Louisville and Kenny Payne have turned a corner
Kenny Payne and The University of Louisville’s men’s basketball team have dropped back-to-back games to rivals Kentucky and Syracuse. When the Cardinals came out of the locker room at halftime against Kentucky–for the first time this season–I started to believe in this team. Louisville fell to Kentucky 86-63, but I noticed something I hadn’t seen all year. This group of kids started to listen to Kenny Payne and his staff. They ran plays. Their defense, though down twenty, stayed intense against an incredibly talented Kentucky team.
Tuesday, Louisville dropped a heartbreaker to Syracuse by a single point. After a late-game turnover, reigniting a glimmer of hope for the Cards, El Ellis lost control of the ball with seconds left, ending the game. Almost immediately, fans took to social media to expel their disgust, blaming everyone from Kenny Payne and El Ellis to Cardinal fans for their impatience with the team. I have to admit I have not been the biggest fan of Kenny Payne’s hire. I thought the University of Louisville had several better options available. Without mentioning names, the coaches I had in mind are having fantastic seasons in 2022-2023 with new schools.
All that regret and uncertainty vanished over the last game and a half. The attitudes of the Louisville players have shifted. These athletes look and are playing as if they believe in themselves again. They run and execute plays, and Payne is engaged on the sideline. This team is very different from the one we saw in October. Yes, we lost, but this team is different. These guys have a renewed confidence that seemingly wasn’t there in 2022
Good coaches show improvement during the season and prepare their teams for the tournament. Chris Mack‘s teams never showed improvement. Even with the current record, Kenny Payne has shown me he’s a better overall coach than Chris Mack. I’m starting to get excited about the future of this team. Believe in Kenny. He needs the fan base to believe in him and this team.
Don’t give up on El Ellis
El Ellis is in the same boat as Kenny Payne and needs our support and belief. He’s been the center of a lot of criticism this year. The kid I watched last night against Syracuse looked like a potential draft pick. Take away the last-second controversial play, and El Ellis had his best game of the year. And I get it. Mike James is open, and El Ellis is driving into three defenders in the paint. Maybe he should have passed, but perhaps he gets a foul call and is shooting free throws for the game.
The season isn’t over just yet. ACC play is everything, and this isn’t the old ACC run by Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and UNC’s Roy Williams. I’m excited for the second half of this season and believe in Kenny Payne.