Posted: 4:11 p.m. Saturday, March 30, 2013
By Mike Rutherford
Louisville's 2013 "Revenge Tour" will come to a close on Sunday. The Cards have already righted their wrongs against three teams that defeated them in the regular season, and will look to add a fourth to that list when they square off with Duke - the only non-Big East team to deal the Cards an L - in the Midwest Region championship game.
But this is about more than revenge over the Blue Devils, this is about putting to bed the demons of 2009.
We've talked a little bit about it before, but the similarities between this March and March 2009 for Louisville are borderline unbelievable. And since we're approaching the same round which delivered probably the strongest blow ever dealt to Cardinal fans of my generation, let's go ahead and stare all of these coincidences(?) directly in the face.
Here's the eerie list:
--Louisville entered the 2009 Big East Tournament with what most called an outside shot at snatching a No. 1 seed in the big dance. The Cards then proceeded to dispatch of a tournament-bound Villanova team (same as '09) and then beat an eventual top-4 seeded Syracuse team (same as '09) to claim their second Big East title (same as '09) of the season. While this was going on, each and every one of the other teams with a shot at earning the No. 1 overall seed in the big dance fell before their conference title games (same as '09).
--Only Selection Sunday, Louisville was named the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed (only other time since '09).
--The Cards have played their Sweet 16 game and will play their Elite 8 game inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (only other time since '09).
--Before the tournament, President Obama picked a team other than the No. 1 overall seeded Cardinals to cut down the nets (same as '09).
--The Cards opened their tournament run with a win over a 16 seed that had won its First Four/Play-In game in Dayton earlier in the week (same as '09).
--Louisville's second round opponent was a dangerous non-power conference team whose school colors are green and gold (Siena in '09, Colorado State in '13).
--U of L then moved on to face a No. 12 seed out of the Pac-12 (Arizona in '09 and Oregon in '13) in the Sweet 16.
--In order to get to the Final Four, Louisville will have to face the Midwest Region's No. 2 seed, which is a national power coached by one of the biggest names in the game (Michigan State in '09, Duke in '13).
--I managed to score a last-second ticket and am headed to Indianapolis on Saturday night (did the same thing in '09...but I also went to the Round of 32 game, which I didn't do this year...don't hurt me).
--On the other side of the bracket, two Big East teams - Syracuse and Marquette - will be battling for a spot in the Final Four. It's the first time two teams from the same conference have met in the Elite 8 since Pitt and Villanova from the Big East did so in...wait for it...2009.
--Louisville heads into Sunday's game riding a 13-game winning streak, the exact same number of consecutive games they'd won before losing to Michigan State in the 2009 Midwest regional final. Also, 13 isn't an especially lucky number on its own.
--Louisville's last loss? At Notre Dame. Louisville's last loss before the 2009 regional final? At Notre Dame.
Ok, here's my positive take: Every game Louisville has played so far has been the opposite of their performance in that round in 2009.
--In '09, the Cards led Morehead State by only two points at halftime and turned it on late to win by 20. This year, they raced out ahead of North Carolina A&T; in the first five mintues and were on cruise control for the duration of the second half.
--In '09, it looked like the Cards might go down to Siena, and it took a pair of huge shots from Terrrence Williams in the final 90 seconds for them to avoid the massive upset. In 2013, Louisville gave perhaps its best performance of the season in the Round of 32, absolutely hammering a good Colorado State team.
--In '09, U of L posted the largest margin of victory in the history of the Sweet 16, embarrassing an Arizona team that didn't appear particularly interested in prolonging its season by 39 points. In 2013, the Cards were pushed a little bit by an extremely scrappy Oregon team that simply refused to go away. The Ducks clawed their way back into the game multiple times despite being down by as many as 18 points.
Here's to that second set of trends continuing on Friday.