Young Jeff Walz will have his hands full as the University of Louisville women’s basketball team squares off against Stanford and Tara VanDerveer, one of the industry legends.
The 64-year-old VanDerveer, who was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2011, has compiled an amazing record of 1,045 wins and 241 losses in 39 years. She has won two national championships at Stanford, been selected national coach of the year four times, and named Pac 12 coach of the year times. She has won 884 of those games during her 32-year tenure at Stanford. Prior to that VanDerveer coached two season at Idaho and five seasons at Ohio State.
Walz, 37 years old, has won 297 games and lost 95 in 11 seasons at UofL, having guided his teams to seven trips to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 and two NCAA runner-up finishes. His teams have averaged 26 wins per year, with more than 30 wins three times, including the 32-2 mark this season and during the 2008-09 and 2013-14 seasons.
Stanford is familiar with Rupp Arena, returning to the Lexington Regional for the third consecutive year. Last season VanDerveer’s team overcame a 20-point deficit to Notre Dame in the regional championship to advance to the Final Four.
This is the first meeting ever between the two schools. A win over VanDerveer would get the series off to a good start and would be a major milestone for the Louisville coach.
A perfect day for University of Louisville basketball fans.
One of those magical days for UofL basketball, the KFC Yum! Center the center of the universe, the place to be on a Sunday in March. Basketball all day long, thousands of fans emerging to celebrate, enjoying every last minute as the 2017-18 season nears an end.
The UofL women’s team dominating Marquette 90-72 before a crowd of 8,017 in the second round of the NCAA tournament in the afternoon. The men’s team defeating a good Middle Tennessee State team 84-68 before 13,050 in the second round of the NIT later that night.
A day of winning for Cardinals’ fans, basking in the spotlight of national TV coverage, shedding the negativity, enjoying the positive, happy days are her again for UofL basketball. More of those resounding C-A-R-D-S cheers in one day than one an remember over the last three or four years.
That kind of day for the Louisville fans, wanting to show their Cardinals some love, wanting to catch up on the good times, and put some of the bad memories behind them if only for a day or so. A good day to be a Louisville fan.
Myisha Hines-Allen, a senior playing in her last game in Louisville, kissing the Cardinal logo on the floor after the game. That fabled turn-around jump shot of hers, rat-a-tat-tat, working to perfection, making 12 of 16 field goal attempts.
“It was my last game here, and I wanted to go out with a win,” she said after the game. “I’m just so thankful to have made it this far, to have great teammates around me, to have wonderful fans come out to a game, know what they’re watching. They’re such great fans, and I consider everyone I’ve met over the last four years a part of my family.”
Louisville fans going to miss her eloquent post-game commentaries and that shot she has perfected. Hines-Allen putting on a clinic, making it look so easy when it’s so hard for every shooter. Still another double-double, the 33rd of her career at UofL, with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
Asia Durr finding her outside shot again, making three of six 3-point attempts, finishing 19 points and six assists. Sam Fuehring breaking loose for 19 points as well. Jazmine Jones adding 14 points.
The men, propelled by another one of those joyous NIT crowds, radiating new levels of energy and determination. Also shooting with new levels of efficiency, hitting 53 percent of their field goal attempts.
Ryan McMahon invigorating the Cardinals in the first half, burying four of six 3-point attempts from behind the experimental 22-foot line. Igniting his team, making the crowd erupt, giving UofL some rare breathing room in the first half.
Jordan Nwora enjoying 21 minutes of playing time, also zeroing from the behind the 3-point line making four of eight attempts and 17 points for the night. Ray Spalding making good on eight of 11 shots, earning team scoring honors with 18 points.
Anas Mahmoud with the slam dunk of his career, surprising even himself, shocking the crowd, making fans do double-takes, even after watching the replay on the video board. Some disbelievers still shaking their heads as they headed for home after the nightcap.
Many familiar faces at both games, downtown businesses benefitting from two UofL games in the same day. One big great reunion of Cardinal fans, celebrating Cardinal basketball all day long. Devoted fans, not easily discouraged by events of the past, giddy to be back on the winning side.
Vince Tyra, the probable athletic director at the University of Louisville, had to have mixed feelings. Smallest crowd of the 2017-18 season but probably the best one.
The UofL partisans among the 9,974 fans so happy to be there for the National Invitation Tournament. Thriving on watching their Louisville basketball team. As one observer remarked, the home court would be a hell hole for opponents if every game had this atmosphere.
UofL was listless, awkward and struggling early, playing without any semblance of rhythm or purpose. Looking for a while like the Cardinals might be headed for still another low point, plunging into nothingness if they couldn’t get it going. So many airballs and blown plays, UofL falling behind 30-23 at the half.
But this raucous congregation of fans, consisting of many never seen in the lower levels of the KFC Yum! Center, were not going to let them quit. They were there to see their Cardinals, enjoying the big buck seats, and they would be a factor. Time after time they willed the Cardinals back in the game, helping shake off the sluggishness, willing them back into the game, pushing them over the top.
The crescendo coming with 40 seconds to go in the third quarter, on a towering, posterizing dunk by Darius Perry. The No. 1 dunk of the year coming in the NIT. The birthday boy from Powder Springs, Georgia, coming through with the icing on the cake. From that moment on it was just a matter of time, with Louisville a good Northern Kentucky team 66-58 to advance to the next round.
Vince Tyra had to be amazed at the exuberance of the all the non season-ticket holders filling those seats in the lower bowl. In the best of all UofL worlds, the best seats would be always be occupied by the most vocal fans.
Not that anyone is complaining about the regulars who have been there through some trying times. But crowds like the one Tuesday night are a endearing reminder of the yesteryears when economics were not such a dominating factor in college basketball.
Coach David Padgett giving this crowd much of the credit, “They gave the energy we needed to win this game,” he said.
For all the talk about the University of Louisville basketball team not having any bad games, there sure have been a lot of downs for Coach David Padgett’s team. Posing a real threat to UofL’s chances of receiving an NCAA invitation.
The latest downer was a 75-58 loss to top-ranked Virginia in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Almost a week after the Cardinals had fumbled away a sure win in a 67-66 shocker against the Cavaliers at the KFC Yum! Center.
Louisville would be humbled again a couple of nights later in a 76-69 loss to North Carolina State that was not as close as the score indicated. A couple of weeks ago UofL lost to Duke and North Carolina by deficits of 26 and 17 points, respectively. And, of course, there was there was that inexplicable 29-point loss to Kentucky earlier in the season.
References to the turmoil off the court may amount to little more than excuses or rationalization
Yet there was Coach David Padgett being optimistic in the post-game press conference saying, “If you look at our overall body of work, we haven’t done anything wrong. I think that’s getting lost a lot in the shuffle this year is people used to put a lot of emphasis and a lot of weight on these, quote-unquote, bad losses.”
As much as one may like and respect Padgett, all of the above-mentioned losses could be construed as less than stellar to NCAA selection committee members. To add to the challenge, there have been no wins against ranked teams.
When the Cardinals did impress this season, it was always against lesser competition. Raising the hopes of their fans, only to have them dashed against better one. At times seeming to play without purpose or leadership, employing a confusing variety of lineups, some players disappearing for weeks at a time.
Rarely was there much evidence of the confidence and passion required for a team to meet or exceed expectations. Even with the off-the-court hurdles, UofL was still expected to be among the nation’s top five teams this season.
There were a few exhilarating moments, but they were few and far between. The passion exhibited by Louisville teams in the past was missing. If a switch was turned on in one game, the duration was all too brief, nowhere to found in the next. Little evidence of consistency from one half to the next, or from one game to another.
All the references to the turmoil off the court amount to little more than excuses or rationalization. If anything the controversies could have brought the team closer together, you know, the us against the world mentality. One never sensed that to be the case, almost as if the players were in collective denial. One also has to wonder about the motivational approaches or lack thereof with so much drama to feed on during the season.
There were a few fun moments, including two wins over a good Virginia Tech team, and wins over Indiana and Memphis. Fitting the feel good category nicely but getting lost in the shuffle between all those disappointing losses. A season in which the optimism and patience of long-time UofL fans was severely tested.
An NCAA invitation would be surprising, whether Padgett believes his team is deserving or not. A lot of shortcomings for the selection committee to overlook. Best for Louisville fans not to get those hopes up too high.
One never knows what to expect with this particular University of Louisville basketball team. Nothing assured as long the game clock is running. The opposing team, not about to roll over, knowing there will always be a chance.
Give these UofL players a decent lead, they will let up, get ahead of themselves, look ahead to the next round. The Cardinals racing to a 23-point lead with eleven and a half minutes in the second half. Florida State not rolling over, aware of Louisville’s recent history, using the adversity as motivation.
The Seminoles would start making every shot, good, bad or indifferent, cutting the deficit to six points in the final minute. But the Cardinals would make five of their last six shots, Quentin Snider would hit both free throw attempts with 15 seconds to go. Louisville would hang on for a 82-74 win in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.
Snider, playing like time is running out on his collegiate career, playing with authority, trusting his 3-point shot, leading the way. Leading his team with 19 points, including three of seven behind the 3-point line, five rebounds and six assists. Deserving, perhaps earning a chance to play NCAA tournament ball his senior season.
Ray Spalding, missing eight minutes with two fouls in the first half, providing a steady presence beneath the basket. Playing with confidence, wanting the ball, making those little hooks look smoother and easier of late. One wonders what if he had another season to work on them.
Deng Adel playing a supporting role in this game. Laying off the dizzy-whiz stuff, passing the ball, getting eight rebounds and two assists, taking what the defense gives him, winding up with 15 points.
Anas Mahmoud still missing those sure-thing, two-foot shots but blocking five Florida State shots, making six rebounds, three assists and a steal. Not bad but one still has to wonder what he would be doing had added some weight to his frame.
Dwayne Sutton, making his case for more playing time when it counts, contributing 10 points and, notably, six rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes.
Hang on. Another Louisville-Virginia game this way comes.