The time is now for the Louisville Cardinals.
Not that a 34 point victory in the conference on the road, even against one of the worst teams in the history of a Power 5 league, isn’t worthy of some consideration. After all. . .
. . . it came with Deng Adel watching again in sweats. With Ray Spalding committing his first foul 14 seconds in. With the Cards up 35 with 7:28 to play, and only giving away a digit off that margin at the final buzzer, while playing everyone at the end of the bench except Vinny Tatum.
In the heart of the game, Pitt -- oh my, what a woeful contingent Kevin Stallings has fashioned -- went 11:59 without a field goal.
So, as ready and energized as U of L was, I’m disinclined to hold this game in much store.
But I’ll get to all that in a bit.
* * * * *
What matters is this.
The University of Louisville Cardinals sit, empty dance card and pencil in hand, precariously on the bubble.
The only really “good” W the Cards can point to is Florida State in Tallahassee. Then, as is this team’s wont, they gave it back at the Yum!.
Seton Hall, Notre Dame, Miami, Virginia Tech are all hovering in the same rankings warp as the Cards. Syracuse, to whom the Cards lost at home, and IU, which they beat, are staring up at the bubbles, hopping and hoping to grab one to sit on.
There are tens of teams across the land with similar resumés, looking to make a push and have a pleasant Selection Sunday. Some are going to make it, most aren’t.
Three seriously difficult road games await. Duke. Virginia Tech. NC State. Two challenging home games are also yet to be contested. North Carolina. Virginia.
It says here, in order to go dancing, the Cards must win 3 of those 5, be JWill/ Seth noticeably competitive in the other two, then win at least one in the ACC tourney.
We shall find out soon enough if this squad has steel.
* * * * *
Louisville had a walkover. Yet to this gang’s credit they didn’t lollygag, at least not after they gave up three treys in a row early, fell behind 7-11 and felt David Padgett’s wrath during a timeout. They then ran off 11 in a row, and kept the pedal to the metal after that.
Despite playing Full Speed Ahead, Louisville only committed 8 turnovers. Six of those came late when it always gets sloppy when a team’s up 30+.
The Cards’ defense was scrappy, even if they looked like the Keystone Kops from time to time. Hustle alone works against a team as hapless as Sunday’s foe. More discipline will be necessary in the weeks to come.
VJ King looked more engaged than usual, and played incrementally better. He had a few deflections, seemed to be moving his feet on D, and took it strong to the hoop several times, instead of stopping short and going for the panache.
Darius Perry played his finest game. 7 assists. 7 points. 2 steals. His three turnovers all came on aggressive plays that were legitimate opportunities worth pursuing.
Jordan Nwora was 5/6 from the field. He grabbed 6 rebounds and had 2 assists to complement his 13 points.
Malik Williams was the star of Garbage Time. He tallied 14 points in 14 minutes.
Dwayne Sutton, who always busts his hump on defense, had 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in limited PT.
U of L, which got it in close a lot against a porous Panther D, hit 63% (34-54) from the field. The Cards were also en fuego from downtown, netting 10 of 19. 16/21 from the line works.
* * * * * *
It’s hard to discern whether the cohesiveness of the last two encounters comes from the ineptitude of the opponents, or real improvement?
What effect Deng Adel’s absence from the lineup? What effect his return?
Rare is the season that even the lesser of Cardinal outfits doesn’t come up with a stunning victory or two. Ask Brandon Ingram about his not so yummy evening in the Yum!. Or the Tar Heels about their last couple visits.
The time is now.
-- Seedy K