Louisville 57, Michigan State 44,
It’s a freight train now

University of Louisville basketball was gone for a while but now it’s back.

Back in the Elite Eight, but with even higher, much higher, expectations. Rick Pitino said it himself after UofL’s 57-44 win over Michigan State, he’s looking forward to a reunion, a return to the Final Four. Much more than that, however, “We want to win a national championship.”

Focused like a laser, spending every waking minute on the objective. His team wants it, too, but they’re not getting ahead of themselves, one foe at a time. Michigan State was next in line.

  • Pitino’s team picking apart a Tom Izzo team that felt comfortable in its own skin, a team with few visible weaknesses, a powerhouse constructed on rebounding and second chance baskets.  All but exposing Draymond Green, turning him into a turnover machine, forcing him into six errors, leaving him angry and frustrated, at one point attempting to run over Russ Smith. Forcing a team averaging only 12 turnovers per game into 15 big ones, each one costly and painful.
  • Michigan State had spent a lot of time studying Peyton Siva, devising ways to keep him out of the lane, creating a virtual fortress beneath the basket. But Siva would keep probing, testing and teasing them, he and Russ finding creative ways around the barriers, getting the ball to Chane Behanan time and time again. Nine assists for Siva, three for Russ.
  • Gorgui Dieng and Behanan were not going to be intimated by the Spartan muscle, claiming nine rebounds each, nor would they be outdone by the smaller guards, both of them coming with three steals themselves. Gorgui doing what he does best defensively, blocking shots, swatting seven of them into irrelevance.
  • Chris Smith once again setting an early positive tone, finally getting UofL on the scoreboard at the 15:46 mark with one of those straight-line three-pointers. Another one at 6:46 to put U of L up 17-11, hey maybe just maybe this thing is obtainable. A third one 9:46 to put his team up by nine. The quiet guy letting his shooting do the talking again.
  • Just when a team catches its breath, Pitino sends Russ Smith in to get them rattled again. Probably the first game in his life Russ has gone without a steal, but he was definitely comfortable getting under somebody else’s skin.
  • Jared Swopshire surprised Izzo, his teammates, his girl friend and his family with those two shots from the corner, even managing a couple of steals. What was even more surprising was his newfound speed getting back on defense.

The satisfaction of returning the favor to Michigan State, which knocked UofL out of the tourney in 2009, is meant to be savored. But it is far outweighed by the emergence of a newly-energized Louisville team that seems to keep getting better and better at just the right time, carving themselves a special place in UofL basketball history.

U of L not taking Michigan State lightly this time around

Another showdown with Michigan State in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

The University of Louisville should never have lost to the Spartans during the 2009 meeting, not with two first-round draft choices. But that U of L team may have been way too confident coming off of a 103-64 drubbing of Arizona two days earlier.  Remember Terrence Williams dancing on the sidelines? Edgar Sosa making faces at the TV audience?

T-Will as much as admitted on a telecast during an exhibition game in the Bahamas last summer that he and Rick Pitino had some issues going into the Elite 8 game against Michigan State, affecting preparations. Earl Clark, the other draft pick, was never a great ball handler, passer, shooter or dribbler. Edgar Sosa’s challenges were well-chronicled.

Ranked No. 1 at the end of the season, with the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Small wonder they were cocky. They had already arrived in their minds, a Final Four was inevitable.

Members of the current U of L basketball team, however, have had to grind it out, battle almost every minute of every game to get where it is. No great expectations despite a six-game winning streak. Paying attention to the coach, spending hours watching film, memorizing the scouting reports, taking no one lightly.

But the crucial difference is these U of L players are not living on their reputation. Rather, they are focused on improvement, recognizing they can get better. The improvement has been most obvious with players like Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng but even Russ Smith, though still unpredictable at times, is a much different player than he was in December.

Whether these factors will be enough to return the favor to Michigan State remains to be seen. One thing for certain, however, is that this UofL team will be in the game at the end, still trying to get better.

Louisville women draw ‘MSU’ in NCAA

So much for watching NCAA women’s basketball bracket show while attempting to maintain order in a pool league. Try it sometime.

All the TV monitors at the establishment keep flashing U of L vs. MSU. So much noise in the place, impossible to hear. Mississippi State? Murray State? Morgan State? Michigan State? Somebody even guesses Memphis State.

MSU turns out to be Michigan State, the first game opponent for the University of Louisville women, tipping off 1:30 p.m. Saturday at College Park, Md. The full bracket is here, and below is part of the Raleigh Regional in which UofL resides (ALBY is Albany, by the way):

Charlie Strong and a commitment to Louisville football

Time spent at a university, with coaches, associates, friends and fans all pulling toward common goals should never be taken lightly and should mean a great deal to all individuals involved.

Fortunately at the University of Louisville, we have an individual like Charlie Strong, a college football coach, a person who takes these values seriously. A person one can trust when he states that he appreciates his athletic director or embraces the school and the community. Rare, indeed, in the college football world, which has been turned upside down in recent years by continuing scandal, recruiting violations, conference realignment scrambling and greed.

Especially at U of L, which has seen more than its share of football coaches using their position primarily to better themselves, using the program as a stepping stone, merely a means to achieve what they perceive to be bigger and better things. One coach, in particular, was set to take the program to a higher level but put himself first, moving to an SEC school, failing to appreciate what he had here.

Despite Bobby Petrino’s success, using people and schools that way rarely works out as planned. Just ask Howard Schnellenberger, fired after one season at Oklahoma, or John L. Smith, who, after four seasons at Michigan State and latching on with Petrino for a couple of years at Arkansas, has landed at Weber State.

Having pursued a head coaching job for 26 years, Charlie Strong was finally given that opportunity at U of L on Dec. 7, 2009. At one point in that introductory press conference, he came close to admitting his frustration, almost wondering out loud if it would ever happen. With his wife and two daughters standing nearby, Strong expressed his appreciation to Tom Jurich, athletic director, and James Ramsey, U of L president, for making his dream come true. Then came the choking up, the near tears, several seconds of silence, and then a broad smile.

Strong knew that Louisville was taking a chance with him, but that comes with any new coach. He also knew that other schools had turned him down for other reasons. But it was U of L that was putting its program in his hands. He was grateful, and he wasn’t going to forget.

The success he’s had during his first two seasons is nothing less than phenomenal, indicating that Charlie Strong is an exceptional head coach. He’s the right man for the job in many more ways than winning on the field, a role model in a day when good role models are difficult to find. We believe Strong recognizes that he has a chance to build an elite program.

We also believe through his actions and continued commitment to U of L that he has an opportunity to create a lasting legacy for himself in a way that few football coaches would recognize, much less undertake, others choosing to rely on an existing brand and tradition to exalt themselves. We’ve dreamed of having the football program in the hands of someone like Charlie Strong for decades, and we believe we have him.

Louisville Basketball Easily Most Profitable

The University of Louisville is once again No. 1 in terms of profitability among the nation’s college basketball programs, according to the latest compilation, this one by CNNMoney.com.

And it’s not even close.

U of L took in $25.4 million in revenue, compared to $19.8 million for the University of North Carolina in second place, and almost $10 million more than Ohio State in third place. More importantly, Louisville had $16.8 in profit, compared to UNC’s $12.3 million and Ohio State’s $11.4 million.

Other regional schools like Indiana and Kentucky were ranked seventh and 14th, respectively, IU reporting $8.2 million in profit and UK announcing $6.1 million.

Missing from the top 20 this year was Duke, which after years of reporting profits in the $4 million to $5 million range, reported a loss of more than $2 million. The school said that was due to a shift in revenue to the non-sport specific classification.

School Revenue Expenses Profit
Louisville

25,494,904

8,625,245

16,869,659

North Carolina

19,852,544

7,488,429

12,364,115

Ohio State

16,115,419

4,697,478

11,417,941

Arizona

17,524,360

6,132,352

11,392,008

Illinois

14,507,336

4,772,399

9,734,937

Syracuse

16,817,122

7,784,244

9,032,878

Indiana

15,173,264

6,946,942

8,226,322

Minnesota

12,956,390

5,113,345

7,843,045

Kansas

15,737,145

8,219,362

7,517,783

North Carolina State

10,914,295

3,747,426

7,166,869

Tennessee

12,576,715

5,464,911

7,111,804

Texas

14,770,278

7,891,661

6,878,617

Michigan State

15,592,500

9,031,373

6,561,127

Kentucky

14,773,034

8,615,726

6,157,308

Maryland

10,793,864

4,891,205

5,902,659

Dayton

9,091,521

3,401,333

5,690,188

Northwestern

9,328,062

3,720,715

5,607,347

Xavier

8,791,518

3,938,466

4,853,052

UCLA

11,775,932

6,996,960

4,778,972

UNLV

9,230,385

4,644,437

4,585,948

Source:  CNNMoney