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The ACC’s New World Order

Earlier this year, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim answered a question about how it felt to be a part of what might be the best basketball conference in history.  To which he replied, “We already were.”  Referring, of course, to the Big East in its former configuration.

Now this correspondent is an old-school ACC guy, so naturally I bristled a little.  As did many of us.

And the thought crossed my mind, “wait until he gets into the conference schedule for real…”

Read more…


It is only the 5th time in the 81 game history between Syracuse and Villanova that they will meet as non conference opponents. We all know the obvious storylines: Both teams are undefeated at 11-0. It is their 1st meeting in more 30 years that they both are not members of the Big East Conference. It is nationally televised on CBS at 2pm. It is the 3rd time in 5 seasons that both squads will meet when each is ranked in the top 10.
Here is what some of you may not know about the match up. Tyler Ennis will not be the only Ennis on the floor today. Villanova has an Ennis of their own. Dylan Ennis, the older brother of Tyler, is a member of the Villanova squad. A 6’2″, 192 lb. guard, Dylan is a transfer from Rice University. Although he is not the impact player that Tyler is, they both post surprisingly similar numbers:

FG%        3PT FG%       PTS./GAME         MIN./GAME
Tyler Ennis                                .421          .435                     12.1                         21.4
Dylan Ennis                               .405          .385                     9.1                          31.5

Let’s hope that this family rivalry will serve as motivation for Tyler. This is the 1st game in a week for the Orange and kicks off a span of 4 games in the next 11 days. Let’s not forget that last season Villanova won 75-71.Oh yeah,and what about the crowd? As of Friday at noon, ticket sales surpassed the 26,414 sold for the Indiana game, but had not reached 30,000 yet. If sales reach 30,000, it will mark the first 30,000 plus game in the months of November and December since 1990, when Syracuse was ranked #1 and they played Temple, who was ranked #16 at the time.

The Fur and Feathers Still Flying

You would expect a cat to trounce a bird in any matchup but this was for the Big East regular season championship. The 10th ranked Louisville Cardinals hosted the 16th ranked Pitt Panthers in a 3 game regular season ending   series and both teams laid it all on the line. Louisville needed to win two out of the three to force a tie for first place, it started Thursday night with 5-2 Cardinal victory. Louisville followed that win with a 12-4 thumping Friday night.

With the stage set for the all important 3rd game in front of a packed Jim Patterson stadium and an ESPN2 audience, neither team was willing to accept defeat. Louisville struck first with 5 runs in the 3rd inning but the Panthers clawed their way back to a 5-3 deficit. Louisville entered the game with a 36-5 record when scoring first. Clinging to a 7-4 lead going into the top of the 9th, the Cards called on their flamethrower, sophomore Nick Burdi. With a fastball topping out in triple digits, Pitt had their hands full. Burdi struck out the first batter but Pitt still had plenty of fight left and managed to get a couple runners on the bases. Burdi wound up striking out the side and leaving the tying run at home plate.

Burdi picked up his third save in five days, his BE leading 14th of the season. In those three games he has 7 strikeouts in 3.2 innings pitched. Pittsburgh’s starter Rhys Aldenhoven (5R 4ER 5H 2BB 5INN) picked up his first loss of the season, falling to 8-1.

The series sweep was the Cards 10th of the season and the win is their 16th straight which is the longest active win streak in the nation and Louisville’s 2nd longest in school history (20 games). During the streak the Cards have a 2.00 ERA, 170 K, 50 BB in 144 INN and have committed just 8 errors. They matched the schools record for regular season victories with 46 (2010). This is the Cards 4th regular season championship in five years. They also ended two of those championships season with sweeps, 2009 against USF and 2010 against Notre Dame.

The BE final standings has Louisville (20-4 46-10) at #1. Pittsburgh (18-6 40-15) finished tied for 2nd with Seton Hall (18-6 36-17). Notre Dame (10-14 31-23) finished tied for 6th with St. Johns (10-14 23-33). In the double elimination BE tournament, the Louisville will face UConn at 5pm Wednesday while Pitt will play the early game at 10am against St. Johns.

Louisville is projected to host Miami, Fla, Illinois and Tennessee Tech in one of the 16 regionals. After the sweep Pitts chance of playing host to a regional seems to have slept away. Pitt is projected to be in a region hosted by Virginia along with Campbell and Holy Cross.

Louisville softball team (44-11) received a #15 seed in the post season and hosting UCLA, UAB and IPFW which started last Friday night. They defeated IPFW on opening day but was eliminated Saturday with losses to UAB and UCLA.

Earlier this week Rutgers hired Louisville’s Senior Associate Athletic Director Julie Hermann as their new AD. She became just the third female AD at a BCS school. Good luck Julie and thank you for your 15 years of hard work at U of L.

ACC Baseball

As we near the end of the regular season in baseball, lets check in on the ACC. Which conference is having the best year? Looking at this weeks top 20 the standouts are the ACC and the SEC. The SEC has 5 teams in the top 20 with 2 in the top 5 while the ACC has 6, counting Louisville, and 4 in the top 10. As in other sports, there are multiple polls to watch and all have different rankings. College Baseball Insider has a composite poll that combines the 5 primary national polls; Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA, Perfect Game and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll.

CBI Composite Poll (5/6/13)
1 North Carolina (42-4)
2 Vanderbilt (41-6)
3 LSU (43-6)
4 Cal State Fullerton (39-7)
5 Oregon State (37-8)
6 NC State (37-11)
7 Virginia (39-8)
8 Oregon (37-11)
9 Florida State (38-9)
10 UCLA (31-13)
11 Louisville (37-10)
12 Arkansas (32-16)
13 South Carolina (33-14)
14 Arizona State (30-14-1)
15 Oklahoma (34-14)
16 Indiana (35-9)
17 Mississippi State (36-13)
18 Rice (31-15)
19 Clemson (30-15)
20 Stanford (26-16)

North Carolina has spent 12 consecutive weeks at #1 in the CBI poll. They have faired well in NCAA team stats this season which include 7th in batting avg., 13th in HR, 1st in runs per game at 8.8, 4th in slugging %, and 18th in KO per 9 innings. N. Carolina and Florida St. lead their divisions. The ACC tourney will be held May 22-26 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, NC.

Louisville has been ranked as high as 8th this season. Struggling in the power game, they have relied on their pitching and speed. They are 3rd in the NCAA in stolen bases with 126 and 1st in KO per game with 478 total KO for an incredible 9.7 KO per 9 innings. Louisville is hoping to host a regional when the post season begins. The Big East tourney will be held May 22-26 at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.

Early projections for baseballs round of 64 has 9 ACC teams making the field led by top ranked North Carolina 44-5 (19-4). Virginia 39-8 (17-7), Florida St 40-9 (16-8) & NC State 38-11 (15-8) are probable national seeds as well. Joining them could be Virginia Tech 31-19 (13-14), Clemson 35-15 (17-10), Miami 33-18 (12-13), Georgia Tech 31-19 (13-12) and Maryland 28-24 (9-18). If you include Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, who are the Big East projections, then the ACC dominates the field with 12 current and future members. The SEC has 9 teams projected to make the field while the B1G has 2, Big 12 has 4 and the Pac 12 has 5. The ACC also leads in the conference RPI and are followed in order by the SEC, Pac 12, Big 12, Sun Belt, B1G and the Big East at #8. The ACC continues its domination and only looks to get stronger in the future.

(As Of May 10)
School     Conference Pct. Overall Pct.
Florida State    16-8 .667 40-9-0 .816
NC State            15-8 .652 38-11-0 .776
Clemson            17-10 .630 35-15-0 .700
Maryland          9-18 .333 28-24-0 .538
Wake Forest     7-18 .280 26-24-0 .520
Boston College 3-23 .115 11-37-0 .229
School     Conference Pct. Overall Pct.
North Carolina 19-4 .826 44-5-0 .898
Virginia              18-7 .720 40-8-0 .833
Georgia Tech    13-12 .520 31-19-0 .620
Virginia Tech    13-14 .481 31-19-0 .620
Miami                12-13 .480 33-18-0 .647
Duke                   9-16 .360 25-24-0 .510

2012-13: Year of the Louisville Cardinals



As I sit and look at the bracket and ponder about how the Louisville Cardinals gracefully landed in the top spot, many thoughts about my alma mater come to mind.  The superstitious person in me doesn’t want to speak about the excitement I feel as we begin the future and the tournament as the favorite.  Saying these things aloud could have detrimental effects.  Maybe.

Please be advised that the following article is not me speaking.  Rather, I share my thoughts out of respect for the team and conscious of my part in not producing a disaster.

[So, Louisville won a share of the Big East regular season title and then went on to win the conference tournament.  Wow. In its last year as currently aligned, the Big East from 2005 to 2013 will go down in history as arguably the toughest conference in the country’s collegiate basketball scene.  The pride I feel as a graduate of the university is palpable to anyone who encounters me – notwithstanding church events and tennis matches as a coach at a local high school, I have been wearing nothing but Cardinal gear for the past year.

2012 was a soaring year for Cardinal athletics.  From the numerous Big East championships won across the program to keeping Charlie Strong as head coach of football to being invited to the ACC to winning the Sugar Bowl in striking fashion to having a fabulous season in basketball, I’m not sure what else I could have asked for as a fan.  Sure, playing for a national championship in football would have been nice, but I’m confident that rosy scenario will someday arise and I don’t believe any fan could possibly be disappointed with Charlie Strong & Co.’s success thus far.

And let’s not forget about academics.  When West Virginia was chosen to join the Big 12, I think it’s fair to say the decision was based solely on the Mountaineers’ earned status as a football powerhouse.  In contrast, UofL’s unanimous selection as a future member of the Atlantic Coast Conference was purely a decision made with all facets of the university’s attributes in mind.  Everyone knows our athletic programs and facilities are top notch, but keep in mind that the ACC, much like the Big Ten, would not allow any school to enter its ranks unless it saw something tangible and obvious in the academic reputation of the institution.

When Florida State was added to their ranks, detractors complained that FSU’s academics were not strong enough to warrant admission.  This sentiment has been repeated about UofL and, of course, I take offense to it.  We have a Top 100 law school, a respected medical school always pushing the envelope, a business school which receives accolades on a yearly basis and an undergraduate program dedicated to a vast plethora of academic programs.  The university’s footprint is seen throughout the commonwealth and we are well represented across the nation in business, research and academia.

What the ACC saw in Florida State is akin to what it now sees in UofL – the trajectory of the university’s academics are on the rise and rising fast.  While not at the AAU level (besides, the AAU’s wheels of adding member universities is arguably much slower than those of the judicial system), Louisville will soon become associated with consortiums and programs alongside institutions like Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia.  That association and willingness to share academic success and research opportunities with all ACC members partially strengthened FSU’s reputation and no doubt Dr. James Ramsey kept his university eye on the ACC for this reason.

There is a reason there were all kinds of rumors and reports that we had an invite “in hand” to the Big 12 but were not acting on it.  It’s one thing to say that a source believes something might happen, but to say that an invite was already extended and the ball was in our court is a whole ‘nother beast.  Personally, I believe Dr. Ramsey and athletic director Tom Jurich had agreed early on that the ACC would be the better body to associate with,  and with time and continued diligence on our part, that invite would come.

But back to the major event ahead of us.  The NCAA tournament is perhaps the most widely known event in America, save the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby.  We have already proved that our football program was indeed worthy of the ACC’s glance and we have shown that our basketball legacy is strong enough to be included with the likes of Duke and North Carolina.  However, on the biggest stage in America in the same timeframe as our invite to our soon-to-be new conference, winning the tourney will blow the roof off every building in Louisville.  It’s that big of a situation here in Kentucky.

Nothing else matters right now.  The banter with Kentucky fans, the arguments from detractors, the long-positioned monkey of Big East football on our backs, the unspoken title of Little Brother, the association with “poor and backward” Appalachia – none of it matters.  Of course, those things have never really mattered to many of us living in the Bluegrass State, but I think it’s safe to say nothing else has mattered less that those do right now.

The Road to the Final Four should be tread with a determination unlike any other, and I know Rick Pitino, Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan, Russ Smith, Wayne Blackshear, Stephan Van Treese, Kevin Ware, Luke Hancock, Montezl Harrell and everyone associated with basketball team has it in them.  Every indicator points to the events of the 2012-13 season as the Year of the Cardinals.

This has been a long time in the making, my friends.  Perhaps I am more biased than the next guy, but living in the City of Louisville and seeing and experience all it has to offer makes me fully believe we are an idea whose time has finally come and will continue to come to many around the country.

Go get ‘em Cards.  Represent your fine university, represent your big city and represent your upstanding identities.  Win or lose, this is a special time in Louisville.  Good things come to those who wait, but success comes quicker to those who wait and plan and execute.  This. Is. Our. Year.]


In 2013, Louisville Again Proves Its Worth



If any doubt still existed as to whether the University of Louisville was the right choice for membership into the Atlantic Coast Conference, those doubts were dashed on Saturday, March 16, 2013.

As I watched my beloved Cardinals struggle, persevere and then triumph against the Syracuse Orange in the last Big East Championship title game of the modern era, I couldn’t help but think about all the naysayers and detractors of Belknap’s athletic department as the ACC made its decision in 2012.

Louisville basketball has come a long way, to be sure. We were always the known unknown who entered and left conferences. From the Metro Conference to Conference USA to the Big East Conference, the pride of Louisville proved and proved and proved themselves to fans, outsiders and future conference brass by winning national titles and battling our way into Final Fours. When Rick Pitino was hired as head coach after legend Denny Crum wrapped up his career, fans instantly knew the future was bright and we would give our new coach as much time as he needed.

What we have accomplished as members of the Big East is still unfathomable in my eyes. I’m sure the Villanovas and Syracuses and Georgetowns and Connecticuts chided the decision to add us and others to their ranks and assumed they would continue to dominate the league. No one could have written the memorable storyline the Cardinals have produced since 2005.

Louisville became the winningest program since the realignment of 2005 and has now won its third conference basketball championship. As finalists of the tournament in four of the last five years, the Cardinals have continued to prove their worth on the hardwood.

2013 Big East Champions(Credits:

2013 Big East Champions

In football, Louisville has always faced an uphill challenge. Scheduling juggernauts like Alabama, Georgia and Notre Dame had been a difficult feat to claim, and recruiting the best players from around the country has never been our trademark. However, the football Cardinals made it their mission to always be satisfied with the progression of the program and to constantly improve from within.

Having won our two Bowl Championship Series matchups (2006 FedEx Orange Bowl and 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl), we put everything on the field when we are placed on the stage and told to perform.

When Coach Charlie Strong chose to extend his contract at Louisville rather than take the Tennessee job with the Southeastern Conference, fans surrounding the university knew what he thought about his current job and the institution. The sigh of relief throughout the River City came from fans who realized that our time had finally come to keep our coach and strive to maintain and surpass our accomplishments.

Although elevated, it is clear head coach Charlie Strong is not satisfied with the heights of the program under his tutelage. The invitation to the ACC combined with the fashion in which Louisville dealt the Gators the loss in the Sugar Bowl sent the city into overdrive.

Coach Charlie Strong celebrates after the 2013 Sugar Bowl victory(Credits: Getty Images)

Coach Charlie Strong celebrates after the 2013 Sugar Bowl victory
(Credits: Getty Images)

All we ask is for a chance to prove our worth. That is all we have ever wanted, and it appears we will soon get our chance once again in the prestigious ACC in 2014.

Louisville to Face Rival Syracuse for Big East Title

Louisville unleashes its inner Cardinal(Credits: Madeline Hack)

Louisville unleashes its inner Cardinal
(Credits: Madeline Hack)

If someone had told me at the beginning of this season that our Louisville Cardinals would contend for back-to-back Big East Championship titles against a historic conference juggernaut in a matchup marking the storied history of the conference as it enters its waning days of existence, I would have thought that person had a great imagination.

Given the preseason hype surrounding this year’s squad, it’s not surprising we find ourselves right where we belong in the title chase.  Nor am I surprised our opponent comes in the form of our rival Syracuse.  However, no one could have predicted the changes the conference will undergo in the next year and that the final tournament would consist of a model foe versus a new foe.

Here’s how we got to the tournament final:

2013 Big East Championship(Credits:

2013 Big East Championship

Since joining the league in 2005, Louisville has continued traditional conference rivalries and acquired new ones.  Aside from the annual Cincinnati showdown, no other rivalry has meant so much or garnered as much attention as the yearly conflicts with the Syracuse Orange.  There is no doubt this rivalry will continue once both programs enter the Atlantic Coast Conference.

It is only fitting that this epic tournament final would be fought between a classic powerhouse and our Cardinals, the winningest Big East team since we entered the conference.  Both programs have built lasting legacies as Big East programs and the combination of wins and losses and coaching staffs have allowed us to stand out among other teams.

As preseason favorites to contend for the conference title, Rick Pitino and the Cardinals have not disappointed.  This conference final will be epic – I couldn’t ask for a better way to end an era than with a face-off between two great programs on the national stage.

Having split the first two meetings earlier this season in conference play, the Cardinals and Orange will settle the score under the lights of Madison Square Garden at 9 p.m. on Saturday.

#L1C4 – Louisville First, Cards Forever

Louisville’s pre-ACC Options: Bring Back the Metro Conference

With all the focus on whether Notre Dame will follow the Catholic 7 into the new Big East for a year or be allowed to enter the ACC a year early, this observer turns his attention to what the University of Louisville will do (or be allowed to do) in light of the latest conference realignment development.

The worst-case scenario befell the Louisville, Cincinnati and Connecticut athletic programs. While each school was vying for the ACC’s glance in 2012, no one expected the possibility that there would be no home to return to if not selected.

While Louisville must come up with and be satisfied with a short-term solution, the Bearcats and Huskies are in a much worse position with no real future on any horizon.

Originally scheduled to officially enter the prestigious ACC in 2014, Louisville and its fans are quite content with that still being the case. However, the news that the Catholic 7 will compete in fall 2013 and take the Big East name with them arouses some understandable doubts about where the Cardinals will land in the interim.

This Confidential correspondent has pondered the many options available to all parties involved and believes one solution is tenable. A void will exist when/after the Catholic 7 take the Big East name and this means that the current member schools will need to either attach to another conference or come up with one of their own.

In my humble opinion, I believe the remaining schools should resurrect an idea whose time has come once again. Even though Louisville and Rutgers will be leaving for the ACC and Big Ten in 2014, I feel a viable option could be for them to help formulate a new version of the Metro Conference (Metro Collegiate Athletic Conference) for all sports.

At various points in time over the twenty year history of the Metro Conference from 1975 to 1995, Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, South Florida and Tulane were member schools. The league revolved around schools in metropolitan areas and eventually merged with the Great Midwest Conference to form Conference USA.

Although it disbanded, the conference had become a household name and boasted some other well-known member schools over the years, including Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Saint Louis and South Carolina.

Let’s be clear: no one wants to go backwards in terms of tradition and program evolution. However, unless other conferences are open to cherry picking the residual Big East schools, there are really very few options and I suspect no one wants to go back to C-USA.

If the remaining schools were to band together and form a new conference, I believe one option on the table should be to revive the Metro league. It has name recognition, although a bit dated, and it fits the geographic locations of its would-be member schools and gives the beleaguered schools a new start with which to enter the future.

Assuming the schools agree to submit all of their athletic programs, Cincinnati, Central Florida, East Carolina, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, South Florida, Southern Methodist and Temple would make a 10-team conference for the 2013-14 season. In addition to compiling some household names, each member school would boast large metropolitan populations that could entice large media rights deals and revenues for the universities.

When Louisville and Rutgers leave, the new conference can then seek out new programs. The actions of Mike Aresco and the Big East brass in the past year have shown there is not a shortage of programs looking to realign themselves in this era of athletic musical chairs.

One thing is for sure: the time has come for some proactive decision-making by these schools. Although the Big East did its best to recruit new schools to join, the situation is what it is and the wrench the Catholic 7 have thrown into the conference’s future plans lends itself to some creative thinking.

If there are no other viable options, this option would enjoin dejected, outlying athletic programs into one conference with a goal of moving forward and finding common ground. Louisville and Rutgers can use their resources to help these programs before they leave for their new conferences. Although it will still appear like they are running out on them, they will nonetheless garner the attention and respect as two big-time programs that provided leadership to help everyone affected.

Feel free to comment and let me know what you think. At this point, only discussion and bold ideas can solve this problem. What are your ideas for the remaining schools?

**Mr. Cardinal is a new correspondent around the Atlantic Coast Confidential office. He graduated from the University of Louisville and is currently the Senior Editor of Empress World Publishing in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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