A Sweet Sweet 16
Say what you will about the way the selection committee selected and seeded this years tournament, whether they seeded for TV match ups or not, but it was an incredible opening weekend. It featured a record six over time games and ample upsets for the underdog lovers. Our beloved ACC is down to Virginia and Louisville and the SEC went 7-0, who would’ve guessed that? The new Big East has been eliminated while the rest of the power conferences has lost at least half of their teams. The Sweet 16 is dominated by the power conferences with the lone exceptions being Dayton and San Diego State.
After Louisville advanced to the Sweet 16 following their Saturday victory over 5 seed St. Louis, they knew they would be getting a rematch. The Cards barely survived their Final 4 showdown with Wichita State enrout to their third national championship last season while Kentucky makes up the other half of the greatest non conference basketball rivalry in college sports. Kentucky and Wichita St played a game fitting of the Final 4 and saw the Cats come out on top as the Shockers missed a game winning three at the buzzer.
The fourth seeded Cardinals will try to avenge their 73-66 December loss in cuRUPPt arena as they take on Kentucky this Friday night in the Sweet 16. The first meeting saw 2 struggling teams square off with ultimately the Cats playing their best game of the regular season against the Cards. Both teams are now playing their best games of the season. While Pitino has struggled against the Calipari led Mildcats, he is 11-0 all time in the Sweet 16.
The Cats present a huge size match up for the guard oriented Cardinals but they have the championship experience. The Cats will need to utilize their size to dominate the post and the boards while their freshman guards will have to handle the Cards defensive pressure to win the game. The Cards will need to play 40 minutes of intense pressure and force the Harrison twins into turnovers while haveing a good shooting day in order to advance to the Elite 8. The Cards found success in Indianapolis last March and will hope to repeat it this Friday and hopefully Sunday.
The Cards and Cats have met 5 other times in the NCAA tournament. The first time came in the 1951 first round with the Cats prevailing 79-68. The Cards then won 76-61 in the 1959 Sweet 16. Next came the “Dream Game”, their epic 1983 Elite 8 that started the modern day rivalry. What made it epic was that it was their first meeting in 24 years, as the Cats refused to play the Cards. Louisville held off a late charge by Kentucky that sent the game into overtime and won going away 80-68. That game is my greatest early memory growing up a Cards fan. Their next meeting came in the 1984 Sweet 16 with the Cats winning 72-67. For some reason I do not have any memories of this game. Thier last post season match up came in the 2012 Final 4 as Anthony Davis led the Cats to the 69-61 win and the eventual national championship. This was the Cards last post season loss. This Sweet 16 has the last two national champions squaring off. This Midwest Region had 3 of last season Final 4 participants and 5 from the Elite 8.
This Cardinals senior class is their winningest class in school history. They are their most successfull class with back to back Final 4’s and a national championship. The Cards will be playing for their sixth Elite 8 in ten years. The Cards are chasing history as it has been 33 years since UCLA was the last team to win three straight conference turnament championships and advanced to three straight NCAA tournament Final 4’s. If the Cards can win thier next to games they will achieve this historic feat. What better way for the Cardinals to celebrate their 100th aniversary.