It has been a tumultuous football season to say the least. The poor performance on the field coupled with the ongoing behind-the-scenes drama of trying to replace a hard-headed coach has been a recipe for a long fall sports campaign for Cardinal faithful. You may smile now though.
Rick Pitino and his Cardinal basketball squad take the court at 7PM tonight in an exhibition against Georgetown College. It wasn’t this way only a few small years ago. Louisville fans were one of the very few who had both a basketball and football team that was a threat nationally.
Petrino and Pitino had both programs rolling (finishing in the top 6 in 2005) and we could stick out our chests a little further than anyone not wearing the orange and blue of the Florida Gators. Now, like it was in the formative years of football – you know, when your ass would stick to the aluminium bleachers at Old Cardinal – the fans are forced to depend on the basketball team for national success.
Pitino’s squad has been fortunate enough to be wildly successful nationally the past two seasons and this years version shouldn’t be a step back. Watching the annual Red/White game on Sunday, you could tell a lot of the chemistry from last years team has returned this year – along with a quartet of freshman who fans will enjoy watching grow over the next 4 years.
Mike Marra is a lights-out shooter who hit 3 straight before missing Sunday. Rakeem Buckles has put on some weight and looking like he might actually give servicable minutes inside this year. Steven Van Treese showed he is active on the glass although I doubt clocks many minutes.
Peyton Siva is the cream of the crop, giving the Cards a pass-first point man for the first time since the days of Poncho Wright and Lancaster Gordon. The best part about the class is that all 4 should be here for all 4 years – something very rare in todays game. Blend those 4 in with a battle-tested group led by senior guards in Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith, a fiery, much-improved Preston Knowles who is looking to make the proverbial “leap”, and the two-headed monster of sophomore big-men – Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings.
Add in a Delk, Goode, Kuric and Swopshire off the bench and this team will be fine. As with any team, there are weaknesses. Interior depth and toughness come to mind first. It will also be interesting to see how the team handles the rigours of road games with the off season they have had – 2 players arrested and 1 coach…well we won’t go there. Judging by what I’ve seen and heard since practice starts, I doubt it will be a serious problem. Everybody seems to get along and that cohesion will help in those situations.