Not pretty, nowhere to hide, Louisville basketball is done

A strange season, full of puzzling ups and downs, unbelievable twists and turns, winding up in a ditch Thursday for the University of Louisville basketball team. A sense of relief cascading over the fan base now that the 2018-19 season has come screeching to a halt.

Back to the NCAA, a few nice wins, fewer distractions this season, some good things happening along the way.

At the end, however, it was increasingly obvious that Coach Chris Mack had a lack of players with real basketball savvy or talent. For Mack to win 20 games and finish seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference with this team was an incredible accomplishment. Ending in an 86-76 loss to Minnesota in the first round of the NCAA.

Mack was being sensitve, wanting to spare the feelings of his players. Nowhere to hide if the talent isn't there.

A team that defeated Michigan State, beat North Carolina by 21 points at Chapel Hill, led Virginia by 10 points at the half and led Duke by 23 points in the second half. How were any of these accomplishments even possible? Outmanned at every position on the floor in the spotlight games, the Cardinals somehow managed to raise expectations to traditional levels.

Just when one started to believe in them, however, they would fail to show up, resembling a local YMCA team. Few signs of individual leadership, except when Jordan Nwora was hitting the circus 3-pointers. But depending far too much on 3-pointers, with seemingly nary a clue about layups until games were out of reach. 

Can’t remember since the dwindling days of the Denny Crum era any examples of worse defensive efforts. Worked for a while but it didn’t take long for teams to figure it out, probably because some of the UofL players were not equipped for the challenge.

“Not quite good enough,” as the coach quipped at the end of his press conference. He was being sensitive, wanting to spare the feelings of his players. Nowhere to hide if the talent isn’t there.

There was ample evidence, however, that future Chris Mack-coached teams will be far superior to his initial installation. Rick Pitino and David Padgett left the cupboard pretty bare, forcing Mack to rely heavily on transfers and players who didn’t capture the imagination of many top level college teams. No heroes on the bench, no contributions from any walk-ons, no born leaders.

Mack did take this team much farther than anyone ever predicted, far surpassing low expectations. He’s going to be rewarded for his initiative, his persistence and patience with the second highest ranked recruiting class in the nation. Mack is already ahead of the game, and his program is only going to get better.

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.