It’s been less than 24 hours since our beloved Louisville Cardinals lost another disappointing game. It has been a while since we have had to deal with back-to-back losses and some might be taking it a bit hard. I run through my Cardinal Stages of grief pretty quick these days and have already reached the acceptance phase. What stage are you in?
-The Five Stages of Cardinal Grief
-Denial: It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.
“The Cards lost a lot of key guys the last couple of seasons. They needed Blackshear to realize his talent, Jones to NOT be a knucklehead, Mathiang to take that next step, and at least 2 freshmen to contribute regularly. None of these things happened.”
“I love seeing these freshmen get playing time.”
“The 2012 team lost to USF and Syracuse back-to-back games just before the conference tournament and Pitino still took them to the Final Four.”
“I was encouraged by the play of Q, Nanu and Anas though. On the flip side the Aaron comments are IMO out of line for the general public and I am a bit concerned about some of the recruiting choices over the last couple of years.”
-Anger: As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family.
“Our front court screwed us in this game. Those guys are not ready for the season. I refuse to believe that Blackshear is a competitor.”
“We have lost back to back to two teams that are on the bubble (or would be if Cuse didn’t take themselves out) we are going to lose to them by nine and ten points. We have one win over a team that might make the sweet 16. I had questions about us with Jones, but there is no excuse for the total lack of talent on this team. We have two players that will play in the NBA.”
“That is the problem with Rick Pitino’s system. His teams need you to turn the ball over at a relatively high rate to be successful. Undoubtedly, Louisville will run into a team in the NCAA tournament that takes care of the ball, and then the Cardinals are done.”
“Play smart? Keep in mind that this is a Rick Pitino coached team. He simply can’t coach his way out of a box when it comes to strategy in the final minutes of a tight game.”
“Harrell is good for a few poster dunks, but is never a factor in most games and disappears at crunch time. Blackshear better have a good major.”
“Remember when Denny couldn’t adjust to the 3 pointer? Rick can’t adjust to the one and done.”
-Bargaining: The normal reaction to feelings of vulnerability is often a need to regain control.
“No, this Louisville team is not terrible, but it is a mediocre team. This team is a far cry from the overly hyped team that started the season.”
“This was a product of the fact that Cuse simply didn’t turn the ball over enough. Louisville can only shoot a decent percentage when the opposing team turns the ball over, because obviously, this creates high percentage shots.”
-Depression: May be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods after the Cards lose. It’s usually what we feel before the reality of the situation becomes more clear.
“This is the most poorly prepared team ever under Pitino. Time to retire if you can’t get them to work harder to be prepared.”
“Sad to see that Louisville’s chance of winning it all is actually not that good though.”
“I am extremely disappointed in this Louisville team.”
“Most disappointing loss I have seen in a long time, we could have beat Syracuse and should have played better.”
“I don’t know why but the game felt terrible. They started out great moving the ball and Trez hit a couple shots early. We were getting the ball inside and Nanu and Mahamoud even took a couple shots. I started having high hopes for the team minus Chris Jones at the start of the Cuse game. Christmas killed us. Absolutely destroyed it. Hats off to him for the game he had.”
-Acceptance: Not everyone is capable of reaching this stage. It is that moment when you can put the entire season in perspective and realize that one loss isn’t the end of the world. It is also when you realize why the Cardinals actually lost the game.
“Calm down Card Fans. Today was our first real test playing the freshman and playing Cuse can only help as the season progresses. After all it’s not like we got beat by Little Sisters of the Poor. Cuse is one of the elite programs in the country and they are playing every game like they are in the NCAA Tournament already due to their self-imposed sanctions. And even though they may not be quite as good this year they are still Cuse. We have one of the best back-courts in the country especially if Jones gets it together and a Hall of Fame coach. He will get it fixed. I am confident that by the end of the year our Cards can play with any team in the country. Go Cards!”
“This is going to be one heck of a year in college b-ball! Who needs to wait until March it’s already crazy!!!! Congrats Cuse and keep you heads up Cards fans.”
“My expectations for this team haven’t changed. This team looks about as good as it was projected to be in the preseason. We have Sweet 16 ability and can hopefully realize that potential. With any luck, we’ll make the Elite Eight. And if many of the bounces go our way, a Final Four is possible.”
“This year is wide open for the hottest teams come March. Should be fun.”
“A lot to learn from this game. We had way worse losses last season. Pitino is a March-Master. And he’d better work some of that magic. Time to figure out how to make the Louisville front-court be effective”
There you have it Cards fans some real examples of other members of Card Nation going through some of the same emotions as you are. And as I said at the beginning I am in the acceptance stage of my Cardinal grief. I don’t think the last two losses will factor into the big picture of this season.
I was impressed with the play of Quentin Snider last night and he was very level headed in crunch time and the team appeared to feed off of his patience. He just had a cool demeanor and his team-mates benefited from that greatly. Chris Jones may find his way back to this team if he decides that he wants to put his team-mates first and he has the ability to be a great point guard, but simply doesn’t have some of those on the court intangibles that a team like this needs.
The Cardinals have really missed a good defensive big man, a great rim protector, shot-blocker, and a presence down low that allowed the guards to take chances with the knowledge that the 7-footer could make up for their miscues. I thought that once Montrezl settled into the season and Mangok got used to his role that they would be able to make up for some of this loss, but like the situation at point guard there are just certain intangibles that these guys don’t have that this team needs. I was impressed with the play of Onuaku tonight and maybe he will start putting complete games together on offense and defense.
This program has lost a lot of great players and great young men over the last couple of years. We lost four seniors last year that were the winningest in program history. Wayne Blackshear is a great young man, great student and a quality athlete. He just isn’t a guy that’s going to lead you to a National Title. Terry and Montrezl are great players who are just going to play their game and do their part. Neither of them seem like they want any part of trying to motivate these younger guys. We needed Chris to be something he’s never been. It was probably unfair to place such high expectations on this guy. He had some pretty big shoes to fill. We really needed a few of these freshman to come in and play like upperclassmen, but again probably unfair to expect that. We are also seeing for the first time in a long time a Louisville team who is struggling to play elite defense.
I’m not trying to make excuses here folks. This is the reality of the situation and these things just can’t be ignored. Our Cards are 20-6 and this team is a 20-6 team right now. Coach Pitino has come down pretty hard on these guys. We as fans expect a lot but he expects perfection. In the last few weeks he has laid it all out on the table. It will be the Louisville way or the highway. Let’s hope these guys buy into that.
Every loss our Cards have is very tough to deal with but when you go through your Cardinal stages of grief you can understand and accept that those losses eventually mean nothing. All that matters is how you perform under the bright lights of March. We have seen things fall apart during this time of the year before and seen teams come back to perform well in the post season. We’ve got some guys on this team that can make that happen again.