By Justin Renck:
Now that we are into February, it is about time this Louisville basketball team turns things up a notch. We had 1 bad week, a stretch of 3 games. Well, those games were back in January. I said it then and I will say it again. If we are in Atlanta playing in the Final 4, we will look back at that week and just laugh, because people thought it was the end of the world for some reason. It was just a tough stretch.
This team now has a chance to go on a serious run. After losing those 3 games, the Cards have won 3 games in a row. They beat Pittsburgh, blasted Marquette, and pulled away against Rutgers to win by 20. It seems as though the team has gotten its groove back. Peyton Siva and Russ Smith look like they are having fun again, and that was missing during the bad week. Wayne Blackshear could be emerging as a legit scoring threat every game. Gorgui Dieng is getting his confidence back each game. Things may just be starting to click just in time.
Think about these next few games for the Cards. On Saturday night, they play at 25th ranked Notre Dame. It could be a tough game, but the Fighting Irish may not be as good as their ranking shows. They are 6-4 in the Big East. Those 6 wins are against Seton Hall (2-8), Cincinnati (6-4), Rutgers by 3 (3-7), USF (1-9), Villanova (5-5), and DePaul in overtime (1-8). I will do the math for you. Those teams are a combined 18-41 in Big East play. The 7 Big East teams that Louisville has beaten are a combined 29-41 in Big East play. Not outstanding, but much better wins so far.
So let’s say the Cards take care of business Saturday in South Bend. That would be 4 wins in a row and the Cards would be 8-3 in the Big East. Take a look at their next 4 games after that: home against St. John’s (7-4), at USF (1-9), home against Seton Hall (2-8), and at DePaul (1-8). If the Cards play how they are capable and can avoid one of those crazy upsets like Kansas went through against TCU, they could realistically be on an 8 game winning streak heading into March.
They would then carry that 8 game winning streak and top 10 or top 5 ranking (by then) into the Carrier Dome for a rematch against Syracuse. Think they will be fired up for that one? Yea me too. Then they close the season with 2 relatively tough games, but both at home: Cincinnati and Notre Dame again.
With the plethora of upsets this year in college basketball and the top teams falling, if the Cards can stay focused and avoid one of those major upsets, they can very well play themselves back into the conversation of a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With 3 wins in a row, I feel like we are in the middle (or beginning?) of a pretty big winning streak. Let’s see if they can come through and take care of the Irish on Saturday and get the ball rollin’. Go Cards!