The Louisville Men’s Basketball team has essentially hit the home stretch of its barbaric regular season schedule. With less than a handful of games left to play in league action, the Cards have positioned themselves quite nicely for an unofficial ACC regular season title as they now control their own destiny. More importantly, UofL looks to be gearing up for a late post season run in March – something that has become not only the norm, but also the expected around the Cardinals program.
I ask that you kindly bear with me for the next few minutes while I attempt to provide you with a little bit of a different and unique narrative in comparison to other blog entries you might read (all good and pertinent I might add) as it relates to Coach Pitino and his current squad.
The current state of success Louisville Basketball has accumulated this season, despite the familiar ups and downs, can be near precisely summarized without any long drawn out explanations or theories. In fact, I think it can be best exemplified by two simple letters of the English alphabet ……
I and Q
“Great players are willing to give up their own personal achievement for the achievement of the group. It enhances everybody” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
(I) So follow me here if you will. First and foremost, the oldest sports cliché in the book is that “there is no I in team”. The fact is, however, that despite being used millions of times by coaches, journalists, and fans from near and far, this hackneyed phrase is as relevant and verifiable today as it ever has been in all competitive sports, especially college basketball. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this current Louisville Basketball team personifies the old, yet appropriate saying……
“Alone we are strong, together we are stronger……..”
Aside from the occasional individual brilliance put on display by future NBA’er Donovan Mitchell, UofL has pieced together a 22-5 record and a national top 10 ranking by playing as a cohesive unit, not as a group of individuals looking for their day in the sun via the highlight reels or to pad their resumes for pro scouts. Just take a gander back at the Cards most recent two wins, a crucially important nail biter at Syracuse that featured a slew of heroes wearing red and black and a hard fought win over a pesky VA Tech team that at one point didn’t look as if it could miss even if shooting from the Galt House.
Donovan Mitchell was a key offensive contributor in both wins, make no bones about it. But unheralded (and might I say underrated) junior Jaylen Johnson played a monster role in both victories with his tenacity on the glass and a monstrous 17 point second half performance on Saturday. Quentin Snider came out of the gate with his hair on fire against The Cuse and scored 19 points against the Hokies. Anas Mahmoud finally played to his potential again by crashing the middle of that infamous Orangemen zone defense and David Levitch was habitually Mr. Reliable on Big Monday. Ryan McMahon finally had his first memorable moment as a Card with seven huge points in the overtime period that included a triple from behind the arc and an important put back bucket.
It’s been this way all season. As a fan you never really know who is gonna have the “hot hand.” And it’s this level of balance and selflessness that will be the backbone to a possible march to Phoenix and the Final Four in the coming weeks.
(Q) In the indistinguishable vein that Prince Rogers Nelson was the artist formerly known as Prince, Quentin Snider is the point guard currently known as “Q”. It can certainly be debated, yet I sincerely do not think there is a single player on this current Louisville roster that is as important to the Cards’ long-term success as Snider. He was the difference between UofL beating a then top 5 Kentucky team back in December as opposed to the Cards painfully losing its third straight to its in-state rival. He was steady before that game and has remained as such for virtually the entire season. Undoubtedly, the Cards have or have had enough talent and depth to beat the better part of its opponents this season with Q not on the floor. But in order to defeat the blue bloods (UK, IU, Duke and soon to be UNC) and other future post season challengers, Quentin Snider must be part of the equation. More proof in the pudding would be last Saturday’s titanic struggle at the Yum Center with a feisty Miami team where Snider’s deep three late in the game was the nail in the coffin for the Hurricanes.
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan
(IQ) If there are a few principal things I have learned as a Louisville Men’s Basketball fan over the years and particularly the past decade, it would be the following: I should remain patient, refrain from having historically cantankerous knee jerk reactions to losses, and always try seeing the bigger picture. With that being said, in order for this team to fulfill its pinnacle, its optimum destiny of hanging a coveted fourth National Championship banner from the rafters of the Yum Center just one season following a self-imposed post season ban it must play smart and put a higher basketball IQ on display.
I mean by and large I have very few complaints about the team I will watch take on North Carolina in a monster matchup next Wednesday. But the few things I have noticed that I would place directly under the heading of “opportunities to achieve greatness” all relate to the team showcasing a high basketball IQ. Specifically, I mean the following…….
· Not being careless with the basketball
· Using the clock to your advantage when ahead
· Making the extra pass
· Bailing out opponents with silly fouls after a good defensive stint
· Not allowing a team to get shots off when they cannot miss
The next month of basketball is going to be wild and certainly entertaining but if this team can stay healthy, remain selfless, keep its floor general involved and play smart then great things can and will transpire. A great first step would be getting its first ACC road win against a top 10 opponent in three days.
Go Cards / Beat UNC