With an 11-11 overall record, a single Quad 1 victory, and a current NET ranking of 118, the Louisville men’s basketball team’s only potential path to the NCAA tournament at this point is very clearly to win four (or five) consecutive games at next month’s ACC tournament in Brooklyn.
Even with that being the case, U of L’s performances in its two games since parting ways with former head coach Chris Mack have left all of us a bit reinvigorated and believing that there are still positive memories to be made between now and whenever this season comes to a close.
While the biggest goals we had for this team before the start of the season might be long out the window, here are five things I’d still love to see this group accomplish before we turn the page to the next era of Cardinal basketball.
1. Notch at least one “extreme feel good” victory
Louisville has eight games remaining in its 2021-22 regular season, and to this point, the Cards have not scored the type of euphoric victory that we’re all used to experiencing at least a couple of times during every winter campaign. The type of victory that has you unable to sleep, texting your like-minded friends after midnight, and still giddy when you wake up the morning after.
A revenge victory over North Carolina in Chapel Hill would do the trick. So, probably, would a Senior Day home win over Virginia. But the opponent doesn’t necessarily matter here. A massive comeback, a win on a last-second buzzer-beater, a five overtime thriller; these are all options.
However it happens, this group deserves at least one victory that stands the test of time and that will be remembered forever by these players and everyone supporting them.
2. Extend the Virginia Tech winning streak to 18 games
Louisville’s longest active winning streak against an opponent is 17 straight victories over Virginia Tech, whom the Cards have not lost to since Feb. 13, 1991. The next longest, for those interested, is 15 straight wins over Eastern Kentucky.
Louisville’s only scheduled game against VT is set to be played on March 1 in Blacksburg. Even though U of L currently sits ahead of the Hokies in the ACC standings, Ken Pom projects the Cardinals to be a 10-point underdog in that game.
Pull the upset inside Cassell Coliseum and extend the streak.
3. Avoid ACC tournament Tuesday
As mentioned, Louisville’s only real path to the NCAA tournament at this point is to win the ACC tournament in Brooklyn. For that to be even remotely possible, the Cards likely need to begin their journey on Wednesday and avoid playing in one of the three games on opening Tuesday. Those games include the teams seeded 10-15 in the tournament, so, obviously, the goal here is to finish in the top nine of the final ACC regular season standings.
Ideally, you’d want U of L to finish in the top seven in order to avoid a (likely) quarterfinal matchup against (likely) top seed Duke, but we’re keeping things simple for now.
4. Maintain the program’s winning record against Coach K
With a 9-8 record against the Hall of Famer, Louisville is the only program in college basketball that has faced Mike Krzyzewski at least 10 times and won more times than it has lost.
With Coach K calling it a career at the end of this season (have you guys seen this? have you heard about this?), Louisville stands to hold this title from now through the end of time so long as it doesn’t fall to the Blue Demons in the ACC tournament.
Either avoid the Dukies altogether in Brooklyn or take them down one last time and make K’s final conference game a loss.
5. Win multiple games in the ACC tournament
This team has made so much negative program history this season, it would only be right for them to go out by making some positive history.
Since joining the ACC, Louisville has not only failed to advance to the league’s tournament semifinals a single time, but they’ve never won more than a single game in the tournament. The Cards are just 2-5 overall in the tournament (didn’t play in 2016 or 2020), with a pair of second round wins and four quarterfinal losses to their name.
This is especially jarring when you take into account that from 2009-2014, Louisville won four conference tournament championships and played in their league’s tournament championship game in five out of six years.
Setting the goal of winning the whole thing seems just a tad too lofty at this point (although I’m sure we’ll all get there by the time early March rolls around), but becoming the first Louisville team to win multiple games in the ACC tournament and going on a “run” that would give everyone a little jolt of life feels like a fitting end to a very tough five-month stretch.