In an overwhelmingly disappointing February, Louisville saved its worst for last.
The Cardinals fell 66-59 Wednesday night to a Boston College team that entered the evening 4-10 in ACC play. Despite facing the 131st-best defense in the country, U of L shot just 33.3 percent from the field (22-of-67), 20.8 percent from three (5-of-24), and turned the ball over 14 times (10 more than BC).
We talked earlier this week about explanations for what has happened to this team over the past three weeks. A few of those explanations — step up in competition, bad matchups, tough defenses to prepare for — went out the window Wednesday night.
If Boston College is going to upset Louisville, it should be because Ky Bowman and Jordan Chatman went berserk from the outside and the Eagles were able to pull out a narrow win in a shootout. It shouldn’t be because U of L showcased no ability to attack a defense that gave up 100 points to Providence earlier this year and 80 to this same Cardinal squad just over a month ago.
There will be some “we’re going to the NIT” and “we’re back on the bubble” talk over the next three days that will be unwarranted. Louisville’s resume would still have it safely in the field of 68 if the tournament began today, and it’s strong enough to absorb even a few more body blows between now and Selection Sunday.
Just about every other negative reaction will be warranted.
I wish I could explain it, but I can’t. It’s one thing to start losing more games when you take a step up in competition, it’s something else entirely when your demeanor, your intensity, and (obviously) your execution don’t even remotely resemble the team you were just four weeks ago. That’s a very scary reality to be dealing with as the calendar flips to March.
When I think about late season slides in relatively recent years, two seasons come to mind: 2003-04, and 2011-12. The first team started its season 16-1, lost seven of its last 10 regular season games, never seemed overly concerned with fixing its problems, limped into the NCAA tournament as a 10-seed, and was handled in the first round by, ironically, Xavier. The other team lost four of its last six regular season games, had a miraculous light switch moment during the Big East tournament, and you can all take the story from there.
I’m not saying these are the only two options, I’m just saying that inexplicable February collapses lead to impossible to predict Marches (Florida State had lost 6 of 10 entering the tournament last year).
Even so, there’s no way to deny that Louisville’s current state is bleak. I don’t have a solution, I’m not overly optimistic about the likelihood of it being fixed, I just know that it sucks. I wish there was more to say than that.
Here’s to some unexplainable deus ex machina moment taking control starting on Sunday.