The situation for me each and every year is nearly identical to that of the year before. I get to enjoy a wonderful season of Louisville football, embrace the encouraging feel good stories during the four or five weeks between the Kentucky win and the bowl game, and then get to watch the Cards play in a meaningful bowl or at least see some new faces get a few reps and predict how an aggressive five yard run or 12 yard catch from that redshirt freshman will somehow translate into a tough fourth quarter play against a Wake Forest or Syracuse team nine months later. It’s great, and it makes the holiday season that much better.
This year though. This year is different. The college football season as a whole became less enjoyable for me each and every week as Louisville failed to perform at a level we had grown accustomed too, and the diminishing returns have now translated into the bowl season for me as well. A random Tuesday night game between Troy and Toledo was appointment TV for me, and the classics such as the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, etc were always penciled in on the calendar months in advance, but this year….it’s December 28th and I haven’t watched a complete bowl game yet. The excitement level just isn’t there for me at the end of 2018 and what I would typically consider a time of misery has allowed a brand new door to open, one that many other fans in my situation should look to as well.
On this site specifically my main focus is on the football team, starting with coverage back in March during the countdown and continuing to offer my thoughts and opinions all the way through December/January depending upon when the season ends and any impending staff changes that may occur. What that typically means though is my full investment in the basketball team doesn’t begin until that time. Don’t get me wrong, I still watch nearly every second of every single game starting back in October, still feel the chest pains of the last second heroics against mid majors in November, and still get pit stains on my favorite t-shirts during the ACC-B1G Challenge and the other Power 5 non-conference opponents. The difference is that usually in the back of my mind football is still going on and my focus can shift quickly from why Levitch missed two free throws late in a 30 point win to who the third string slot receiver will be during the Cards bowl game. This year though, that transition is happening much sooner, and the Marquette Nwora three pointer that wasn’t and the attention grabbing technical from TV Teddy during the Tennessee breakdown still linger in my head. The closeout of a tough Seton Hall team on the road and potential tournament team in Lipscomb both still generate a mental fist pump for me to this day. I’m enjoying the roller coaster of the basketball season in much more detail a full month or more before I would usually dive in. My heart and my wife may disagree that’s a good thing, but my head says it’s amazing.
In my opinion, basketball will always be king at Louisville but the maturation of the football program has allowed fans to cheer for two predominantly strong teams in the top revenue producing sports for eight months straight numerous seasons in a row. Over the last decade or two many of you have looked to football to kick off the sports calendar and followed the program intently until the season concludes, but what that means is that your full basketball buy-in usually doesn’t start until conference play. The challenging football season made for a rough few months that still rub me the wrong way, but the frustrations of October and November have let me fall back in love with early season Louisville basketball. I was reading in depth previews from Ken Pom about Nicholls State, looking at the offensive philosophies of Vermont…it was like I was a little Mike Rutherford Jr. What usually was a two hour distraction against a team from the Southland Conference was suddenly an afternoon investment once again, and what a great Cardinal basketball team to help me remember my roots…
- The comeback story of Akoy Agau who still contributes relevant minutes and has been instrumental in helping get a couple wins this year.
- The story of little recruited Ryan McMahon who has nailed some three point daggers and leads the ACC in free throw percentage (.939) and is Top 10 nationally in the same category.
- The story of Jordan Nwora who fought for PT last year and is now Top 10 in FG% in the ACC (.504), tied for first in the ACC in Def rebounds (82), and is third in the ACC in points behind stud freshmen RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson.
- The story of Dwayne Sutton who returned back home to Louisville and has been a team leader with his defensive aggressiveness while still being second on the team in pts/g and reb/g.
- The stories of Khwan Fore and Christian Cunningham, the transfers that bought into a new coach and program in a tough spot and are contributing 42+ minutes each game in a thin backcourt.
- The story of Malik Williams who still shows flashes of his game outside the arc but has taken on the challenge of becoming a presence in the paint; currently 3rd in the ACC in blocks (20) and 3rd on the team in rebounds.
And of course let’s not forget the contributions of Darius Perry, Steven Enoch, and VJ King among others. The guys I usually become emotionally invested in come January already had my full attention before we carved the turkey on Thanksgiving. While I doubt anyone needs a pep talk for the game tomorrow this is your official invitation to get on board with “Team 105” as we start a new chapter of Louisville basketball. The last coaching regime had a lot of great wins but their success against the team down the road was lackluster to say the least. Maybe that trend begins anew tomorrow? Just as Coach Mack said earlier this week, a loss against Kentucky doesn’t derail the progress that has already been made, but a win would certainly help in moving things forward with the team’s goals they want to accomplish.
Instead of a two hour distraction, instead of a temporary diversion from bowl season, this is a Louisville fan that is already knee deep in shot charts and plus/minus box scores before the ball drops on the new year. Love for November and December Louisville basketball is real….and it’s spectacular.
Go Cards. Beat Kentucky.