This is the way the season ends/ This is the way the season ends/ This is the way the season ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper.
I’ve stolen and skewed T.S. Eliot before. And do so again.
It’s never quite as appropriate as the right now, is it?
It applies figuratively, if not literally.
In its 56-70 loss to Duke in the ACC tourney 2d round, the Louisville Cardinals looked tired, forlorn, and without a clue how to attack the Blue Devils’ defense. Or stop Matthew Hurt. Or stop Mark Williams, who in the absence of any Cardinal presence in the middle had his way.
* * * * *
There’s a reason why no school has bested a Mike Krzyzewski squad thrice in a season since the Ralph Sampson/ Rick Carlisle/ Othell Wilson Virginia Cavaliers of ‘82-’83. Chris Mack is far from the first coach to get outmaneuvered by the best in the history of the game.
Which doesn’t make it any less hard to watch.
For the first time all season, the Blue Devils switched every ball screen. Mack admitted U of L never acclimated.
“We didn’t adjust. Myself. Our players.”
Except for two quick strike mini runs, fueled by the Cardinals ability to get a few stops.
There was the 6-0 spurt over 1:20 that knotted the game at 11. And that hope-inducing, three minute 16-0 foray near the end of the 1st, pushing the Cards up a deuce at 29-27.
It was stopped by a Hurt trey, the last tally before intermission.
The Blue Devils scored on it first five possessions of the 2d, 10 of its first 11.
Louisville couldn’t stop.
Louisville couldn’t score.
Mack’s mea culpa: “I didn’t make the adjustments necessary to win.”
* * * * *
It has been a season of discontent.
Of course, the buck stops with the coach, but, to be fair and realistic . . .
. . . U of L never really had a chance to play the hand it thought it had been dealt.
Malik Williams, out with injury, was never a factor.
Charles Minlend, out with injury, his melding in a new environment plagued by the the plague, was never a factor.
Josh Nickelberry, out with injury, never found his rhythm.
Aidan Igiehan, out with illness, was never a factor.
Jae’Lyn Withers played out of position.
David Johnson too often tried to do things he’s not yet ready to do.
Carlik Jones, the team’s only ball handler, only alpha dog, wore down.
What was there to battle through the campaign with its stops and starts and delays and quarantines was a squad of ill-begotten structure.
Shape without form, shade without color, Paralyzed force, gesture without motion.
* * * * *
So why am I talking like the season is over, when Selection Sunday is still several days away?
I watched the first half of BYU’s eventual loss to Gonzaga Tuesday night. They never stopped moving and passing and reversing the rock. Nor, before intermission, putting the ball through the net.
It was mentioned how the Cougars are a projected 6 or 7 seed. Meaning they’ll play an 11 or 12, somebody like U of L. Should the Cardinals’ name be called.
And, I kept thinking how the Cards will get crushed by a team that plays like that.
As a diehard U of L fan for almost 70 years, I surely want them to dance. But the side of me who sets aside my allegiance, my fandom, and on occasion is a realist, wonders — forgive me, Cardinal fans — wouldn’t it maybe be better if the Cards bubble bursts?
Maybe it would be better to just start over again next year.
— c d kaplan