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A Hoopaholic’s Lament

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What a long strange trip it’s been. This season.

That’s just so far. As for the destination? Who knows if there will be a there there?

Even the usually all knowing, all powerful Greek God of Hoops Naismithius hasn’t a clue. I’ve conjured a trek up Olympus to inquire. He waved me away, grumbling, “Not now, I’m still working on getting to the league tourneys.”

My Louisville Cardinals have been shut down, for what seems like forever.

So too, Baylor. And, Michigan, And more.

A couple situations come to mind to attempt to explain how this feels, the change, the uncertainty.

You’ve got a doctor’s appointment for 1:30. You check in, ask if the doc’s on schedule, and find out he’s not even in the building yet. You sit in the rapidly filling waiting room — work with me here, this is back in the old days — staring at the other folks, reading old People magazines. At a quarter past 2:00, you inquire again, to find out he’s finally arrived at the office. So, you get to see him, a mere 75 minutes after the scheduled time.

Or, it’s like you’re driving to meet some friends for dinner. And somebody on a cross street runs the light, and bashes into the front of your car. You know your vehicle’s probably a total, and you’ve got broken ribs or whiplash or something.

So, you sit there in a daze, and realize, life’s going to be significantly different for the foreseeable future. You just don’t know exactly how.

There’s this void. An emptiness that even the schadenfreude-inducing travails of arch rival don’t satisfy.

This Thursday evening was supposed to be Illinois vs. Michigan. Not happenin’. Eastern Ky vs. Belmont, and Southern Cal at UDub do not fill the empty hole in the stomach.

Good Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise, U of L will take to the hardwood again next Wednesday, taking on Syracuse. At home.

The missed tilt in the Carrier Dome is not currently rescheduled. Nor is a visit to John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. Small blessings.

The Cardinals sit at #38 in the NET rankings. At #33 on Ken Pomeroy’s charts. That’s 8-10 territory. Assuming there’s still territory to inhabit.

Sigh.

* * * * *

OK, however it works, there are schools we cotton to, and those we root against.

It happens.

I specifically recall when I started disliking Fran McCaffery.

It was in 2009, in the Dayton subregional, when he was still coaching Siena, and the Cards beat them to advance to the second weekend.

The fellow’s not a bad coach. But he just came across ornery, irascible, contentious.

Thus I root agains Iowa, where he now coaches. The Hawkeyes have lost 4 of 6. IU’s conquered them twice. Small, if not totally satisfying pleasures.

Anyway, this morning I was reading a piece by Eamonn Brennan, one of my favorite national hoops scribes.

He was talking about Iowa’s late season swoons. In ‘14, they were 19-6, then lost 7 of 8. In ‘16, they stood 20-5, then lost 6 of 8. Same in ‘19: 20-5, fell in 6 of last 8.

Then he shared, how the Hawkeye faithful have adopted a name for the phenomenon.

“Franuary.”

Couldn’t help but smile.

But not as much as if there was a Cardinal game to look forward to this evening.

— c d kaplan