And so it has begun, this NCAA basketball tournament.
The question is how far the University of Louisville basketball team will advance for some. For others, how quickly the season will come to an end. The wildly-optimistic fan believes anything is possible. The objective observer afraid the tournament may be over too soon.
- The avid fan sees U of L competing aggressively with such teams as Pittsburgh and West Virginia, only for them to lose on controversial officiating calls. He also sees them jumping out to big first-half leads over Georgetown and Villanova, the leads fizzling in the second half. He writes off the St. John’s and Marquette debacles as aberrations.
- The fan’s belief that anything is possible is confirmed with two impressive wins over Syracuse, one of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. He’s also familiar with Rick Pitino’s past, his proven ability to have teams performing above their ability during March — the 21-point comeback win against West Virginia in 2005 a prime example.
- TheÂ observer recalls the frustration, even during a double-overtime win against Notre Dame. The Irish, playing without their leading scorer, guards able to drive with ease past U of L defenders time after time. Nothing Louisville guards could do to stop them. Notre Dame, fouling out four backup defenders trying to stop Samardo Samuels, but still pushing U of L to the wire.
- He watches Samuels all but disappear over the last six games, sees Edgar Sosa get hot but unable to find teammates or hit free throws when they count, and groans while Preston Knowles is missing one out of 12 three-point attempts while committing inexplicable turnovers.
- He also sees Terrence Jennings relegated time after time to irrelevancy. Wonders why Peyton Siva, the quickest and most talented guard, never gets enough playing time to get past his freshman mistakes. He blasphemes fate for sidelining Jerry Smith, looking like the old Jerry Smith before his injury in the second Syracuse game.
The long-time fan and the hardened observer will continue to battle each other internally, each having ample evidence to support their conclusions — anything possible vs. quick exit.
Come tip-off time Friday, however, the fan will be in charge, eschewing any negativity, expecting his team to live up to expectations for U of L basketball.
The concerned observer will be nowhere to be found as long as Louisville is still in the hunt.