Louisville sets sights on NCAA after claiming AAC crown

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Somebody ordered ladders to be placed under the baskets Saturday following the championship game of the American Athletic Conference tournament. The ladders not needed, a waste of time, in fact, because the University of Louisville basketball team only cuts nets once a year or not at all.

“We don’t cut down conference championship nets,” said Luke Hancock after UofL’s 71-61 win over UConn.

The defending national champions, having won the conference tournament in UofL’s first and final year in the conference tourney, obviously have their sights sets on a much higher goal. They are playing their best basketball as the selection committee meets behind closed doors to set the brackets for the 2014 edition of the NCAA Tournament.

Based on his team’s performance during February and March, Rick Pitino has good reason to believe UofL deserves a No. 1 seed. The Cardinals have won 13 of their last 14 games, many of them going away, five of the wins over top 25 teams.

Not that the No. 1 seed is the be all and end all, but a top seed would indicate that some of the decision makers have been watching the games, paying attention to results instead of relying solely on ESPN’S Joe Lunardi.

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Montrezl Harrell just continued to get better in the championship game, becoming one of those players against which all future power forwards at Louisville will be measured. A singular example of how the position should be played. Never allowing himself to get muscled out or pushed around, he thrives on being in the middle of the action, imposing his will, alway looking to make a exclamation point.

So energetic and dominant Saturday that Pitino let him play 39 minutes. Why replace a player who never gets tired and only seems to get more forceful and stronger as the game progresses? Harrell would turn in a game-high 22 points while claiming 11 rebounds.

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Russ Smith was letting the game come to him, rather than the other way around, but respondiing time after time when UConn begins cutting into the lead.  Seemed to be feeling some after effects from three straight games, with three or four air balls, but still connecting on seven of 18 shots, including one three-pointer, while collecting 19 points.

Smith’s point of emphasis Saturday was on the defensive end, he and Chris Jones totally frustrating  UConn’s offensive rhythm, allowing Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright one three 3-pointer, and holding them to 16 and 7 points, respectively.

No surprise Russ was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after providing of the most spectacular offensive displays seen in college basketball this season over three days.