The Louisville basketball program is off to a winless start to the season through six games. Their first three games were decided by three total points. Their past three games, as a part of the 2022 Maui Invitational, were all decided by 19 points or more.
Going into a natural beauty of a place like Maui, Hawaii, the positivity surrounding the team was high but that feeling was quickly stifled with a blowout loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks. Beginning a 3-day stretch of games with a massive loss to a AP Top Ten team is disheartening as the loss continued their winless record.
Following their loss to Arkansas, Louisville lost to Texas Tech with an abysmal offensive effort, and then lost to Cincinnati in what would be their closest loss out of the three games. After the Texas Tech game, Head Coach Kenny Payne was asked in front of the media what his team is struggling with the most. And the answer he provided may shine some light as to why Louisville has failed to record a win this season.
Coach Kenny Payne said to the media that the theme of his coaching has revolved around how his team handles adversity. He is quoted in the interview with saying “There is a sentiment amongst themselves [the players] that there is a black cloud.” He preceded that statement saying that he is evaluating their body language on the court and he needs a group that is willing to fight.
It seems he is in the early stages of communicating his culture to these athletes and the disconnect is getting them to buy into it. He followed up the aforementioned quote by saying “There’s not no black cloud. You determine the black cloud.”
He believes in this team and these players and the consensus coming out of the locker room is that the greater battle than their opponents is the battle inside their minds. To say this group lacks talent would be a false statement, but these players clearly are playing with some sort of mental block.
The power of positivity can aid in the mental battle in a lot of ways and it doesn’t seem like all hope is lost quite yet. After their first three games, the players knew that they were right there in terms of garnering their first win.
Guard Mike James was quoted in this article as saying “We all know we’re three points combined from being 3-0…And I think if we’re 3-0 it’s a lot of different feelings in this room and a lot of different questions in this room. So, as a team, we know we’re right there.”
If the buzzer beater by Wright State’s Trey Calvin doesn’t go in and El Ellis releases the ball from his hand a half of a second earlier against Appalachian State, then the conversation surrounding a 2-4 team and an 0-6 team is much different.
Imagine the difference if this team had two wins instead of zero. The climb to .500 would not seem so steep and the internal pressures on themselves as well as the external pressures from the fanbase would not seem quite so heavy.
The apparent solution to this situation is improving on-court body language and out-hustling the opposing team. If both of those things happen, like Kenny Payne alluded to, then this team has the potential to turn their season around.