The season is over and this the time when I am usually Mr. positive. This is the time when I would remind you that football practice has started and our team is led by the reigning Heisman trophy winner. This is the time I would also remind you that our baseball team is ranked #1 in the nation. This is also the time where I would point out that the swim and dive team just crowned another national champion for the sixth year in a row. I would also point out that the basketball team has some great recruits coming in and the team will probably be pre-season ranked in the top 3. Even though this is the time for me to be positive and lift you up, I just can’t do it. Not yet. I’m still hurting. I’m disappointed. I’m sad. I’m wounded. I need a hug.
During the summer before the season I read about how Deng Adel was the best player at the Adidas nationals. Then I heard Pitino say that VJ King was getting the better of Adel in practice. I also heard how Jaylen Johnson had improved by leaps and bounds. The collective pre-season thought was that both Mitchell and Adel would be headed off to the NBA after having incredible sophomore seasons. The potential for this team was astronomical.
The season started off with the Cards blowing a 25 point lead to a very good Baylor team. I wasn’t quite sure what to think about this team after that game but I remained positive. An early season loss to a top 20 team won’t kill you, it could only make you better. Then they handled a team in Purdue, who I was very high on this year. Even though it was a home game, I felt better about this team. It appeared the team was improving when Q got his redemption in beating rival Kentucky. But again, it was a home game. The Cards traveled to Indy for a neutral site game against Indiana. The Cards handled business and looked good in doing so. The team looked on pace to meet or exceed my season expectations. I all but threw out the games versus Virginia and the game at Notre Dame. Those games are similar to the world’s hardest Sudoku and we just can’t seem to figure them out. Some of the earlier games they got out to a big lead only to hang on for the close victory. It seemed as though after they got out to a comfortable lead they would start settling for jump shots and deviating from the game plan. As the season progressed they learned how to finish but it seemed the defense was good but not up to typical Louisville standards. The defensive deficiency became glaringly obvious when they gave up 90 points to a bubble team in Virginia Tech. The Cards still managed to win despite the lack luster perimeter defense. Road losses to North Carolina and Wake Forest just solidified the fact that this team lacked the confidence and the ability to relax that it had at the Yum center.
Despite losing to Duke in the first ACC tournament game, I still believed this team had the potential to reach the Final Four. However, I felt this team was missing something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. To me, that something was the difference between a Final Four and a national championship.
The brackets were revealed and I felt great about the draw my beloved Cards were blessed with. I felt great until about halfway up I-65 on the way to the game versus Michigan. The closer I got the more nervous I became. As I walked into Bankers Life Fieldhouse I became so nervous I couldn’t hardly eat my pregame snack. I couldn’t help but feel that the something that was missing from this team would definitely be missed on this day. But I still couldn’t figure out what that something was.
As I stood there looking down at the court in disbelief as the final horn sounded, it finally hit me. The something that this team was missing was Chinanu Onuaku.
I will never fault a kid for leaving school early to better his life but I can’t help but think what could have been. Exactly like I still think about seeing Teddy Bridgewater and Devante Parker playing in the ACC under head coach Bobby Petrino.
I will never question basketball decisions made by Rick Pitino because he has forgotten more about basketball that I will ever know but there are 2 things that I don’t understand in the game against Michigan. 1) Mangok was dominating early but didn’t play much in the second half , meanwhile Anas was playing, missing dunks and lacking aggressiveness. 2) It was obvious that Q didn’t have his best game that day. It happens but I was wondering why Donovan didn’t slide over to the point, just like he did when Q was hurt, and bring in VJ (who had 3 rebounds in just 5 minutes)? Instead, Hicks played the point and he brings no threat of an outside shot.
So to put a bow on this season we can just all agree it was a good year that ended prematurely. I don’t want to be that guy that says wait till next year, but, wait till next year. It’s really your only option.
As Always, GO CARDS!