Even Pervis (Ralph) Ellison, who last season went from freshman obscurity to being a Soul Train word scramble, not to mention the Final Four MVP, has at times been an Invisible Man—though, to be fair, he has had chronic ankle problems. And Herb Crook, theretofore the steadiest Card, dribbled out the last seconds of regulation during the 'Ville's 85-84 overtime defeat of Southern Mississippi in Freedom Hall last week. Seems Superb Herb was unaware that the previous Golden Eagles basket had counted for three, and that matters were now tied. "I don't know what will come first," sighed Crum, "ulcers or gray hair."
Louisville's slow start, glacial even by its normal let's-come-out-around-Groundhog Day standards, has borne out Crum's early skepticism about his team's high preseason ranking. "At the time, I wished they were right and I was wrong," he says. "But I'd rather have a bad year this season and lay the groundwork for something to come than play a bunch of patsies just to have a good won-lost record."
After the Cards' loss to Memphis State, they were immediately trundled off to take drug tests. Had they played that poorly? Trainer Jerry May explained, "We want to get them used to having tests done when they come off the court. That's the way the NCAA will do it during the tournament." Unless the 'Ville wins the Metro Conference tourney, it was a wasted exercise.
Misery loves company, but the Cats and Cards can't even count on the consolation of beating up on each other next season. Their four-year home-and-home agreement has expired, and plans to renew it are stalled. "We're the big brother, they're the little brother," said Sutton in December. "We don't need Louisville. We could play the Sisters of the Poor and fill Rupp Arena." To which Crum, speaking to Don Marcus of the Baltimore Sun, replied, "Anybody who is rational would not see [our] program in that light. He must have been drunk when he made that comment."
So they may not play against each other. But what if they played with each other, right now? There would be Ellison and Crook from Louisville inside. Davender and Chapman outside. And, as the fifth starter, either Card Tony Kimbro or Cat Madison. Build Frupp Harena midway down Interstate 64 in, say, Shelbyville, and take on the world as the Wildcards. "It'd be awesome," says Chapman. "There might not be enough balls to go around, but the coaches would solve that problem."
That certainly would be a more pleasant problem than the ones Crum and Sutton are dealing with now.