Prepare yourselves, Cardinal fans.
The University of Louisville men’s basketball team is on a collision course with the most dreaded initials in college hoops.
N I T
Time isn’t really a variable. The date of Selection Doomsday is a known.
I watched a lot of ball on Saturday. Though I am weary of viewing games, while trying to figure out which teams to root for and against so as to increase the Cards chances of sneaking into the Dance, I took the measure of all I saw.
Syracuse. Miami. Texas. Oklahoma. Alabama. Kentucky. Auburn. South Carolina. Villanova. Xavier. West Virginia. Kansas. Indiana. Michigan State. Northwestern.
Using the well worn measuring stick we are wont to trot out -- How many would your team win if the schools played ten times? -- the only one of those outfits I believe the Cards would beat more often than not would be Chris Collins’ Wildcats. And they’ll be spending the post season catching up on school work in Evanston.
Attribute Louisville’s diminished station in the hierarchy of the winter pastime we love so very very much upon the scapegoat of your choice.
Rick Pitino. The Board of Trustees. Governor Bevin. The neophyte coaching staff. The absence of the NBA Dunk Champion. The pall that enshrouds the program. Matt Jones. Obama.
The sad reality is that this team this year in these sad times is simply, objectively not ready for prime time.
Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith and Mangok Mathiang were introduced on the video board last evening.
This Cardinal team, bless their hearts, simply doesn’t possess enough of the talents and characteristics of the squads those guys played on to be truly successful.
I pray the Cards can somehow score a ticket to the party. That they can prove they deserved the chance if they make it.
I simply don’t see it happening.
* * * * *
Last night’s loss was on display in microcosm during the Tar Heels first two possessions after intermission.
On the victors’ first, Theo Pinson missed a jumper. Nobody put a body on Luke Maye, who scored on a follow.
After Quentin Snider missed a layup, the Baby Blues hurried the ball up court in tempo as they do. Maye missed a jumper, but grabbed his own rebound. He was errant on the follow, but Pinson crashed through for the carom. Cameron Johnson finished the Tar Heels’ volleyballing with a deuce.
During that sequence, Anas Mahmoud stood around and watched. Literally.
The Cardinals’ starter up front finished with 3 points, 2 rebounds and 3 turnovers. Counterpart Luke Maye’s stat line read 19 points, 13 rebounds (6 offensive), 3 assists, 4 steals.
Hustle, grit and, let’s be honest here, better talent better coached, prevailed.
North Carolina scored 22 second chance points; U of L only 6.
The winners had 20 assists; the Cards only 9. (Deng Adel had 6 of those, to go along with 20 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals, off the bench.)
One team came out ready, played the game.
The other fumbled, bumbled and stumbled.
* * * * *
It has been apparent for awhile, and is more certain now 27 games in, that pre-season expectations for this Cardinal contingent were significantly misoverestimated.
The only way for this gang to succeed is to go hell bent for leather, hurling themselves on the floor for loose balls, crashing the boards, blocking out, making hard cuts to the hoop (and finishing), stopping penetration.
For whatever reasons -- again you choose -- it hasn’t appeared in these guys’ nature to do that consistently.
The season’s not over.
But the end is looming ever closer.
-- Seedy K