Hoping to see the best version of Louisville basketball in the post-season, no one was ready for the abrupt ending. Part of healing is looking ahead, so that’s what we’ll do.
When it comes to Louisville basketball in March, it’s all about winning. As I’ve grown up a Cardinal fan, I’ve been fortunate to watch the program I love continue their ascend into the top tier of college basketball programs – and it happens with runs in March.
I got to watch players like Francisco Garcia, Taquan Dean, Kyle Kuric, Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Terry Rozier, Montrezl Harrell go from being excellent college basketball players to bigger than life stars in the city of Louisville thanks to their play in March. Since 2005 the Cards have made two appearances in the Elite 8, three to the Final Four, while winning the National Championship in 2013 with arguably the greatest team in program history.
Whether it was Peck Hickman, Denny Crum, or Rick Pitino the expectation was that their teams were going to rise above the rest when winning mattered the most. In Chris Mack’s first season he hoped to follow in the footsteps of the legendary coaches behind him, and in many ways did.
A season that started with the highest expectations since peak Pitino days when the Cardinals were routinely participating in later weekend of the NCAA Tournament ended with an iPhone message from head coach Chris Mack posted to Twitter.
“They all wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament. We were ready. We weren’t perfect. But we were ready.”
When he went on to say “I understand the seriousness of what’s going on with the coronavirus but I’m still allowed to be sad for MY guys. They were excited. They should have been. They were ready to represent Cardinal fans everywhere.”
A season that saw ups as high as being ranked no. 1 and lows of losing back-to-back games against inferior ACC teams in Georgia Tech and Clemson in a period where they could have sealed the conference regular-season title.
As Mack said, his team was ready, and it showed in the play of their final two games against Virginia Tech and Virginia. While the final game played of the season will go down as a loss at Virginia, that game showed me once again that ability of the team to rise up to a challenge.
As hard as it is, it’s time to turn the page.
It’s going to hurt for a while, there’s no denying that, but as we’ve seen time and time again the ability to look forward to a bright future will get us through.
Next season for Louisville basketball will be different. Very different. The Cards will say goodbye to four seniors in Steven Enoch, Ryan McMahon, Dwayne Sutton, Fresh Kimble as well as junior Jordan Nwora to graduation, while we learned yesterday that junior guard Darius Perry is set to depart from the program as a graduate transfer.
The future is bright for the Cardinals but the challenges and questions that lie ahead are what will ultimately shape the direction of team 107 and the 2020-21 season. Let’s take our first look at what the next year of Cardinal basketball will look like as we preview the top needs this offseason.