One glorious day for Louisville basketball fans

Myisha Hines-Allen kisses the Cardinal logo at midcourt after her final home game (top photo). And another wild and crazy NIT crowd showed for the Louisville men’s victory over Middle Tennesee (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Darius Perry and Quentin Snider celebrate during Louisville’s win over Middle Tennessee (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

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.

Ray Spalding gets some encouragement from UofL Coach David Padgett (Cindy Ride Shelton photo).

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.”

Jazmine Jones collects two of her 14 points against Marquette (Cindy Rice Sheton photo).

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.

Asia Durr making three of her six 3-point attempts and 19 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

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.

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.

Louisville takes Virginia to the brink but flood wall collapses

Louisville was ready to take down Virginia until the last second (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

For 39 minutes and 59 seconds on Thursday evening, University of Louisville basketball was reliving the glory days, building on a glorious tradition, casting out the demons, putting the finishing touches on the nation’s No. 1 team. 

Whut? Whoa. What should have been a routine ending suddenly takes a dramatic turn.

The dark clouds would re-emerge in that final second, slamming UofL fans in their collective gut, punishing them for their flirtation with exhilaration, shaming them for being optimistic. Back again, the implausible but undeniable scourge that has pummeled  the basketball program for months.

Quentin Snider would score 13 points in 35 minutes on Senior Night (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Louisville leading by four points with five seconds to go. Just take care of business. Wouldn’t happen, however. Darius Perry would foul a three-point shooter, cutting the margin to two. Deng Adel would travel on an out-of-bounds play, and De’Andre Hunter would throw up a 3-point shot with zero-nine-tenths of a second to go. 

Swish.

Virginia defeats UofL 67-66 to the absolute astonishment of 19,413 disbelieving Cardinal fans. That bloody dagger of a shot potentially a life-altering shot for members of the UofL coaching staff and their families.

One win could have decided so much for the program, a spot in the NCAA tournament for a young coach, making it next to impossible for David Padgett to be denied the permanent position. That’s all up in the air again, prolonging the continuing uncertainty.

So many downcast faces departing the KFC Yum! Center, many apparently believing this may have been the crushing blow for this team, some wondering if their team could recover. Typical reactions in the immediate aftermath of a loss, only one second away from shaking off some of the misery of the recent past. 

Maybe all is not lost, however.

One must remember that Louisville was competing against the No. 1 team in the country. David Padgett had a good game plan, his players executed, and the UofL dominated Virginia for much of the game.  UofL would have won were it not for two improbable plays and one miraculous shot. That close.

In fact, the Cardinals may well have played their best basketball of the season in the past two games, after being written off by many after a 26-point loss to Duke. Just in time for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. 

Don’t count Louisville out just yet. The misery can’t last forever.

How is Spida Mitchell so Cardinal Red?

 By Steve Springer
 
I grew up my entire minor life in Louisville.  My mother took me with her to a teachers’ in-service at Male one summer when I was a wee little Card. Probably early eighties. Alumnus Griff was shooting by himself in the gym. She took me in and Dr. Dunkenstein held me up to slam it through.  I don’t remember it but my parents are proud to remind me of it. 
 
Donovan Mitchell having some fun at John Gillian’s expense during game against Syracuse last season (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

In the following years I was blessed to have been provided the opportunity to go to game after game at Freedom Hall and see his mug here and there and always reminded of his place in Cardinal Lore, in record books, posters, memorabilia adorning my parents’ home.  He was a fixture of my childhood. 

 
We ran into him again on the Toonerville Trolley by the Galt House a few years later and I of course recognized him and got his autograph.  He seemed pleasantly humbled that a young kid would recognize him after being gone from UofL for so long, and so did my mother.
 
I’ve lived the UofL life. I’ve known him since I was able to have conscious memories. I went to all the home games as a kid. I skipped school when I was old enough to drive to sneak to the daytime C-USA tourney games. I went to UofL out of high school. I know the whole story. Griff is fully appreciated by me, as he is by you probably if you took the time to click on this article. 
 
This begs the question, how is Donovan Mitchell so Cardinal?  How is he so Louisville?  How is his blood so red that Don dons a #35 jersey in the process of becoming the first Cardinal to win a Slam Dunk contest?  We’ve had four Cards try to bring home the trophy, with Billy T, Greg Minor, and of course Griff, coming up short.
 
Spida exudes L1C4 as much as I could. If I was six inches taller I would be in the NBA doing what he does. At least in my imagination.  I would be ripping off my team jersey and dunking in my throwback Mike Abrams #44 Dunking Cardinal jersey.  But where does he get it?
 
He’s not from The Ville. He is from friggin’ New Hampshire, grew up in New York, and went to school in Connecticut.  Not a recipe that had him popping cups at Redbird games.  He didn’t count down the days until Derby Festival. He didn’t party at Kentucky Kingdom Friday Night Dance parties with N2Deep and cruise Preston Highway.
 
He spent two years as a Cardinal, yet he’s tweeting pictures of custom red Adidas kicks that he’ll wear in honor of a championship team he didn’t play a second for.  He’s being honored by Griff himself to receive his trophy in Salt Lake tonight.
 
As cliche as it is, Donovan embodies everything that is L1C4, us against the world right now.  His character, demeanor, and sentimentality for everything that is so sacred to Cardnation is so refreshing right now that it is such a breath of fresh air in all of the moral repugness that is the NCAA and its shenanigans against UofL the last couple of years. 
 
The shoes Donovan is wearing tonight have a “D” that looks like a wing. Some or most would say a that is a Cardinal wing. I think it just might be an angel wing…
 
 
 

“Biggest Fan of the Big East”

 

Louisville pleased to welcome UK to FBI recruiting scandal

Well, now.  Maybe there’s a chance that the problems that have long permeated the NCAA and college basketball will be finally be addressed. The recruiting process has been exposed as ripe with corruption, exposing many of the top programs in the sport.

The cheating has obviously become so ingrained in the system that administrators, coaches, players and fans long ago turned a blind eye to the system, with concerned observers giving up hope that anything would ever be done.

The corruption has gone on for so long and involved so many members that it has become an integral part of collegiate governance.

That all changed last October when the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced numerous arrests, naming names of some players and assistant coaches in connection with illegal payments and fraud. Caught in the process was University of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino, who would, in fact, be fired two later, along with highly popular Athletic Director Tom Jurich.

UofL fans and supporters were understandably disappointed and angered that two of the most successful people in the school’s history would be singled out for retribution. Especially when it was widely suspected, if not common knowledge, that the University of Kentucky had turned questionable recruiting into a fine art. 

One can forgive Louisville fans, whose program was unfairly made the face of the FBI scandal for five months, for a collective sense of exuberance when it became apparent they had lots of company. One caller to a local sports talk said UofL fans were hanging Christmas tree lights all over the downtown, joyful that UK had finally been named in the scandal.

This after the news broke Friday that many other programs and players were involved in illegal financial schemes with professional sports agents, including UK, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and Villanova, among others.

Many programs already implicated in the cheating. But to date, the FBI has released the records of only one professional agent. Much more to come with an estimated 50 sports agents with links to professional basketball and college recruiting. If the FBI is truly serious about bringing about change, the investigation has only just begun. The hypocrisy of the NCAA with its ignorance of the shady world of college recruiting and its uneven approach to administering punishment to member schools is inexcusable.

The real fear for any basketball program, especially if one has systematically cheated for decades, may be that the new or reformed organization truly wants to make an example of one of the former blue bloods of college basketball. A poster child for bad behavior, if you will.

A continuing avalanche of revelations may finally force the organization to address the problems in an comprehensive and honest approach. One would not be surprised, however, if the organization is beyond repair and will need to be replaced by a new one that bringing a whole new approach to administering college athletics, including compensation for athletes.

A few schools may decide to withhold some athletes who have already been named in allegations, if only to protect their programs against the possibility of vacated wins in the future. Others, having seen what happened at UofL and Notre Dame in cooperating with the NCAA, will fight the organization at every step of the way.

One fears that no punishment will ever be meted out against some of the top programs involved in illegal recruiting. Because there are so many of them, and they do constitute the organization, the NCAA is more like to go into a self-preservation mode, creating changes and bending existing rules to protect the organization and the members involved.

The corruption has gone on for so long and involved so many members that it has become an integral part of collegiate governance. The individuals charged with bringing about change in the NCAA will be, in too many instances, the same people who perpetuated the organization’s problems and are oblivious and resistant to the need for real change.