April 1, 2005

Louisville's Anger With Seeding Will Fuel a Title Run

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North Carolina has size and leadership, Illinois has just one loss on the year, Michigan State has that whole “Cinderella” thing, but it’s Louisville that has the two things that will be the deciding factors in getting them an NCAA title. Those two things are a really large chip on all of their shoulders and the second, in one word — Pitino.

My counterparts are going to discount all of my arguments with ridiculous banter about the tradition of the Tar Heels (guys, Jordan left before I was born), the dominance of Illinois (do they actually have anybody over 6-3 that is good — sorry James Augustine doesn’t count, he stinks), and the “Izzo” factor for the Spartans (I know he’s been to four Final Fours in his 10 years in East Lansing, but honestly, who’s the best player on this team, Paul Davis? Maurice Ager? Did more than five people reading this actually know who these guys were before the tourney? Doubtful.

Okay, so let me tell you why the Cardinals will win it all. Their attitude problem (a positive thing) spawned from their humiliation by the selection committee, after getting a No. 4 seed in a season in which they lost just four games. Four games! Connecticut lost seven going in and got a two seed. What’s the deal here fellas, because I would love to get to the bottom of this whole seeding fiasco.

Louisville has shown all year they were willing of a higher seed, winning 10 in a row going into the tournament, including a Conference-USA title.

Yes, you would be correct to say that the Cardinals do not have the strongest inside game, but they out-hustle teams to loose balls, and find ways to get easy buckets.

Leading the charge for Louisville is one of the most determined players I’ve ever seen on a basketball court — Francisco Garcia. The lanky 6-7 junior averaged 16 points during the season, but has upped his total to over 20 per game in the tournament. Think he might be mad about his team’s seeding?

Complimenting Garcia are guards Taquan Dean and Larry O’Bannon, who combined for 47 points against West Virginia — a game which the Cardinals were down by 13 points at the half. Louisville just refuses to lose this year, and that same determination will carry through to St. Louis.

That determination stems from their head coach, Rick Pitino, who will be coaching in his fifth Final Four tomorrow. Pitino won the title in 1996 with Kentucky.

He has driven his team past Georgia Tech, Washington, and West Virginia — three of the hottest teams going into the tournament. With the exception of the game against the Mountaineers, the Cardinals have blown past the competition with relative ease, as they beat the Yellow Jackets and the Huskies by margins of 22 and 14 points, respectively.

This comes as no surprise though, because Pitino is one of the best coaching minds in the game, and has learned from two of the best coaches in professional and college basketball — Hubie Brown and Jim Boeheim — both of whom he served under during stints with the New York Knicks and Syracuse, respectively.

Speaking of the Knicks, Pitino coached them too, and the Celtics, taking New York to the playoffs in his first season with the team. I know his NBA career wasn’t stellar, but come on, the professional ranks and college are just so different. I mean, haven’t you people heard of Steve Spurrier? Watch him turn South Carolina around just like Pitino has made Louisville a national power. To be honest, I love Coach K, but how do you think he would have fared with the Lakers this year? Exactly, so don’t say Pitino can’t coach — he just does better on the collegiate level.

Anyway, I believe I’ve won this argument already. If anyone thinks otherwise, feel free to contact me, we’ll watch the games over a few “sodas” tomorrow.

Chris Mascaro is the Sun Sports Editor. He May Be Tall appears alternate Thursdays.

Archived article by Chris Mascaro