So it ends, one game short of a national championship appearance.
A remarkable and unexpected run, an eight-game winning streak, encompassing Big East and NCAA West Regional championships that no one saw coming. An underdog in each of those wins. A team with limited scoring options, with an enigmatic and unpredictable offense that forced the University of Louisville to rely on creating mistakes and turnovers on defense.
They would fall short, 69-61, to a talented University of Kentucky basketball team, which for a change, had senior leadership and experience to go with the abundance of future NBA talent that flows through the UK system. A disappointing loss against an exceptional team, but providing a preview of what could be possible for UofL in the not-too-distant future.
The curtain seemed to be falling on a U of L team without a compass as the regular season ended. A coach who refused to accept the inevitable, looking deep within himself, somehow convincing himself and his players to believe in themselves, despite their shortcomings. Not enough depth, few shooters. More than a few obstacles to overcome.
Coach Rick Pitino confirming that he is still a master motivator, extracting maximum effort from each player, inspiring them to aspire for excellence, getting it from a team with so many challenges. The coach taking advantage of newly-found cohesiveness of which he had been deprived by all the early-season injuries.
Together, they would insert a badly needed shot of adrenaline into a disappointed fan base, a large segment of which had thrown in the towel before the conference tournament commenced. A fan base that badly needed a reminder of why they are so devoted to the University of Louisville, how that tradition was built, and why fans should continue to have exalted expectations of their basketball program.
Next year always holds promise, with aspirations of greater achievement. But for now, we’re content to admire just how much this current group of players accomplished. Going so far, coming so close, against overwhelming odds.