Forgive old-time Cardinal fans if it all seemed a flashback. Old-timers meaning those who not only know about Peck Hickman but saw him coach. This was Ed Kallay time one more once.
Not Ed Kallay, the former U of L radio play-by-play announcer, but Uncle Ed Kallay in the Magic Forest with sidekicks Tom Foolery and Sylvester the Duck on “Funny Flickers.” Because playing out before these fans was Keystone Kops befuddlement, guys aimlessly running back and forth, seemingly devoid of direction.
By the time action stopped for a commercial at the first TV timeout Saturday, Louisville and Rutgers had committed a Buster Keatonish 12 pratfalls, almost evenly divided between them.
The Cards led 10-2. It should have been twice that. So opined the guy next to me, the Acting Assistant Associate Editor of Rutgers’ student paper, “The Daily Targum.” Truth.
Rutgers played with the panache of Bambi facing a Hummer’s headlights. The U of L steadied, steamrolling the Scarlet Knights by 37. Notwithstanding T-Will’s dismaying propensity to try to mimic Steve Nash. If only the Cards’ primary showboat could dish like Lee Steiden, the walk-on with the day’s sweetest assist to the Terrance less inclined to razzle dazzle, Mr. Farley.
So just days after a disappointing failure to finish at UConn, two weeks after a disturbing offensive meltdown at crunch time at Seton Hall, hope sprang eternal yet again for the theretofore underachieving Red & Black.
In a week, one could hope the direction of these talented but basketball savvy-deprived Cardinals would come into focus. After a trip to Milwaukee, where Louisville had won three of the last four, after ESPN’s College Game Day extravaganza against Georgetown had concluded, after Dickie V boarded his private jet and headed to the next Big Game, the die would be cast for the homies.
Then, on Monday, before a surprisingly small opening tip crowd that had Tom Crean scowling more than usual, it was deja vu all over again. After three minutes, Louisville, looking mature, steady and stalwart, led 10-2. Six was as close as it got the rest of the way. The game was never really that close. ’Quette was measured the entire way.
The last play of the half was a sure sign. Running The Rick’s favorite end-of-period play, a clear out from up top, Earl Clark was the dribbler. He lost the ball on a move to the hoop. But Edgar Sosa grabbed it, hitting a jumper at :02 for a dozen point lead.
So tell us Mr. Wizard, what does it all mean?
This: If the Cards continue to improve — there is still significant untapped upside — they might actually be as legit as Jay Bilas seems to think. “Louisville has a real chance,” offered the Dukie when the U of L was up 20 with less than 4:00 to play.
E5 needs to work on his patience. Sosa needs to stay steady. DC needs to keep his hands to himself. Tello needs to stop dribbling. Ever. Smith and McGee need to be automatic from beyond the arc. The aggressive pressure-trapping defense needs to become even more stifling. Most of all, T-Will needs to keep his focus the full 40. Against Marquette he bricked three truly awful shots in the last six minutes.
Now Hoya paranoia comes to the Hall. Legit teams win ’em all at home in February. A W over G-town and the 50-time intergalactic champion dance team will be working up a routine to Bob Wills’ “San Antonio Rose.”
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