A couple of weeks ago it was possible to envision a magical ending for the University of Louisville basketball team this season. My, how the outlook has changed, making it easy to expect a near collapse with six games to go.
The Cardinals were sailing with a 18-3 record, 6-1 in the conference, and on a four-game winning streak. Then came the baffling 16-point loss to Virginia at home, followed by a six-point win over North Carolina. Back on track, anything still possible. Then there was the bleak Friday afternoon when the UofL administration announced the self-imposed ban on post season play.
Rick Pitino saying the absence of post-season play making the remaining nine games much more important, providing extra motivation, trying to have fun, needing to finish strong. That doesn’t seem to be working out with the Cardinals having lost two winnable games out of the past three.
The magic has dissipated, replaced by something resembling a process of simply going through the motions. Fortunate to still be hanging around at the end of games. Six more to go under a dark cloud, each a major challenge in this atmosphere.
The latest loss a 71-66 decision to Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon, Louisville bowing after owning an 11-point lead with 15 minutes remaining in the game. Problem was the Cardinals could only manage three more field goals over that span.
— Damion Lee, with three 3-pointers in the first half, unable to hit another until the game was all but out of reach with 16 seconds remaining. Gets his share of points, 13 against Notre Dame, but those dreams of his, of hitting winning shots against major opponents have yet to come to fruition.
— Trey Lewis picked up 11 points. Has yet to exhibit any ability to take over a game, the leadership lacking, the distance between Cleveland State and Louisville becoming too much to overcome.
— Chinanu Onuaku draws a lot of raves from the analysts and some fans expecting him to be headed to the NBA after this season. But he still lacks the ability to stay out of foul trouble, catch a pass from his teammates, and makes making an easy layup really difficult.
Onuaku is the starting center for a good reason but he rarely proves it. He has come a long way, but he is not even close to arriving.
— Quentin Snider not making many turnovers but he’s not capable of making those Russ Smith or Peyton Siva moves under the basket. Frustrating for him, frustrating for his fans.
— There was that blocked shot and subsequent dunk by Matz Stockman to end the first half, but Matz would not return. Thanks for the bright spot, Matz.
One could go on but this observer doesn’t want to add to the negativity. There will be more than enough of that in the days, weeks and months ahead.
As for this season, things had better get better quickly. Maybe a relief when it does end and what may have been a mirage or a crazy dream becomes a tarnished memory.