The 2019-20 WBB Cards were a special bunch that didn't get a chance to finish it out
Major holidays can be a fun affair at times, especailly if you get the chance to reminisce and reflect with friends you hadn't seen in awhile. I attended a gathering that I had passed on, for more than just a few 4th celebrations, this year... and was glad to see some friends I had lost touch with.
We were "day-attenders" for this gathering, not sticking around for the backyard firework shows in someone's backyard. The smaller events hold little interest for me anymore. I guess too many Thunder Over Louisville's can do that to you. I also pointed out to my wife that the neighbors on each side of us would be blasting them away. Driving back home, though, it was kinda cool to see the sudden, bright explosions in the sky.
But, back to the party. A friend was firing Louisville women's basketball questions at me left and right for a while...and I almost felt like it was the "old days" when Howie Lindsey and I would do a lot of that and get a lot of that on his radio show.
One question that got me thinking was when I was asked which of the Cardinal WBB squads was my favorite. I suppose I could have gone with one of the squads that had a nice march through the conference tournament and NCAA Tournament...but I came up with a team that was so very good, got eliminated the the second round of the ACC Tournament and never got the chance to play in the "big dance"...the 2019-20 squad.
There were several players I just loved to death (and still do) on that team. Despite the graduation of Asia Durr...it was a big roster, with 13 players, and fan favorites such as Jaz Jones, Dana Evans, Kianna Smith, Kylee Shook, Liz Dixon, Norika Konno, Jess Laemmle and Kasa Robinson were on the squad. The team also had Lindsey Duvall and Seygan Robins...two big favorites of mine who eventually transferred out. Elizabeth Balogun was a part of that squad also and so was Molly Lockhart, both who eventually transferred as well. Filling out the roster was the fabulous Bionca Dunham and Yacine Diop was the "super sub" off the bench
What a squad. They went 8-0 to start the season, won the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands and didn't take a loss until they went to Ohio State. Dana Evans had 18 point in the Cards losing effort and Jaz Jones disappeared with just two points in 20 minutes before fouling out. The Cards didn't lose again until they stumbled when hosting Fla. State in early February.
The win at UK was pretty special. 67-66 with Shook making our last two baskets. Then, we had to hold our breath while Rhyne Howard launched a three-pointer that could have won it for the Cats. Howard had 28 points on the night but didn't get that final three to fall and we escaped the rivalry game with a win, after being down by double digits in the third quarter.
That was also the year they scrimmaged against the USA Women's National Team. Sue Bird, Angel, Sylvia Fowles, A'ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Kelsey Plum...the list went on and on. And, few remember this...but the Cards led at the end of the first quarter in this one. Yes, USA eventually put it on the Cards and won by 43...but the Cards stood toe to toe with them for the first half.
Syracuse was another who put an "L" on UofL... in the game after the Florida State loss. Something many didn't recall was that Emily Engstler was on that 'Cuse squad and Morgan Jones was on that FSU team. Louisville did regroup and win their final six of the season, though, and went into the ACC Tournament. That Saturday loss, to FSU (again!) in the tournament semifinals was disappointing.
The whole next day, I heard a lot about this virus that was starting to spread across the US. I watched NC State take the title with a decided lack of interest and listened the news on my car radio all the way back to Louisville that afternoon/night. Something called coronavirus was being touted as nothing to mess around with.
At least FSU got beat, but a few days later...we got the news that the NCAA Tournament might be played without fans. The next day, it was cancelled completely. South Carolina, Oregon, Baylor, Maryland and UConn had powerhouse squads...but the Cards had shown we could win against the top five with the win over Oregon and I felt they could hold their own against any of the other top five.
I've always felt UofL could have easily scored a #2 seed in one of the regional sites and gone a long way in the NCAA Tournament that year. They had depth in the paint, a talented crew of guards and strength at forward. Sadly, we never got to see just how far they could have gone...but, if pressed, I'd have to say that the 2019-20 squad was (and is) my favorite of all time.
It was hard to pick them over the 2012-13 squad. You had Sara, Cortnee, the Schimmels, Shawnta, Shelby and Sherrone. They were magical in their own right, also...getting to the NCAA Championship game to face UConn Stefanie Dolson and Breanna Stewart proved to be too much to handle, though.
Feel free to let us know in the comments section if you agree on the 2019-20 squad as your favorite or have another Cards WBB squad that is your favorite.