By Ed Peak
Where have they gone, those guys who were on fire a month ago?
If this University of Louisville basketball team wants a decent seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, it’s time to get back on track. Now. Not next week, not the ACC Tournament. Now.
Louisville has lost four of its last six games. Any edge the Cardinals had from playing a favorable early conference schedule is gone. Missing is that toughness, grit and determination that helped this team beat Michigan State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh.
Card Nation keeps waiting for something positive. After the 23-point melt down against Duke came the teeth gnashing win over Clemson. Against Syracuse, Louisville didn’t look anything like the team that shot its way to a big lead against the Blue Devils. Or even the one that had Florida State on the ropes for nearly 40 minutes before losing in overtime.
Now we need to see if Chris Mack can turn this team around. That old nemesis known as the No. 3 ranked Virginia Cavaliers comes to town Saturday. Coach Tony Bennett’s team has only two losses, both to Duke. Virginia puts fans to sleep, but is a consistent winner. They are not invincible, however. Remember that No.1 seed losing to 16th-seeded Baltimore Maryland-County in the NCAA Tournament last season?
UofL hasn’t been a great offensive team, shooting around 45 percent from the field and 30 percent from three. It must find its self-control, whether it be taking better shots, running the offense, handling the ball better or blocking out on rebounds.
Not panic time but there are reasons to fear more of the worst is coming.
Against the Orange 2-3 zone the Cardinals couldn’t throw it in Niagara Falls. I know your tired of hearing of the defense how tough Virginia is but there won’t be many old looks or run outs. The pack line returns.
Where will the offense come from? Jordan Nwora seems to be in a shooting slump. Dewayne Sutton’s game hasn’t been the same since Duke. Malik Williams and Steven Enoch are next invisible at times. Christen Cunningham needs help handling the ball and Kwan Fore needs to go to the basket. Darius Perry, Ryan McMahon and V.J. King need to improve their games off the bench.
Not panic time but there are reasons to fear more of the worst is coming. Only four regular season games to go. A win over Virginia on Saturday would be a minor miracle. The Cards finish with games at Boston College, at home with Notre Dame, and close at Virginia on March 9.
This isn’t the first team slump that Mack has in countered during his coaching days. The honeymoon may be coming to an end for the new coaching staff. The players must play with purpose and a sense of urgency, believing a turn-around is possible.
They’ve shown they can play with the best. They need to prove it to themselves again. The regular season is in danger of going completely off the rails. Proof of life must come soon.