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. At the risk of falling victim to that second phenomenon, let's talk about some of the things we'd like to see Louisville accomplish in 2016-17 .... outside of just "win every game and win every national championship." Because late July 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 will be walking into a season in which it is viewed as being in a conference tier directly below the ACC's super duo of Florida State and Clemson. If the Cardinals want to avoid being lumped into the "everyone else" portion of the growing belief that the ACC is "Florida State, Clemson and everyone else," then the time to knock off one of the league's top dogs is now.
It's not like Louisville hasn't had the opportunity to make this happen in years one or two. The Cards have been one play away from upsetting Clemson in each of the past two seasons, and they led Florida State at halftime in both 2014 and 2015. Proving that you're able to compete with the best is all well and good, but if Louisville is serious about showcasing its ability to challenge for a national championship in the future, 2016 is the season where it has to prove that it can get over the hump against either the Tigers or the Seminoles ... or both.
UofL men's basketball to make a run in the ACC Tournament
After four straight seasons of playing in conference tournament championship games, Louisville has seen its first two years in the ACC come and go without a single victory in college basketball's new spotlight conference tourney. The Cards were bounced by North Carolina in their opener in 2015, and then forced to sit out the tournament as part of their self-imposed postseason ban a year ago.
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 to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn this season. The Big East Tournament memories from the Garden are always going to be tough to match, but making a run against the country's best in New York next March would certainly be a refreshing throwback.
At least one of the four spotlight teams to make their sport's biggest stage
The four major programs at UofL -- football, men's and women's basketball, and baseball -- all figure to start 2016-17 with a national ranking and a shot at an extremely memorable season. There are no guarantees when it comes to the postseason in college sports, but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect at least one of these four teams to end their season on their sport's biggest stage. For football, that would be either the four-team playoff or a New Year's Six bowl, for the basketball teams it would be the Final Four, and for baseball it would be getting over the super regional hump and back to Omaha for the College World Series.
The men's soccer team to have a bounce-back year
Louisville soccer making a run in the NCAA Tournament had become one of the better new, winter traditions in this city up until last season, when the team missed the big dance for the first time in a decade. Ken Lolla will never let his program stay down, and has all the pieces necessary for a return to the national scene in 2016. Cardinal fans should once again expect the men's soccer team to provide an additionally pleasant distraction during the heart of football and basketball season.
At least four ACC championships for UofL programs
The Cards captured just one conference championship (baseball doesn't officially count regular season titles) in 2015-16, a number which should be bettered this coming season. I don't think four is too high a bar to set.
A version of this column runs in the current issue of The Voice-Tribune