Justin Renck: Not giving up on this basketball team!

We have come to the end of an up-and-down regular season for this year’s Louisville basketball team. We started out 12-0 and were ranked as high as 4th in the country, although I never thought we were the 4th best team. But like I even said back then, rankings in college basketball don’t mean much, especially in December. We then lost 4 out of 5 games, which included a loss to Kentucky (which always hurts), an ugly game to watch against Notre Dame that ended in a loss, and a 31 point embarrassment at Providence. Soon after, we got the ball rolling and got on a 6 game winning streak, and things started to look up again. We lost by 1 to Syracuse, but it was not the worst thing in the world, because we all knew how many chances we had to win that game. Starting with that game, we have scored 57 points or less in 5 of the last 6 games of the season (scored 90 against DePaul).

This final stretch of the season has been frustrating and just ugly to watch. We are not used to the offense struggling so much. Scoring in the 50s and 60s so often? That is not for us. We are used to games in the 70s and 80s with a press that forces turnovers and knocking down 3s like they are layups. This has been dropping back in a zone, forcing some turnovers, and struggling to score unless it is a basket in transition.

Even the way this regular season has closed out, I have not hit my breaking point and thrown in the towel like some people have (those people will be right back with us cheering hard if we turn it around). We just have too much talent for me to give up on this team. For some reason, people hate on Peyton Siva, just like they did with Edgar Sosa. Yes he makes some turnovers and bad decisions. Who doesn’t? Does he go too deep into the lane at times and force things? Yes. How many times has he won games by doing that same thing though? Without Siva, we will not go very far. Russ Smith is not a point guard, he looks to score. Kevin Ware has not shown me a thing all season that lets me know he can be a point guard. I have always been a fan of Elisha Justice though. Not flashy, but runs the point and just gets the job done. But I don’t know that we see him even play anymore this season (substitution patterns). The fact that UofL fans give their own players so much grief is beyond me. You would think the fanbase would try to lift them up when they need it, not moan and groan and say how bad they are. How does that help?

I hate to have to bring this up, but our fanbase is worse about hating on our own players than UK fans are. I was in Atlanta last year for the SEC Tournament aka the UK Invitational. I will say I was there because I live in Auburn right now and I went to just be social and hang out with a couple of buddies of mine that were going. By the way, I watched our Big East Championship game at out hotel there (OMNI Hotel) where there were hundreds of UK fans, and I proudly wore my red UofL polo. I had others walk by me and say that they were UofL fans too. These people were in plain colored shirts. So yes, I stuck out like a sore thumb and did not care at all. Anyways, what I was getting at was that I was around the heartbeat of true UK fans, the passionate ones. These people treat those players like they are their own kids. If they made a bad mistake, did they get on them? Yes, but they also pick them up and root them on to do better. Doron Lamb got injured at the end of the game I was at. All day long walking around the hotel, you could hear people talking with each other about it, “Hey how is Doron? Is he ok? Man we need him.” It is hard to put into words exactly what I am trying to get across. But by being there, I could see it first hand. I am the furthest thing from a UK fan, trust me, but their passion and support for their team can not be questioned. I just wish we did not rip our own players so much, especially when we have no idea what they are dealing with off the court. Remember, these are college kids. They do have a life off the court, and if you have ever played basketball, you can be affected if your life isn’t going so well.  

Sorry if I get all over the place on these blogs, but I kind of just let my mind go and type what I am thinking.

I just feel like this team has the talent to beat any team in the country, and obviously we can also be beaten by any team. I just want to see us turn up the pressure and get things going in transition. The shots have to end up falling eventually, right? Well, even if they don’t, we have to continue to shoot and not back down. Shooters keep shooting. That is why I would still want Kyle Kuric taking the last shot in a game. I will always have confidence in our guys.

A lot of people don’t think about how big our injuries really are. Another player that fans give a hard time to, Mike Marra, has been out almost the whole season. Again, I am a fan of Marra. As a streaky shooter myself, I know if he gets going, he can light it up. But of course, when he misses shots at home, you can hear the moans and groans. In these last few game where almost everyone has struggled to shoot the ball, maybe Marra could have knocked down some shots for us and we win those games. Stephen Van Treese may not be an All-Big East player, but he could certainly give Gorgui Dieng a break every now and then. Dieng has not had a backup all season. Zach Price has shown he is not ready to play at this level this season. Van Treese can certainly rebound and even score a little bit. And of course the loss of Rakeem Buckles hurt. Chane Behanan has been great, but he also hasn’t had a solid backup at his spot. I don’t think people realize the impact that those 3 players could have on this team.

So I know it has been frustrating, and I know people are upset. Trust me, I see twitter and Facebook all the time during and after games. I usually refrain from saying anything back to people. I just let them rant. But I have a feeling we are going to turn this thing around at the right time. Our new season starts this Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. This could potentially be the “payback tour” for the Cards. We could face Providence, Marquette, Notre Dame (or USF), and then Syracuse (or Cincy or G-Town). How good of a story would that be? I, for one, am on board with this team and can’t wait until Wednesday night. Hope you are along with me. Go Cards!

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