Louisville is the team to beat. But what if someone does? There is a Final Four junkyard crammed with favorites who hit the wall. Ten reasons the Cardinals won't fail.
ATLANTA – Louisville is the team to beat. But what if someone does?
There is a Final Four junkyard crammed with favorites who hit the wall on the last turn. So here we have the Cardinals. They have the experience, the talent, the statistics, the coach, and for inspiration, a teammate on the sideline with the most famous broken leg in the Commonwealth of Kentucky since Barbaro.
Kevin Ware – one week a largely unknown reserve guard, the next a spot on David Letterman.
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In honor of his appearance, the top 10 reasons why the Cardinals won't be stopped.
10. Last time they lost a game, you were reminding yourself not to forget ordering flowers for Valentine's Day. That was Feb. 9. The other three teams in town have lost 13 times since Feb. 9.
9. Twelve teams were seeded No. 3 or higher in this tournament. Louisville is the only one still standing.
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8. Neither Michigan nor Syracuse nor Wichita State have a player who has ever seen the inside of a Final Four. All five Louisville starters scored in last year's Final Four, combining for 46 points.
7. The Cardinals have not been behind in the second half in this NCAA Tournament.
6. Rick Pitino has been busy talking his players into thinking they're playing the Miami Heat on Saturday. "What they have done to Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Gonzaga and La Salle is truly amazing," he was saying of Wichita State.
"He's a great motivational speaker," guard Peyton Siva said. "He sells books on it."
5. There have only been 12 lead changes in their four tournament games – 10 of them the first half against Duke.
4. Michigan might be too young. Syracuse might not have the offense. Wichita State is a dangerous team, but does the following conversation sound like it should come from the locker room of a future national champion?
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"I had a couple of guys that work on the concourse ask me where Wichita is, which isn't that out of the ordinary for us,'' Shockers reserve guard Ron Baker said Friday. "I answered them and told them it is in the middle of Kansas, kind of in the middle of nowhere. Everybody knows where Kansas is."
3. They're not running away from the role of favorite, as if it was a skunk. "We feel the bulls-eye," Wayne Blackshear mentioned Friday.
"It's a lot of pressure, but pressure brings diamonds," Chane Behanan said. "We're the team they're talking about. Everybody is expecting us to cut down the nets Monday night. We're hoping that, too."
2. Pitino can't get upset the same week he might be elected to the basketball Hall of Fame. That'd be like fate handing him an exploding cigar and lighting it for him.
And the No. 1 reason the Cardinals can't be stopped: They're not playing Kentucky's 2012 team in this Final Four.
Then again, it can't be that much of a lock, can it? That would run contrary to all that this season has been about. It seems rather odd to think of Louisville as a giant, with five defeats. In late February, the Cardinals were ranked ninth in the USA Today Sports poll.
Still, a roll is a roll, and they're on it. Should something bad happen to Louisville, this would be some of the recent company the Cardinals would keep.
It was supposedly their Final Four to lose, too – and they did.
The Blue Devils were 37-1 and the last obstacle was Connecticut. The only players from that school to go to the Final Four had been women. But not anymore.
The 34-0 Rebels were the last team to take an unbeaten record into the Final Four. Where Duke was waiting. Ooops.
Everyone understood Villanova would have to be nearly perfect to beat the mighty Hoyas. The Wildcats missed one shot the second half.
The Cougars were so powerful, they had their own nickname. Phi Slamma Jamma. Just one last team to thrash; North Carolina State with 10 defeats and a plucky coach named Jim Valvano.
You know the rest.
This would be the season something messy. Or does the Year of Parity have a dominant steamroller at the end?
"I go back a long, long time ago, when you could pencil in Coach Wooden, Coach Smith, pencil in Kansas, Kentucky, whoever that might be," Pitino said. "And now you can't do that.
"It's a lot of fun for all of us."
We'll see how much fun he's having if Wichita State is going to the championship game.
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