Basketball just can’t wait for college football season

The unveiling of a new University of Louisville basketball schedule inevitably brings mixed feelings for this observer. The schedule release always occurs early in September, diverting attention away from the college football season only three weeks into the schedule.

When Rick Pitino was here, the schedule always seemed to be announced just a couple of days before the opening football game. Seemingly intentional timing, like someone wanting to remind local fans of the most worshipped sport in Louisville, football be damned.

 Probably has something to do with the fact that the city and the state have never enjoyed sustained success in football, the sports fanatics having little choice but basketball for any notoriety. And why state schools, including UofL, despite some notable achievements in football, are still considered “basketball schools.”

Not necessarily a bad thing, despite the taint swirling around college basketball these days, FBI investigations and such. But lack of overall success in football can detract from a school’s overall national reputation. UofL football was close to breaking through the perceived barrier a couple of years ago before its offensive line collapsed, knocking the program out of contention for the college football playoffs. 

It has always taken this observer three or four weeks into the schedule to get over football and get excited about basketball.  The transition could take even longer this year with the opening exhibition game against Bellarmine coming three days before Halloween.  The earlier part of the schedule also will include no names like Nicholls State, Southern, Central Arkansas, Kent State and Robert Morris.

For some reason, someone at the NCAA believes the college basketball season should start earlier and earlier every year. The Cardinals will already be playing teams like Tennessee, Michigan State, and Kansas or Marquette by the end of November. The NCAA as an organization does not own college football like it does basketball, and apparently wants to milk the sport for every possible dollar.

Among the good things on the UofL basketball schedule is the fact that the Cardinals aren’t playing Kentucky on New Year’s Eve this year, with that game set for Saturday, Dec. 29th. Also nice that slackers like Pittsburgh and Boston College are each on the schedule twice this year. Louisville will also play two games against North Carolina.

The bad news is UofL also plays Virginia twice again this season, with games at home and on the road. Never good to see the Cavaliers as the final game of the regular season, especially at Charlottesville. By then, however, college basketball will have captured our full attention, having gradually worked it way back to becoming the center of the sports universe. 

2018-19 University of Louisville basketball schedule

Virginia women surprise themselves against Louisville

The Virginia women’s basketball team turned in the game of a decade Sunday, walking away with a shocking 72-59 upset over the University of Louisville. Someone or something had ratcheted the Cavaliers up to another level.

Emotionally charged from the beginning, the ACC upstarts were riding high on a combination of adrenaline forces. They had lost five of their last six games, they were playing the No. 8 team in the country, and it was Senior Day for a team with a 7-9 record in the conference.

Add to this a massive amount of muscle and bulk and some uncharacteristic shooting accuracy, and the UofL women were in trouble from the beginning. Also helpful were Virginia’s 27 of 33 attempts at the free throw line, compared to 15 of 21 for UofL. An ambush lay in store for anyone who played the Cavaliers in Charlottesville Sunday.

Louisville trailed by only one point at halftime but only because it is a very good basketball team. Usually the law of averages will catch up with emotionally-hyped teams, but Virginia was unaffected, continuing to connect on a variety of circus shots during the second 20 minutes.

Emmonnie Henderson would keep the Cardinals close in the second half when she scored eight of her team high 13 points. At one point, she would emerge from a scramble under the basket, pulling the ball out of the hands of a fallen Virginia player and tossing it in the basket.

The UofL women managed to hang with the Cavaliers until Emmonnie Henderson collected her fifth foul at the 5:55 mark, with her team trailing by five points. UofL would never seriously contend after her departure.

No one could blame the UofL coaching staff for tossing the game film in the circular file. Or for salivating for another shot at this Virginia team in the ACC tournament.