Nowhere to hide from bad losses for Louisville basketball

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.

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.