Don’t Doubt the Cards

As a die-hard UofL fan, I wasn’t too pleased with the end of the NCAA tournament.

Let the hate mail begin, but I’ve been raised to like only ONE team from the Commonwealth. Though, I can’t deny the Cats did field the best team in the league this year, it doesn’t mean I have to pull for them. Sorry.

Yet, as I cheered on the Cards this season, I also had to face reality: Louisville didn’t have a championship team, and in all the “glory” that is the NCAA tournament, it would have been somewhat strange to see them win.

But, regardless of the fact they were lacking talent and consistency, I can’t seem to swallow the media’s incessant claim that Louisville didn’t deserve a spot in the Final Four.

How is a team who beat four straight opponents in the NCAA tournament, including a #1 seed, not entitled to a ticket to New Orleans?

I’ve heard the fodder from ESPN and respected sportswriter Rick Reilly, who wrote in a recent article that “Pitino beat Florida to make a Final Four he has no business being in.”

Rick Reilly.

Rick Reilly.

Please Rick, tell me who had any business being there over Louisville, UK, Kansas and Ohio State?

The #2 seed Duke who lost to LeHigh in the second round? Was it the other #2 seed, Missouri, who took an early exit to Norfolk St.? Was it 7th seed Florida against whom Louisville achieved an unbelievable comeback in the Elite Eight?

How about Syracuse? The team with a sex scandal, drug scandal and Fab scandal all coming to light this year? In case you forgot, the Orangemen almost lost to 16 seed UNC Asheville in their opening game. If the officiating had been halfway decent, UNC Asheville probably would have WON.

Maybe you thought VCU deserved it more. They made the Final Four last year as an 11 seed and I don’t recall much negativity toward them as the tournament Cinderella.

But the four seed Louisville who was ranked fourth in the nation at one point before succumbing to a few season-ending injuries – that team shouldn’t have booked a trip to the Big Easy, right?

If an unworthy candidate, in fact, made the Final Four, maybe the NCAA should reconsider their system.

After all, last year’s tournament and final game were probably the worst in history with UCONN, a 3 seed, defeating Butler, an 8 seed, in one of the poorest shooting performances ever witnessed in the Final Game.

But, there’s a reason it’s called March Madness: anything can – and will – happen. It’s exactly what happened this year.

Who are you trying to protect here, Rick? UNC, who seemed the best opposition UK would have faced had Kendall Marshall not injured his right wrist?

I suppose it’s fair to say UNC deserved a Final Four appearance even with injured Marshall, yet UofL who lost not one, but THREE, players to injuries has no right to compete with elite college basketball programs now.

I just don’t understand how anyone could say the Cards didn’t deserve it. Look at the adversity they overcame. Look at how Rick Pitino took a starless team and transformed them into a fierce defensive force.

Coach Rick Pitino hugged Peyton Siva after the Cards won their bid to the Final Four.

Coach Rick Pitino hugged Peyton Siva after the Cards won their bid to the Final Four.

UofL had no go-to player. Siva wasn’t consistent, Chane wasn’t consistent and Kyle Kuric definitely wasn’t consistent nor did he really exist in the last quarter of the season.

It’s quite possible the most dependable player at the end of the year was Gorgui Dieng, who just became acquainted with basketball a few years ago.

Who turned him into the shot-blocking predator he’s become? Pitino.

You can say all you want about UofL not deserving a spot in the Final Four, but this team played like a true team should.

They showed incredible heart and resilience in the Big East and NCAA tournament. They were unselfish – well, maybe not Russ Smith – but they fought harder than any team to overcome their lack of talent and win with hustle and strategy.

Isn’t that the type of play we should be teaching kids to emulate?

UofL’s team had just as much, if not more, right as anyone to play in the Final Four, and no coach had more right to be praised than Rick Pitino.

I know he’s taken a lot of flack the last few seasons, and on occasion, I’ve wondered how much will he had left to coach. After this year, though, I see a renewed sense of purpose in the man.

And, look at the team he has to work with next year. Barring injuries, Pitino will have his entire roster, minus three players, returning in the Fall.

Luke Hancock, whom Pitino has insisted is the best college basketball player in the nation, will finally rack up some playing time next year. The Cards will have Gorgui and Chane, who are both rapidly developing as dominating post presences.

If the team didn’t a deserve a Final Four this year, there’s no way they won’t deserve one next year.

So, Rick, please tell me when will the Cards finally get some credit? Will it take a championship trophy to earn them some acclaim?

If that’s the case – get ready, Mr. Reilly. There’s a good chance you’ll be seeing a lot of red next season.

Edgar Sosa and the Cardinal faithful after the final basketball game played in Freedom Hall.

Edgar Sosa and the Cardinal faithful after the final basketball game played in Freedom Hall.

  • I agree. Anything by Rick Reilly is a great read.