Notre Dame week is here.
A game against America’s most revered college football program, one that University of Louisville fans could only wish for until joining the Atlantic Coast Conference this year. Being the new member of the conference may have even been a factor, making scheduling the game easier for Notre Dame.
Simply playing on the same field as Notre Dame elevates the stature and credibility of the UofL program in the eyes of football analysts and fanatics. The game forces even the most hardened skeptics to respect Louisville football, acknowledging that the Cardinals have a legitimate chance of winning at South Bend.
Credibility in college football, where tradition and myths routinely shape perception, reality doesn’t come easily. As UofL fans have learned, the more traditional programs have huge advantages when it comes to weekly rankings, bowl selections and now national championship playoffs considerations. Win or lose, Notre Dame will always be considered the superior program because of the ingrained beliefs of the opinion leaders, the people — the writers, the columnists, the broadcast networks, the coaches and college presidents — who shape the national perceptions of college football elite.
A win for UofL at South Bend would be a shocker for millions of Irish fans across the country, possibly setting off still another ND coaching search after three consecutive losses. Sportscaster Howard Cosell once proclaimed that football is a religion for Notre Dame fans, only partially in reference to the 14-story mosaic of Jesus on the school library adjacent to the stadium.
For Louisville fans, however, it would be still another affirmation that Louisville can be among the nation’s elite football programs, reaffirming Howard Schnellenberger’s vow that “Louisville is on a collision course with the national championship” is another step closer to reality.
Afterall, Notre Dame is:
— The most successful program in college football history. In 100 seasons, the Irish have 670 victories, second only to Michigan (692), which has played nine more seasons.
— The winner of seven Associated Press national championships, two more than second-place Oklahoma and Alabama.
— The home of seven Heisman Trophy winners , more than any other school.
— A program that has had 10 undefeated and 25 one-loss seasons.
— The program has ranked in The AP Top Twenty 484 times since the poll’s inception in 1936, or 74.3 percent of AP polls, the most of any school. They have been ranked No. 1 seventy-five times, four more than runner-up Oklahoma.
Those are some almost awe-inspiring credentials, worthy of a program synonymous with college football in America. But this unique encounter finally provides UofL with a chance to add a rich bit of history to its own growing tradition after years of denied opportunities.
The stars have aligned, the opponents and the game have converged, and the impossible has become plausible.
The sight of James Green on the Jacksonville State bench brought back some memories from the past, not all of them good.
Last time Green was on the opposing bench, his Southern Mississippi teams were making life difficult for the University of Louisville, winning three out of seven games against the Cardinals from 1996-97 through the 2000-2001 seasons in Conference USA. His last win was a 69-61 decision during one of UofL’s rare losing seasons.
Green returned to Louisville after 14 seasons, coaching a Jacksonville State team from the Ohio Valley Conference. He didn’t appear to have aged much but had to marvel at all the changes since his last visit. Louisville playing in a new 22,000-seat arena, a team coached by Rick Pitino, loaded with giants and speedsters, and preparing for life in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Cardinals would outscore the Gamecocks 54-9 the final 10:07 of the first half and the first 10:34 of the second half. UofL would outrebound them 60-16, outscore them 48-12 in the paint, 31-8 on turnovers, 39-6 on second chance points, and 26-7 on bench points.
Pitino would use every one of his 15 players, holding the score down. Green would play 14 players, looking for the next Clarence Witherspoon.
“This might be the best team we’ve played anywhere I’ve ever been,” said Green afterwards.
If just for old time’s sake, it was good to see James Green once again. But after enduring an 88-39 beatdown in the new era, don’t expect him back anytime soon.
Neither WHAS TV or WAVE 3 has the ability to televise the game because ESPN owns the TV rights to the game, and has relegated the game to ESPN3.com, an Internet site.
Games on ESPN3.com are also available on WatchESPN, an Internet app for cell phones so you may want to update your apps if not attending the game.
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Here’s a taste of pre-game activities at the KFC Yum! Center:
Sara Hammond goes up for two of her 11 points for the University of Louisville basketball team in a 77-44 win over Tennessee-Martin witnessed by a crowd of 7,892 on Sunday.
Five UofL starters scored in double figures, including Bria Smith and Myisha Hines-Allen with 14, Mariya Moore with 12 and Jude Schimmel with 10 points.
The win raised the women’s record to 2-0. UofL plays Belmont at 7 p.m. Thursday at the KFC Yum! Center.
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Gonna have to wait for that first ACC championship.
The UofL soccer team came within two seconds of claiming its first tournament championship in the Atlantic Coast Conference Sunday. That was Clemson scored its first goal to tie the game at 1-1 and send it into overtime. Clemson would win 2-1 on a goal with 5:17 remaining in the second overtime.
Louisville was awarded the No. 13 seed in the NCAA tournament on Monday. UofL will play host to the winner of the first round game between Tulsa-St. Louis game, at home next Sunday in a match to be played at Lynn Stadium.
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The fifth-ranked men’s swimming and diving team defeated No. 11 Auburn 171-129 and No. 14 Tennessee 167.5-130.5 in dual meet action on Friday afternoon. The No. 18 ranked UofL women fell to No. 14 Tennessee 166-134 and to No. 7-ranked Auburn 185-114.
ESPN gets its wish again, this time pitting Rick Pitino against son Richard on the opening night of the 2014-15 college basketball season, with the University of Louisville prevailing over Minnesota 81-68 in the Armed Forces Classic in Puerto Rico.
The elder Pitino happy with the win, but disappointed his son’s team loses its season opener. “I would rather have not played it, because my son lost,” he says afterward. Coaches never say no to ESPN, however, so a sequel is not out of the question, pending results of the TV ratings which have to be through the roof.
While feeling sorry for junior, Rick had to be pleased with his team’s performance, responding again and again to Minnesota comebacks, and a defense closely resembling his own team’s, a taste of what it’s like to play against a selfish, aggressive and unyielding defense. A foul-plagued game testing the depth and readiness of second-line players, resembling a mid-season game with super intensity levels.
Rick said two weeks ago UofL had to get up to speed quickly and his players obviously bought in, unleashing a no-holds-barred defense that refused to wilt, keeping the Cardinals in the game early, giving them some breathing room at the half. Not allowing the Gophers any uncontested shots or easy baskets during the final 20 minutes.
— Montrezl Harrell just a beast, barking out orders to his teammates while showcasing all the advances in his game. Hitting nine of 12 shots from the field, including three of four three-point attempts and nine of 10 free throw attempts for 30 points. Somehow avoiding the whistles and collecting only two personal fouls. Taking the role of captain seriously, constantly mentoring some teammates while leading by example.
— Terry Rozier displaying an array of shots around the basket that would have Russ Smith shaking his head. Out of the shadow a season later, blazing his own trails to the basket, in, around and through some mystified and frustrated defenders. Making seven of 11 shots from the field, four of six from the free throw line for 18 points, while chalking up four assists and four steals.
— Chris Jones assuming the ceaseless Andre McGee approach on defense, relentlessly challenging every dribble and pass. All the activity taking a toll on him on the offensive end, making four of 13 attempts from the field but four of four from the free throw line.
–Wayne Blackshear with a long night but on the floor for only 20 minutes after collecting three fouls in the first half. That familiar feeling back again, watching lots of critical action from the bench. Managing seven points on a three pointer and four of five from the three-point line.
— Chinanu Onuaku still growing up, getting stronger, clogging up the middle, getting in his own way much of time, fouling out in eight minutes with three rebounds, an assist and a turnover. Probably surprised to be named the starting center, surprised at the speed and ferocity of the college game. He will get there.
— David Levitch has come a long way, keeping the ball moving around the perimeter,protecting the ball with no awkward turnovers, sinking three of four free-throw attempts. A coach’s son playing like a coach’s son, relishing his early playing time, but somehow collecting four fouls, even a flagrant. Something more to work on.
A promising start for the University of Louisville, embracing an early challenge, providing a glimpse of what this team can become with the continued improvement that always comes with Rick Pitino teams.
Another life lesson for Richard from his Hall of Fame father, one he will use to his advantage. Probably not the last game between the Pitinos.
Father vs. son, Rick vs. Richard Pitino. Louisville vs. Minnesota.
The opening game of the 2014-15 college season with the spotlight focused on UofL basketball at the US Coast Guard Air Station in Borinquen, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
While it is too soon for speculation on coaching succession, some can’t help but wonder whether this is the present vs. the future for one of the nation’s top programs. Rumors a while back that Richard had been unofficially christened as the coach in waiting at UofL were quietly dismissed by the administration. But the possibility remains in the minds of many if Richard continues his winning ways.
Rick Pitino is not going to retire as long as his love of basketball and the flare for competition continues to consume his every waking minute. He is the face of Louisville basketball, having built upon and enhanced a proven brand, compiling a 341-117 won-lost record in 13 seasons, including three Final Fours and a national championship. A Hall of Fame coach ready for new challenges, eager to add more national championships at UofL.
Richard is entering his third year as a head basketball coach. After turning a losing Florida International program into a winner with a 18-14 record in 2012-13, he was hired by Minnesota, guiding the Golden Gophers to a 25-13 record and a National Invitation Tournament (NIT) championship during his first season. He is young, lean and hungry, personally driven, and driven by the old man. A winner chasing a winner.
Dad enters the game with a new lineup after losing key players from a recruiting class that posted the most wins in the school’s history. Playing with an untested and unpredictable center whether he goes with Anas Mahmoud or Mangok Mathiang at the five spot. Terry Rozier and Chris Jones have new responsibilities and roles, assuming leadership for the first time. Wayne Blackshear, after three years of ups and downs, will need to prove he’s the go-to shooter and can stay out of foul trouble.
Richard returns three guards, two seniors and a junior, from his NIT team, including Andre Hollins, who averaged 13.6 points and 3.5 assists per game, Carlos Morris 14.6 points and five rebounds, DeAndre Mathieu, 12 points and 4.2 assists. He’s starting over at center and forward, with 6-foot-11 Bakery Kanate and 6-foot-8 Josh Martin.
Should be entertaining with mirror images of the Pitinos at both ends of the court. One proving that he still has it, building on his legendary status. The other wanting to prove himself against his mentor, guardian and protector, and closest friend. And visions of what may lie ahead for both.