday night redemption at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium exists in the form of a Clemson visit on Sept. 17, and if UofL falls short in that tilt, there's another shot at a national splash exactly one month later in Tallahassee.
UofL men's basketball to make a run in the ACC Tournament
Louisville fans had become so accustomed to having a game to watch on Selection Sunday Eve that it kind of shocked their collective core when the Cards were bounced by North Carolina in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals on the Thursday afternoon of Championship Week. The time between UofL's most recent game and the moment the field of 68 was announced may have been only three days, but it felt like three months.
As nostalgic as many Cardinal fans (and Rick Pitino) may be for Madison Square Garden and the old Big East Tournament, there's no question that the ACC Tournament is taking its old place as college basketball's showcase table-setter for the big dance. The tournament has moved into the Big East's old primetime Saturday night slot on ESPN, and is even moving to New York in 2017. With the ACC again appearing to be the deepest and most talented conference in the country, it would be exciting to see the Cards make a serious run at hoisting the league's tournament trophy.
Jeff Walz's Phenomenal 5 to Live up to the Hype
The Fab Five has been done to death, so let's go with "Phenomenal Five" for Jeff Walz's top-ranked crop of five incoming freshmen. Headlined by Asia Durr, the No. 1 player in the class of 2015 according to most scouting services, the class includes five players who were all ranked in the top 15 nationally at their respective positions by ESPN. Walz has done more than most people could have ever imagined at Louisville, but now he wants to do more, and "more" for a program which has lost in the national championship game twice can only mean one thing. The Cards are unlikely to get to that point this season, but if the Phenomenal Five looks as good as advertised, toppling Connecticut is certainly within the realm of possibilities before the ladies graduate.
The men's soccer season to come to a more satisfying end
In a season that was loaded with what-ifs for Louisville basketball and football, the biggest heartbreak may have come on the pitch. Ken Lolla's Cardinals were mere seconds away from becoming UofL's first ACC champions before an equalizing goal in the final seconds of the tournament championship game set the stage for Clemson to steal the day. The gut-punches continued a couple weeks later when the Cards saw their path to the College Cup derailed via a fairly stunning 1-0 upset at the hands of UMBC. The pieces are again in place for Louisville to be in the thick of the national discussion in 2015.
Louisville baseball to win a national championship
Ok, you're allowed to get greedy at the end.
A version of this column appears in the current issue of The Voice-Tribune