Louisville was fresh off a thrilling 71-65 victory over #2 North Carolina on February 1st. The win left fans wondering just how good the 2015-16 UofL Basketball team was, where they would fall in their 2nd ever ACC Tournament, and how far the Cards could go in the NCAA Tournament under the leadership of graduate transfers Damion Lee & Trey Lewis.
As last year’s team began to play its best basketball it all came to an end on February 5, 2016 when an ominous e-mail was sent at 12:00 p.m.
“UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVLLE PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY AT 1:30PM
University of Louisville President Dr. James Ramsey, Vice-President/Director of Athletics Tom Jurich, Men’s Basketball Coach Rick Pitino to deliver an important message to the University Community”
We had 90 minutes to organize, but speculation had started even prior to that e-mail. Louisville was removing itself from post-season play for the 2016 season. The next 9 games of the season were strange….. there were 9 games left……and that was it. The program tried to make the last 9 special for Damion Lee & Trey Lewis who decided to spend their last season at Louisville in hopes of playing in the post-season. Everyone tried to make it mean something. But it just didn’t fit….. it’s wasn’t March.
As it sits, the Cards have played in just ONE (1) ACC Tournament game where the Cards gave up a 10-point 1st half lead to lose by 10 in Greensboro to the North Carolina Tar Heels. That game was nearly two years ago. And the program’s last NCAA Tournament game? A heartbreaker in the East Regional Final inside Syracuse’s Carrier Dome to the Michigan State Spartans despite a furious effort from Wayne Blackshear in what would be his final game as a Cardinal. UofL’s Mangok Mathiang was at the line tied 65-65 with 0:05 remaining in regulation…. a make and Louisville is 5 seconds from the Final Four. He missed and Cardinal fans will forever curse the name Bryn Forbes and will continue to debate just how in the world Wayne Blackshear was called for a foul on one of the cleanest and best blocks at the basket you’ll ever see in college basketball.
It’s been two years and Louisville Basketball is now 9 games away from tournament basketball…. and for many players their first taste of the post-season. The fans are anxious to rid themselves of the anxiety of Mangok Mathiang at the foul line with the Final Four in the balance, anxious to get the program’s first ever ACC Tournament win and anxious to move on from the scandal initiated by Katina Powell in October of 2015. The post-season is NINE GAMES AWAY!!!
No Sleep Til Brooklyn!!!!!!!!
It will be a mad dash to finish the season. Goal #1: Achieve a Double Bye in the ACC Tournament. A Top 4 finish in the ACC regular season is going to bode well for any NCAA Tournament Resume, but 3 games instead of 4 games is the idea here. Earlier this season we saw what happened when the Cards played its 3rd game in 3 days in the Bahamas vs. Baylor while surrendering a 22-point lead. Can this team win the ACC Tournament playing 4 games in 4 days? The ACC is LOADED and it’s probably best to try to win 3 in a row rather than 4.
Goal #2: Win Program’s 1st Ever ACC Tournament Game. This concept is self-explanatory, but it is highly irregular that in Louisville’s 3rd year in the league, it’s just played one ACC Tournament game ever. With the ACC Tournament being held in Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, hopefully UofL can re-capture some of the NYC magic that it enjoyed during the Big East Tournaments in Madison Square Garden.
Goal #3: Win the ACC Tournament. Any team that wins the ACC Tournament is going to be held in high regard in the NCAA Selection Committee’s eyes. Louisville needs a high seed this tournament because #4+ seeds are at true risk in Round #1. The Cards will have 9 players who have yet to experience an NCAA Tournament game and very few with any real valuable time on the court during a tourney game. It will be important to establish the tournament routine and environment early to avoid a premature exit.
For now we won’t extend any goals beyond this. The program has waited. UofL’s players, coaches, administrators and fans have waited TWO YEARS for March Madness. We’re NINE games away from a potential run and just like a year ago the Cardinals are beginning to play their best basketball……. BUT THESE NINE GAMES WILL COUNT!
NO SLEEP TIL BROOKLYN!!!!!
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