Louisville basketball: What the heck is going on?

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - FEBRUARY 23: Head coach Chris Mack of the Louisville Cardinals reacts after a play in the game against the Virginia Cavaliers during the second half at KFC YUM! Center on February 23, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - FEBRUARY 23: Head coach Chris Mack of the Louisville Cardinals reacts after a play in the game against the Virginia Cavaliers during the second half at KFC YUM! Center on February 23, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

There have been better weeks in Louisville Basketball history. The narrative is this team is broken but maybe it was the overachieving of this team that got your expectations too high.

Please do not come to BigRedLouie.com and tell me you were unaware of just how hard this February Louisville basketball schedule was. I can recall preseason reading tweets and seeing polls asking if Louisville would be ranked in the Top 25 anytime during the season and they have risen as high as 15th. Everyone heard Louisville was predicted to finish 11th in the ACC this season while they currently sit in 7th (1 game out of 3rd) place with only three games left to be played in the regular season.

Look, I am just as disappointed in this last few games as anyone, but please do not sit there reading this thinking there is any shame in dropping a game to a surging Syracuse in the Carrier Dome or losing to No. 3 ranked Virginia.

I knew on Louisville’s first offensive possession in the Carrier Dome that it was going to be a long night in Syracuse, New York. As a father of four I have sit through more than my fair share of grade and high school basketball, I know the first fundamental in beating a 2-3 zone defense is to reverse the ball, flash to the free throw line, and just shoot over top of it.

That seemed to be what the Cardinals were prepared for from the first possession that was just Christen Cunningham, Khwan Fore, and Dwayne Sutton attempting to reverse the ball deep into the shot clock and being forced into settling for a not so great shot. Sure it was not only Coach Chris Macks first time playing the ‘Cuse zone it was his first time coaching in the Carrier Dome ever.

I am in no way trying to imply Mack did not have his team ready. The majority of these guys played Syracuse last season, hell they beat them twice two seasons ago, and 20 pieced them at YUM! Center. So it is no wonder Coach Boeheim and the Orange were out for revenge. I was also thinking Boeheim is a big Pitino guy so I am sure he enjoyed the beat down of Louisville. Louisville shot poorly, like 26% from the field and just 21% from the three point line. Not to mention that the 26% was a pretty strong finish as they were just 17% shooting early in the second half.  Louisville also turned the ball over 13 times just making effortless passes against the lengthy Syracuse zone. There was just nothing good to say about this one. Shots were not falling, the ball was not taken care of, and the Cardinals just looked effortless against the Orange.

Must Read. Blaming Chris Mack for Louisville basketball’s recent slump? Child please. light

After a blowout loss at Syracuse the talk continued that maybe the Duke meltdown mentally broke this team and the train was derailing. Nothing a win against the third ranked team in the country would not fix.

Louisville came out prepared and red hot against the Wahoos. The defensive scheme Coach Mack and staff cooked up really worked like a charm in the first period and Louisville could not miss from beyond the arc. The Cards knocked down ten three’s in the first half and as my son and I watched from the living room of Casa de Buenos Tiempos I told him my concern for the second half was the three’s cool off and UL was getting nothing in the paint.


If any Louisville fan felt safe with a 10 point lead at the half then you must not have been paying very close attention the last few games. In the second half, shots again just stopped falling for anyone in a UofL uniform. Louisville ended up shooting just 12% from three and just 20% from the field and Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter caught fire sparking the Cavs comeback. The takeaway is again this Louisville team can play with any team in the country, but holding on to a lead has really become a thorn in their side.

The Good Times:

  • The Cardinals second half defense in Syracuse was really good. In the game the Cards caused 12 Syracuse turnovers but that only lead to 5 points for Louisville.
  • There was not any Jordan Nwora cramming on someone dunks this week but there was a Khwan Fore dunk, and those are rare in game and should be properly celebrated.
  • The Harlem Renaissance uniforms Louisville played in Saturday were awesome but I cannot recall the last time Louisville won in specialty jerseys.
  • The Christen Cunningham behind the back pass to Steven “The 3nochness Monster” Enoch for the opening three belongs on all the Cardinals 2018-19  highlight reels.
  • Ryan McMahon blocked his fourth shot of the season in the UVA game. Ryan was lights out in the first half against Virginia and was blocking shots.

The Bad Times:

  • Getting beat down by 20 on a Wednesday night is never a good time. I felt really good about the Syracuse game all day up until just before tip-off the commentator mentioned this was nearly a must win for Syracuse as they were surging upward but their end of regular season ACC schedule is probably the hardest in conference.
  • The offensive plan, or lack there of, against the Syracuse 2-3 zone. I mean everyone knew Syracuse was going to play zone and everyone knows Syracuse’s 2-3 zone is not your run of the mill zone and needed to be tackled much differently than Louisville came out.
  • The Chris Mack technical foul. I normally am all for coaches getting T’d up. It normally gets the coaches team fired up but instead Mack’s reaction to what was an awful block/charge call assisted in a major swing in the game and seemed to have the reverse effect and really took the steam out of Louisville.
  • The overreacting fans bashing an overachieving team for exceeding preseason expectations and now dropping some hard games at the end of season. Do not forget this team was not supposed to be this good. They have accomplished a lot and always has relied heavily on the big three of Nwora, Sutton, and Cunningham and some wear is finally being seen on these kids that seemed super human.

In closing, although Louisville will more than likely fall out of the Top 25 this week, no one can tell me this is not one of the 25 best teams in the country. They have worked hard all season to prove all the talking heads wrong and have some really marquee wins in Chris Mack’s first season. No team would have made it unscathed with Louisville’s February schedule, so the Cards taking a few lumps this late while it can be viewed as concerning was also very expected.

Next. Virginia is still Virginia, and Louisville basketball still can’t finish. dark

Next up for the Cards is ACC bottom dweller Boston College on the road Wednesday night , then a Sunday match up with a really down Notre Dame team. This should be two pretty easy wins for Louisville, and if they are not, we will really have to start to believe maybe this team is broken. Lets get back to winning with our L’s Up. Until next week Go Cards!