Rick Pitino and the guys go to Washington

Is there a better way to cap off a great year for the University of Louisville sports program?

The Cardinals basketball team meets the president. They have a ceremony where politicians from both sides of the aisle are actually civil to one another. Obama gives a pretty good recap of the NCAA tournament, and Rick Pitino gives a speech praising the city and school he’s adopted.

All that’s missing?

The first lady …

And Russ Smith. Where is he anyway? (From NBC Sports):

Russdiculous is going international.

A preseason All-American and the leading scorer for the reigning national champs, Russ Smith has been named a member of the East Coast All-Stars, a 12-man team that left for Estonia to play in a tournament called the Four Nations Cup. …

He also won’t be in attendance as the Cardinals make a trip to the White House on Tuesday, which is actually a national tragedy: We won’t get a chance to see what happens when Russ Smith meets President Obama.

That would be a sight. Well, there’s always next year.

 

A Russdiculous decision

Louisville Cardinals basketball fans are elated because guard Russ Smith is going to return for his senior year.

Anyone who’s watched Russ knows he can do some amazing things with the basketball. (Look at all the games he led the team in points.) But we also know he can do some amazingly stupid things with the basketball. (Look at the five overtime loss against Notre Dame.) Russ seriously thought about entering the NBA draft, and I’m sure the general managers were looking at the stupid things.

I was at the national championship against Michigan in Atlanta game and screamed “No, Russ!” when Louisville was up by eight with 2:36 left and a fresh 35-second shot clock, and Russ put up a bad shot from beyond the three-point line. All he had to do was hold onto the ball, let the clock run down and set up a play for a better shot. I just kept thinking, “If Louisville loses, this is where it happened.”

Plus, I suspect he also didn’t want to leave Louisville after the disappointing game he had in the national championship. Only nine points, and lots of bad shots, including the one above.

The extra year under Coach Rick Pitino should add a lot more maturity to Russ’s game. And look at the team they’ll have. Three starters returning: Russ Smith, Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshire. The Final Four MVP Luke Hancock is back. Kevin Ware’s leg will be healed. Two departing starters, but Montrezl Harrell is back at forward or center, and a really good recruiting class is coming up.

And if things go right, Russ gets into his third Final Four, and has a chance to defend the national championship. Put it all together, and that makes him a definite first round draft choice in 2014.

In the meantime, let’s wallow in the 2013 victory, with Dick Vitale and the ESPN America feed out of the U.K.