Early exit for Cinderellas in 2019 NCAA basketball tourney

Was this the year a mid-major would crash the NCAA men’s basketball final four ? Depending on which talking head you listened to, a Cinderella was inevitable.

Surprise, surprise, as the field is narrowed to 16: No Loyola of Chicago and Sister Jean. No Butler University. No Murray State. No Northeastern. No Wofford. Few upsets. No mid- majors to be found.

Check the four regionals and its chalk city baby. The East, Duke versus Virginia Tech and Louisiana State versus Michigan State. The West is true to form with Gonzaga playing Florida State and Texas Tech going against Michigan.

The Midwest Region has North Carolina playing Auburn and Houston playing Kentucky. Better have P.J. Washington for this one. The Wildcats won with defense against Wofford. The Cougars and Kelvin Sampson can score.

Louisville and the KFC Yum! Center host the South Region this week. Top-seeded Virginia gets a break against  No. 12 Oregon. Purdue and Tennessee will clash in other matchup.

Midnight has come and gone, and Cinderella has gone back to scrubbing floors.

Petrino puts Card March back where it belongs for Louisville fans

Card March 2

Card March is back, with hundreds of fans, maybe thousands, wanting to get up close and personal with the University of Louisville football team on its way into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in the season opener. The showing Monday probably even exceeding Coach Bobby Petrino’s expectations when he introduced the concept a decade ago.

Petrino and many of the players appeared to be surprised and overwhelmed by the show of support, the gathering of well-wishers so large that it was difficult for many fans to even see the players. Senior guard Jake Smith for one, pausing a couple of times on his way down the steps to take it all in. While not an altogether spontaneous gathering, it was the spot where many fans had to be, wanting to be a part of kicking off a special season.

The celebration was back at the Denny Crum Overpass, with players descending the steps, into the tunnel and on to the stadium. Back to the original location after former Coach Charlie Strong had moved it several times over four seasons, relocating the event three times last season alone. He once even threatened to cancel it.

For whatever reason, the event never seemed to gain much traction during Strong's tenure, the former coach often complaining about lack of turnout.

For whatever reason, the event never seemed to gain much traction during Strong’s tenure, the former coach often complaining about lack of turnout. That may have been due to several factors, including mediocre opponents, noon kickoffs and inconsistency. Under Strong, the team skipped Card March a couple of times during inclement weather, taking the bus directly to the locker room.

A baffling decision considering the team and fans were supposed be in this thing together. There may also have been some resentment, too, with Strong telling fans what they should be doing or how they ought to be, or comparing them with those of an arch-rival fan base.

Petrino has never gone out of his way to lecture the team’s fan base, recognizing that fan enthusiasm will grow with genuine anticipation, quality opponents and exciting football. The stadium was near capacity at kickoff against Miami, and there was no mass exodus in the last five minutes. The fans were loud when it counted, the coach giving them credit for their support on third-down defensive situations.

It may be a challenge to generate the same kind of fan intensity for an opponent like Murray State on Saturday but Card March is clearly back where it belongs.

Louisville cool in clammy opener

Playing or watching football in 95-degree temperatures is an ordeal, testing one’s affinity for a game meant to be played in fall weather. The worst conditions in the oven since the stadium opener in 1997, a day the football was as bad as the weather.

A total of 46,157 fans showed up for this season’s opening game, many arriving late because of early 6 p.m. start on a Thursday night and others abusing their tailgating privileges. Papa John’s looked pretty sparse 15 minutes before kickoff. Still it was the second largest attendance ever for a U of L home opener.

Most of them stuck around until the very end, despite the sluggish nature of the game. But that’s progress when you consider the vacating rates in fourth quarters a few years ago. We’ll take improvement where we can get it.

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As Charlie Strong said after Louisville’s 21-9 win over a decent Murray State, he knew going into the game that his team needed a lot of work, especially on offense. But that’s to be expected when there are zero returning starters.

  • A good, if unimpressive, start for Will Stein who completed 17 of 32 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Too bad about the fumble and some of the attempts to Josh Chichester, who will never make a basket catch. Likes them up high, like that one in the second quarter for 23 yards.
  •  DaVante Parker is as good as advertised, scoring a touchdown on his first college reception, a 39-yard pass which was strongly challenged by a Murray defender. Parker is the first true freshman to score a touchdown pass in his first game in 34 years. Remember how Doug Beaumont needed four seasons.
  • U of L is in good stead with Scott Ratliffe as lead punt returner, as surehanded at that position as we seen in years, and as a wide receiver. He want to run, returning one for 31 yards, and he wants to receive, converting three of them for 21 yards and a touchdown.
  • All the fretting about the cornerback position may be founded but Murray State was unable to take advantage, not living up to its reputaton. Meanwhile, Anthony Conner, a senior and juco transfer, was making his first interception at U of L.
  • Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright gained 65 and 35 yards, respectively. Not that impressive against a Murray State. Give the offensive line a little time and that should improve. It better.

How about Chris Philpott booming four kickoffs into the end zone, with and against the wind, 70 yards each time. Equally impressive running the ball, 40 yards on two fake punts. Who knew he was that fast?