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.
Saint Louis used to be a regular on the University of Louisville basketball schedule, but the series never attained the stature of a rivalry status. Just another game most years.
What we remember most is the Saint Louis pep band had a habit of constantly playing the University of Kentucky fight song during games against UofL on the Billikens’ home court.
Not funny, not hospitable and not conducive to positive relations with the school.
UofL owns an all-time edge of 45-20 over the Billikens. They last played in 2005 when both schools were members of Conference USA, Louisville winning 84-66.
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Campus Insiders is a relatively new phenomenon to this observer. However, the web site is well organized, nicely designed, and sponsored by Reese’s. Most important, the analysts appear to be knowledgeable about NCAA basketball. Here’s their take on the Louisville-St. Louis matchup:
Morehead’s Kenneth Faried, who’s averaging 14.5 rebounds and 17.6 points per game: “He’s a Dennis Rodman-type player who has a great passion for rebounding. Technique wise, he’s everything you want in a great rebounder. The only time he rests is during free throws and he sometimes cops a five-second break on an out-of-bounds play.
On Louisville’s No. 4 seeding: “I’ve been answering a lot of e-mails about Syracuse being seeded higher than us. It’s taking my time, getting under my skin. We’re proud of where we are, and just want to play basketball. We’re super psyched going into the tournament.”
Late night games in Big East Tournament: “They had an effect. We were playing at 9:30 or later every night and getting to the hotel about 1 o’clock in the mornings. Everything we’ve gone through this season, including all the injuries, prepared us to play against great talent and through the adversity.
On NCAA officiating & bruising Big East reputation: “We haven’t found it to be true having to adjust to the officiating. It’s not that much different.”
On getting acclimated to Denver’s mile-high air: “The atmosphere affects you but everybody is going through the same thing. All the teams are arriving Tuesday to get used to it. Every Olympic athlete will tell you that it does affect you. But it’s not as much of a factor as it could be with all the TV timeouts being so long.”
On his use of Stephan Van Treese: “We use him as a shot blocker, a rebounder and a banger. But on defense, we know every team we put him in against is going immediately run a pick and roll on him.”
Not true the observer took a day off to celebrate the departure of an arch-rival from the NCAA basketball tournament. He was actually on the road, in the heart of Bluegrass, involved with family.
A great sigh of relief, watching West Virginia advance to the Final Four. Any other result in that game would have been disappointing, with long-term negative results for University of Louisville fans everywhere.
The Kentucky car flags have all but disappeared, the caps with the oversize K’s are back in the closets, people who turned out to be closet Kentucky fans have faded back into the woodwork.
While the legitimacy of their favorites may have been questioned, Wildcat fans considered this a magical year, a cakewalk to another crown. The surprising loss, the sudden crash of everything they believe in is unbelievably painful for them.
They won’t be as highly visible for a while. A good thing.
[stextbox id=”custom”] Autographed items from Charlie Strong, Rick Pitino, Dan McDonnell and Jeff Walz will be among the many items included in a silent auction as part of a golf scramble to benefit University of Louisville students.
The 13th annual event, conducted by U of L’s Sports Administration Program, will be held April 12th at the Cardinal Club in Simpsonville. Further information can be found at www.spadclassic.com, as well as registration forms. If you mail the form in instead of signing up on line, you save $5 in the process.
If you sign up, be sure to mention Jenny Wittenauer’s name. She gets extra credit in a U of L class if you do.
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Still cakewalk, er, basketball season for some fans. Here’s the NCAA lineup: