“It’s not how we make mistakes, but how we correct them that defines us.” – Rachel Wolchin
It has always been my personal belief that we as humans, UofL Basketball fans notwithstanding, sometimes need a second chance in life because we weren’t adequately prepared for the first. Problem is, many times we are never given that second opportunity and are left to wonder what could have been.
To be completely frank, I’m still not unreservedly over last week’s loss to top ranked Virginia. It’s pathetic and immature perhaps, but I openly admit it. Yes, as a diehard vested fan I should have moved on well before now and in some ways perhaps I unknowingly have. Yesterday’s “must win” victory over Florida State was a clean band aid on a very deep, dirty wound. I concede that it was, at a minimum, progress in my journey toward absolute sports healing. But given that the Cards had been granted the perfect opportunity to control their destiny and punch their own ticket into the Big Dance by possibly beating the #1 team in college hoops, I still find myself looking back at all the things that actually had to go wrong as opposed to right for UofL to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and I confess that it haunts me to this minute.
Medicinally, there’s not much I or anyone reading this can do to erase the memory of De’Andre Hunter’s last second game-winning shot from last week. However, karma can work in the most mysterious of ways as later today this Louisville Basketball team which has been fighting the past several weeks for its post season life as it relates to a spot in next week’s NCAA Tournament, will receive the perfect and only set of circumstances that could possibly rectify and diminish what many have labeled the program’s most incomprehensible regular season defeat in school history – a loss that gave new meaning to the wretched “meltdown” term.
And yet amidst a season with more ups and downs than a King’s Island roller coaster – one which will be remembered as having been cloaked in an ongoing FBI pay to play investigation - there is reason for hope and optimism. In a matter of hours, the Cardinals and interim head coach David Padgett will receive the second chance of a lifetime – another shot at slaying the dragon.
How often do you lose a gut-wrenching and potentially season changing heartbreaker to the best team in your sport only to have the prospect of getting to play them again one week later with just as much at stake? It doesn’t happen all that often which leads me to the following question: Is this a basketball team of some type of bizarre, indescribable fate? Perhaps it is and based on the previous two matchups with the Cavaliers it certainly isn’t inconceivable that UofL could win today’s quarterfinal game. But as is custom with Tony Bennett and his Virginia teams, it will be anything but easy. Rebounding on both ends will be paramount. Limiting the offensive opportunities of UVA’s guards (Jerome/Guy) will be essential. But forgetting the past and focusing on a new and different outcome will be what matters the most in my opinion. Louisville has to, again, believe that it can win.
Forget about the modern day dominance that UVA has had over Louisville in recent years and the infamous pack line defense that they use to lock down their opponents. While both of those things are of great importance here, this game is more about Louisville itself than anything. Can this group of players put together another near 40 minutes of terrific team basketball and put their demons to bed? A second chance is all they could have asked for and now they have it on a silver platter for a national audience to witness.
Make no mistake, the Cardinals will have to play well in all facets today to take down Virginia, a team that almost never beats itself. Given the way that senior point guard Quentin Snider has started this ACC Tournament highlighted by a glowing performance against FSU (zero turnovers), I feel even better about the Cards’ chances. As is custom in the month of March, point guard play, especially that of upperclassmen, is of the highest significance in tournament play and it’s difficult to argue against the notion that when Snider plays well and up to his capabilities, UofL is anything but an easy team to beat regardless of location. In addition to Snider, the Cards will need big performances today from Ray Spaulding and Deng Adel. Hell, who am I kidding…….UofL needs everyone to play well.
Regardless of what it’s going to take for Louisville to advance today and almost assuredly cement its place in next week’s Big Dance, as a fan I’m super thankful that the Cards even have this bout of basketball serendipity. And whether UofL is “in” the tournament without regard to today’s noon tip off game, I’m hoping the players take the court with the attitude and approach that the only way to avoid an NIT bid in the coming days is to make good on this second chance of a basketball lifetime.
GO CARDS – BEAT VIRGINIA