To start a season one must end. Each time a new season gets going I think back to the post-game locker room from the year before. In Syracuse 8 months ago the Louisville post-game locker room was gutted from a close defeat. Terry Rozier cried. Montrezl Harrell spoke softly. The abrupt end of an almost joyous celebration that would have been a Final Four. So close and then it’s gone. But you begin again.
In 2014 it was different. Louisville had a big lead and lost late in the Sweet 16. It was shock. There was anger, there was respect, and there was appreciation. Luke Hancock’s answers to each question were noticeably coarse. Akoy Agau went and shook each player’s hand. Russ Smith was exceptionally grateful to those asking him questions in his final Louisville post-game locker room.
Of course in 2013 Louisville won the last game of the year. Again, there was shock. But this time for a different reason. We’d done it. Nets came down, Confetti rained, and CrumsRevenge made videos and that run will forever be time capsuled as one of the most beloved journeys UofL fans have taken on the hardwood. That locker room was euphoric. Gorgui Dieng coyly wouldn’t say if he would return (he wouldn’t), Peyton Siva smiled discussing Pitino’s tattoo, Kevin Ware wore the net around his neck. There are so many lasting images from that scene and it made all the other stuff before it worthwhile.
But to get to that, you’ve got to start anew. And there’s something exciting and refreshing about a blank canvas. But more than anything with THIS 2015-16 Basketball team it’s the beginning of a new era…not just a new year. Mangok Mathiang was a redshirt on the 2013 National Championship team. Mangok was present and in practice during that run but no one else remains 3 years later.
What Louisville Basketball is in 2015-16 is high unrealized talent. Even Damion Lee and Trey Lewis have yet to uncover their full potential of playing high-major Division 1 college basketball. How will these seniors react to the NCAA Tournament Stage? In the ACC? Against the grind of a tough out of conference schedule?
How will 2nd year players Anas Mahmoud, Chinanu Onukau, Quentin Snider, Matz Stockman and Jaylen Johnson round into form?
How much of an impact will the freshman make? Can Rick Pitino get this group to play Louisville Defense? Can the Cards finally shoot reliably?
It’s a beautiful thing to start fresh with the world in front of you. But we know already that along the way there will be highs, lows, emotions, suspension, injuries, wins and losses. And we also know where this will end….in a locker room. Will that locker room be filled with joy or dejection? Only one team can win the last game of the year, but for now buckle up for the ride and let the enormity of the blank page of possibilities capture your imagination.
Here’s to a new season.