Spare us the political rhetoric and the mindless blame games, Rick Pitino. It is inappropriate for a University of Louisville basketball coach to interpose political views on fans. The media may be enthralled but smart consumers will wait and see.
If you can get past the fawning over the new chief executive, Pitino has some interesting insights into tonight’s game at Rutgers in his pre-game interview:
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Highlights of previous Big East men’s and women’s basketball games are available at Big East TV.Â Among the most recent offerings is a highlight reel from the Lady Cards’ 66-50 win over Cincinnati last night. Someone in the Big East offices is pretty serious about keeping the site updated.
Recognition is good, but with it comes the knowledge that each game becomes more challenging. The University of Louisville basketball team climbed to No. 9 in this week’s Associated Press poll, and to 12th in the ESPN/Coaches poll.
Lofty ratings provide adrenalin surges, not only for mediocre teams but for good teams. There are plenty of both on the UofL schedule, including Rutgers at Piscataway, N.J. on Wednesday and eighth-ranked Syracuse at Syracuse on Sunday.
Big East teams ranked ahead of the Cards in the AP poll are UConn (3rd), Pittsburgh (4th) and Syracuse (8th). The coaches’ poll even has Marquette ranked ahead of UofL.
This time of year, weekends are usually filled with bouncing orange balls and braving brisk temperatures. This Saturday proved to be no different. Follow us through a busy day, from breakfast with Rick Pitino to ESPN Highlights.
8:30 a.m. — The luxury of sleeping in on Saturday is one of the greatest unsung pleasures we now have around this humble abode. No children to run to practices or events anymore. The satisfaction or rolling back over at 6 a.m. and knowing there’s no coffee to be brewed, teeth to be brushed or makeup to be applied for several hours. The soft, gentle snoring of the bowler next to me is a rhythmic melody as I stretch, yawn and pad into the kitchen to putter about and prepared breakfast. Sleep in a few more minutes, dear…the weekend is here.
9:30 a.m. — Fully awake and dressed now, with breakfast sizzling and the grumpy old bear pouring over the sports page. It’s time to have our weekly breakfast with Rick Pitino and Terry Meiners. Terrance Williams joins us this morning. So do several paid spokesmen, grocery store employees and a dizzying variety of folks trying to sell us something or make sure we’re aware just how clean are laundry and dishes can get. I guess it’s the adult version of Saturday morning cartoons for us. Paul groans when he sees the preview of the Pitt Panthers, and my heart races to my throat again as we watch Villanova miss three easy ones underneath. This half hour always goes so fast. First game time is now six hours away.
10:30 a.m. — Time to head to the grocery and post office. Good share of Cardinal flags and red clad shoppers as I prowl the aisles and decide a nice pot roast and veggies in the crock pot would make for a delicious post Pittsburgh meal when we get home tonight. Sandwiches and chips for a light lunch and a brief conversation with a neighbor while I wait in checkout. At home, the big guy is carrying on his weekly battle with the checkbook. Kind of like the furnace battle in the holiday classic: A Christmas Story.
This is just too good to pass up, the Beaver County (Penn.) Times assessment of the University of Pittsburgh basketball team, which will be ranked No. 1 when it arrives Saturday to face the Cards at Freedom Hall:
â€œThis team makes it hard to believe it not only deserves to be No. 1 in the country, but should have been from the start. Pitt is so quick, athletic and good underneath and, after Wednesdayâ€™s 10-of-18 showing from outside [against South Florida], so determined to win any way possible.
â€The feeling … has morphed from showing the Big East they can play with the top teams to the top teams measuring themselves to Pitt. Pitt has become the Big East measuring stick.â€
Writer Eric Hall is doing okay up to this point. Pittsburgh does have a decent team, and eventually he admits that Pitt could possibly lose to Louisville, â€œa quick, athletic team with a load of talent.â€
But then he predicts that if UofL does win â€œthat the student body will flood the Freedom Hall floor. Thatâ€™s where Pitt is now. It is what every other team wants to be â€¦ and the ranking has little to do with it.â€
Donâ€™t think so, Eric. Louisville has been there before. In fact, Louisville has knocked off a few top-ranked teams over the years. The closest UofL fans have ever come to charging the floor was during a bench-clearing fight against Memphis in the early seventies. Not that security would allow it, but Card fans wouldn’t be tempted to charge the floor for Pittsburgh.
Not that we wouldn’t be ecstatic, we would be. But a win Saturday would be simply another step in the direction of a much larger prize.
Anyone else have trouble sleeping the night of the Notre Dame game? Eyes closed but the mind still churning, dwelling on T-Will dunks, Earl Clark explosions, Samardo Samuels put-backs, Terrence Jennings blocks, Edgar Sosa’s prayer shots, and Kyle McAlarney being hounded by Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles and Andre McGee.
Visions lingering, lingering longer than those years-ago hangovers. The observer had to catch a three-hour nap the next afternoon to get back to normal. Tuck the memories away for now, move on. There is work to do, other issues, each game bigger than the last one.
Still, the observer would venture that Louisville hasn’t played a game at that level against such a good opponent since 1986. Yes, of course, we remember the comeback versus West Virginia in 2005, the Tennessee finish in 2001, and all the Memphis and Marquette thrillers.
Games like these are what turn ordinary fans into full-fledged fanatics and raise expectations through the roof. Four breath-stopping finishes in less than 10 days. The difference between Monday’s game and the other games is that UofL was playing at a much higher level against Notre Dame. No miracle comeback required.
Among many reasons to be nervous as No. 1 Pittsburgh comes calling Saturday is whether this particular group of Cards will have a mental letdown after so many close games. One can expect Rick Pitino to dig deep into his repository of motivational kick-starts for a pre-game speech that will rival all others this weekend. How much would you pay to hear that one?
Memories of last season’s game at Pittsburgh are dominated by flashes of burly monsters who constantly dominated the backboards, obscenely stuffed the baskets, and physically abused the Cards while rarely getting called for fouls. Yeah, the Cards lost for the third straight year to Pitt in the Big East Tournament. Memories of those games non-existent. Intentionally or unintentionally, who knows?
Time to create new memories: The Notre Dame game may have been child’s play compared to what’s coming Saturday.
Lady Cards Now 16-1
The Louisville women’s basketball is having a special season, too, off to an incredible 16-1 start. Two wins in a row the last two seasons over perennial power Rutgers. They would be undefeated if they had not played Nevada and some questionable officiating on Nevada’s home court but you won’t get any excuses from Jeff Walz.
If you’re a University of Louisville fanatic, you owe yourself the next home game against Cincinnati next Tuesday, at 8 p.m. at Freedom Hall. Angel McCoughtry is as good as they say she is, an exceptional basketball player.
Before that happens, however, the Lady Cards face South Florida in Tampa tonight (see Sonja’s preview) at 8, and they travel to Washington, D.C. on Saturday to face Georgetown at 4 p.m.Â One week later, they will play No. 1 UConn (15-0) on the road.
Catch your breath if you follow both the men’s and women’s teams. Huge times ahead.