Louisville received a surprise visit from a certain former head of state after beating Villanova 74-55 in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament on Thursday night.
But it wasn’t that much of a surprise; or at least, no more surprising than a good buddy rolling up unannounced because your relationship has come to transcend such formalities through years of intimate kinship and understanding.
What I’m trying to say and what most national media will skim over is that Louisville basketball is already on a first-name basis with The Bill. Let’s recap:
March 2011: Clinton surprises the team following Louisville’s 83-77 overtime victory over Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament Semifinals. Mark Lieberman with the stone cold photobomb:
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The biggest shocker following Saturday’s big win over Syracuse was this statistic:
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.)
In the wake of Louisville’s surprising Big East Tournament championship run, the dominating narrative going into the NCAA tournament is the transcendent play of Peyton Siva last week. But it’s impossible to appraise the Cardinals’ revival without acknowledging the play of Gorgui Dieng, who received All-Big East Tournament honors and averaged 8.8 ppg, 9 rpg and 3.25 blocks over the four games in the Garden.
Another impressive stat that falls through the cracks is 23.5. That is, Gorgui received his second foul after 23.5 minutes of game time on average. In my first post on the timing of Dieng’s fouls, I mentioned that the big man picked up his second foul after 20.3 minutes on average through the USF game. My argument was that Gorgui entering halftime with 2 or more fouls was, statistically, a kiss of death for this Louisville team.
That argument still holds water:
I apologize for the delay in getting this post up. I spent my four-hour drive back to Maine processing my experience on Saturday night and trying to wrap my head around this team’s accomplishment.
Four wins in four days. Three avenged losses. Two wins over ranked teams. One dominant leader emerging from a team that lacked identity all season.
On Saturday night, the Louisville Cardinals defeated Cincinnati, 50-44, to claim the title of Big East Tournament champions.
(observations from MSG after the jump) Continue reading
I’m writing from a traffic jam outside Lowell, the city that launched Micky Ward’s improbable boxing comeback. I like to think if you dim the lights and squint hard, Elisha Justice could make a passable double for Marky Mark.
But the better analogy is probably between the back-from-the-dead story depicted in The Fighter and Louisville’s resurgent performance in the Big East Tournament. The Cards appeared dead in the water before they first ever took to the slippery MSG hardwood. The team that lost to USF on senior night and looked hapless at Syracuse is suddenly heading into their second straight BET finals as the favorite.
I have no idea how this surprising week will end–possibly with me on the last Metro North train, loaded with $6 beer and despair. Cincinnati is a very good team hitting their stride at the perfect time. No matter what happens, this has been a remarkable accomplishment and a great way to end the season for a very likable team that’s due some luck after a season full of adversity.
Go Cards. Beat Cincy.