The biggest shocker following Saturday’s big win over Syracuse was this statistic:
That’s Louisville’s first regular season March win against a ranked opponent on the road in at least 10 seasons. #mouthfulstat
— Loverofthegame (@loverofthegame_) March 2, 2013
Not only was last Saturday Louisville’s first March road win over a ranked team in the past decade, but it was also only the second time the Cardinals had won their first road game of March against anyone––ranked or unranked––in their eight seasons in the Big East. (Bear in mind, Louisville didn’t play a true road game after February in 2007.)
This sample is too limited to establish even the flimsiest correlation: consider that the team that suffered the second-worst margin of loss on this list went on to win a Big East Tournament and visit the Final Four. Given the widely held assumption that Rick Pitino’s Louisville teams peak in February and March, it’s easy to forget that almost all of them have suffered setbacks in the last week or two of the regular season.
Balancing that contradiction with the success of teams like 2011-12 and 2007-08, who both suffered disappointing losses in the last week of the regular season, raises the proverbial question: does a late help or hurt in the postseason? Specifically, can this year’s Louisville roster––and the personalities that compose it––sustain its focus in New York City and beyond without a fresh chip on the shoulder? Buoyed by the NCAA experience of guys like Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, and the sober emotional maturity of Gorgui Dieng, this year’s team seems as capable of doing so as any in Pitino’s tenure.