By Noah Allison
As sudden as life is here comes the month of February. First semester started long ago, Teddy throwing touchdowns is but a blissful memory, and here is our men’s basketball team heading into the month of February with us.
With one month of regular season play left the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals have an 18-4 record. There is a great support for these heroes of Cardinal lore, but there is also a genuine level of expectation that is not being met.
The Cardinals entered the year ranked number three overall, with returning seniors Russ Smith and Luke Hancock back to defend the title, and a cast of experienced members of the championship team returning with them. But there were questions about the schedule; at first glance the college basketball culturally familiar opponents were limited to a few.
North Carolina, Kentucky, Memphis, UConn and Cincinnati were the teams that U of L had history with. In the meantime the rest of the schedule were games Card Nation expects to win, and must win until getting to face a true test of a team.
And it goes without saying now, that almost all of those possible statement games the Cardinals played, they lost. Which is starting to make a statement itself.
Yet, one can’t get carried away.
Entering the month of February one year ago the Cardinals record stood at 17-4. They had just ended a three game losing streak in the Big East, and they had some things to figure out.
This current team has overcome and had to face its fair share adversity in the form of injuries, growing pains and the dismissal of junior power forward Chane Behanan.
In the loss to North Carolina, they were missing lay-ups all game, if they fall like they normally would, the Cardinals may win.
Against UK they fought shot for shot with Kentucky and took the lead with roughly seven minutes left. From that point forward leading scorer Russ Smith didn’t score. If Smith had continued his Russdiculous rhythm then maybe the Cards win.
Against Memphis the Cards were a few rebounds and a little maturity away from winning.
Against Cincinnati the Cards came from 17 down to take the lead, and again failed to rebound at crucial times and broke down due to lack of maturity.
All of these things could have changed the outcomes and any or all of those losses could be wins.
The Cardinals, for all the problems they face as a team could have figured out how to win those games. And if they had how worried would Card Nation be right now? The Cardinals still have a home game against UConn and tough road games against SMU, Memphis and Cincinnati and the AAC Tournament to figure out who they are as a team.
The Cards of last year continued to adjust to growing pains throughout February and that is when they figured it out, because they had to. The potential is there with this team; there have been too many segments of brilliance throughout the season to legitimately count them out of anything.
The only thing to do now is appreciate 17-4, and the fact that there are players like Luke, Russ and Montrezl Harrell, and a coach like Rick Pitino to put the winning formula together.
It is college basketball and this is Louisville. This is when things get interesting