In all the history of U of L hoops, the Cards have never been No. 1. With North Carolina looking less-than-dominant in the ACC Tournament, and U of L stringing together big-time performances in the Big East, the Cards could be closing in on that distinction.
Still, the nation is abuzz over Syracuse, and the Orange deserve it. Everybody’s talking about the 6-overtime thriller. (Side note — Louisville Bats sales director James Breeding was an official in that game, and he’s back in Louisville today, helping with ticket distribution). And they’re talking about the Orange backing that up with another overtime win last night.
After being largely held up as overrated by many national observers heading into the Big East Tournament (Gottlieb: The Cards aren’t a No. 1 seed; Seth Davis, even before yesterday’s game, said the Cards are overrated), the Cards have played two games more impressive than any of the top teams in the nation. Maybe Michigan State has been close.
“Louisville now knows if they win tonight, they could get a No. 1 seed,” ESPN analyst Digger Phelps just said.
I’ve got news for Digger, they’ve already got one. U of L is in the rather remarkable position of playing perhaps the best basketball in the nation, but still being underplayed a little bit by the punditry. Just a little bit.
Almost lost in the splash of the Syracuse story is this — the Villanova win was an absolute statement. We’re talking about outscoring the No. 13 team in the nation by 24 points in a single half. Jay Wright said it after the game: U of L is the best defensive team in the nation.
Look what has happened with the Cards: Earl Clark has come to life. And I’d look for yet another step up from Clark in the NCAA Tournament, where play becomes less physical in the post.
Rick Bozich’s observation in his column this morning is dead-on (click here to read it). This was U of L’s most impressive win of the season.
Jerry Palm, as of 2:27 this morning, has the Cards as a No. 1 seed, starting the tournament in Dayton and moving on to Indianapolis if they advance.
What people don’t realize is that this is a far different Louisville team than they saw even a month ago. That team was shooting 33 percent from three-point range. Since the Notre Dame loss, however, U of L is shooting 45 percent from three-point range, and making 10 per game. As long as that continues, so will this run.
At the same time, the biggest road block to this team could be relying on that shooting too much, as was demonstrated in the first half against Villanova. Particularly tonight, the Cards need to establish Samuels and Jennings, attack the zone with penetration, and try to get Clark going again from mid-range.
It’s shaping up as a special night — and a special postseason — for the Cards.