If one thing has haunted the UofL Men’s basketball team this season, some might say it is consistency. I beg to differ, however. If one thing has haunted the Cardinals all season it’s the ability to play in the clutch. More specifically, they let the last five minutes of some games slip away from them. Hence, they are currently left with a record of 19-10 as opposed to a record of 25-4.
That might be far fetched for some to believe, but not really. They gave up late chances to take leads or late leads that they already held in many of their games this season.
– After keeping it relatively close for the entire first half, a rejuvenated Louisville tied Georgetown with 17:40 left in the second half only to quickly lose momentum and wind up losing by 10. Greg Monroe scored 16 and grabbed 14 rebounds that night.
– Against West Virginia jumped to a 13-0 lead, the Cards led by 12 points with 6:57 left in the game only to end up losing to the Mountaineers 78-75. There were three times in the game where UofL’s game flatlined. The first three minutes of the game, for about three minutes early in the second half and the last few minutes of the game. Should have been an easy win after being up by 12.
-Seton Hall never trailed the Cards after a slight 4-2 deficate in the first minute or two of the game. Louisville came back to within three in the last minute of the game but lost 80-77. Obviously Seton Hall was running out of steam and UofL seemed to take advantage of that late in the game. But they just couldn’t close it out. Should have never been in that situation in the first place.
-Missed free throws haunted the Cardinals against Pitt. Louisville was up very late in the game, but couldn’t hit their free throws. Pitt sent the game into over time and prevailed. Another game where Louisville had it won and gave the game away because they couldn’t finish out. Pitt won 82-77 after one overtime.
-Louisville led Villanova by as much as 16 points in the first half. Then gave up the lead with 14:10 left in the first half and were never able to get it back. They kept it close though. They kept the deficit between 3 and 5 points throughout the last five minutes of the game but lost 92-84 to the Wildcats.
-In a game that no one really expected to be close, the Cards trailed by as much as 13 in the first half to arch-rival Kentucky and was behind by 10 at halftime. They came out in the second half and chipped away at Kentucky’s lead. UofL took a 42-41 lead with 9:51 left to go in the game but quickly lost it and let UK run away with it, winning 71-62. If the Cards can play them that close at Rupp than they proved, even if just for a few minutes, that they could play with anyone in the country.
-Louisville was behind by as much as 18 early in the second half against UNLV. They came back to tie the game with under five minutes left, but wound up losing 76-71 to suffer their first loss of the season.
The Cards’ record does not reflect their ability. They’ve proved that they can play with anyone in the country. They have a respectable Big East Record and have played much better throughout the second half of the season than they did the first. They’re losses against Pitt, Georgetown, West Virginia and Villanova from being a potential top 10 team in the country. That may seem like a ridiculous thing to say but if you watched those games, you know what I’m talking about.
As for their losses to Charlotte and Western Carolina earlier in the season. Some might say that these things always happen with Pitino’s UofL teams but they come ready to play by March. Well, that’s true, but these losses weren’t for the same reason as past years. Louisville was not a very good team at the beginning of the season. They were lost. They didn’t have a go-to guy, then as the season progressed, they realized that they don’t have a go-to guy. They’ve gelled together as a team and have turned a few heads doing it.
Sosa has had as many bad games as good games. As many terrible games as great games, and the rest have just been mediocre. Samardo Samuels has not been as dominant as many expected him to be, but then again look at some of the guys he’s had to go up against just throughout the Big East schedule. Smith doesn’t seem like he’s panned out. I thought he was going to be a much bigger threat than he has been these past few season but he provides solid defense and decent all around game for a guard.
Besides Sosa and Smith, this is still a relatively young team. Knowles has provided a key role and is sure to be a starter next year. Reggie Delk is a Senior but this is only his second season with the team. So the Cards are really a relatively young team and are a few years away from being a Big East and NCAA Championship contender. Believe me, they will be there but this just isn’t their year.
Nonetheless, they have put together a solid resume and should make the tournament. Let’s take a look.
Louisville Cardinals Tournament Resume-
Overall Record: 19-10
Conference Record: 10-6
Conference Standing: T-5th place
Vs. AP Top 25: 1-5
Good Wins: @ #4 Syracuse, Connecticut, @ Connecticut, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, South Florida
Bad Losses: Western Carolina, Charlotte, @ Seton Hall, @ St. Johns