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Turning Point: Contemplating the Cards’ Conundrum

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It is at this juncture, this moment of discouragement, that I must remember my vow.

My beloved University of Louisville Cardinals basketballers have dropped two in a row. On the road. To schools they “should have handled.” One by a margin almost unfathomable. Which sudden, bracing comeuppance followed a fantasy-inducing ten game winning streak which vaulted them to a spot as one of the nation’s darlings.

The slump has coach Chris Mack in full reconsideration mode.

The slump has the fan base in panic mode.

High expectations, both real and faux, have clashed with reality. The future, always uncertain by definition, is way more so than this time last week.

So, I must remember my vow, made in the joyous late evening delirium of April 8, 2013.

In dark days of yesteryear, before the first national championship that came in 1980, it was a running joke among my friends that my gravestone would read, “He only wanted One.”

Ah, but when the Cards carried home their third national championship, I vowed it would all be gravy from then on. That I had gotten my fair share. That I’d certainly cheer on U of L with the same gusto as I had since the age of seven, that I’d cherish the Ws and successes, and accept the Ls and pitfalls with a more mature perspective.

That, with three in hand, I would be more vigilant of the vicissitudes of the seasons that followed that victory over Michigan for the crown.

But . . . as those Marines turned rockers, the Essex sang, “It’s easier said than done.”

* * * * *

What has befallen the still highly regarded if less so Cardinals is not unique.

In this wacky, devilishly imperfect college hoops campaign, many are the possible national title holders who have stepped in the quick sand. Some have climbed out, others remain sunk up to their necks.

This edition of the Cardinals has always been more fragile than perceived. Flaws have been masked, most often by incredible marksmanship. Sometimes by grit.

So, the alarms are sounding wherever the Red & Black Faithful gather.

And, we’ve all got our own take, our individual perspectives as to what’s gone wrong, and what, if anything, needs to be changed?

* * * * *

The question for me then, given that I have this forum, is whether I offer suggested solutions to the untoward situation?

Do I consider myself a “basketball expert?” Enough to present my take, as if it would have some gravitas.

Kinda. Sorta. Uh, not really.

I mean I’ve played a lot of hoops. But, the highlight of my career came in 6th grade Biddy Ball when I scored 18 over the best team in the league, whose star later started for a high school state champ.

And I’ve watched a lot of hoops. Too much. Enough that I legitimately designate myself a hoopaholic.

I would consider myself smarter than the average bear about b-ball, but I’ve decided to keep any proffered solutions to myself.

Here’s what I hope for:

That every Cardinal busts his hump on every possession. At the offensive end. At the defensive end.

That on offense, he runs to his spot with speed and focus, makes hard precise cuts and passes, sets solid picks, stays aware of who is the open guy to take the shot, then hits the boards and/or gets back to cover as is his duty.

That on defense, he gets his feet set on D, cuts off the lane, closes on shots, helps on the weak side, and hits the boards.

That they each support their teammates, compete to the best of their capabilities every second of the games, during practice, and prep.

That the coaches keep the squad together as a team, provide strategies to maximize the team’s potential.

If the Louisville Cardinals do that, I cannot reasonably ask for anything more.

Which is not to say, you know, I won’t also beseech Naismithius, Greek God of Hoops, for victories.

It’s. What. Diehards. Do.

Beat Boeheim.

— c d kaplan