For those of you Cardinal fans that made the trip south to Memphis this past weekend, you have already felt the magical feelings that this time of year brings. You've witnessed and become part of it. The Madness is now in you.
During my drive down - actually I rode - to Memphis, those of us in the car discussed the various possibilities that the Conference USA tournament and upcoming NCAA tournament could provide.
In regards to the C-USA tournament I brought up the idea of having the Cardinals face their stiffest challenges, which in my opinion was UAB and then Memphis in the title game. I had two reasons to back my insane opinion: Destiny and Character!
The culmination of every NCAA Tournament screams of destiny. To look back on the recent history of each team that was crowned champion would uncover a number of factors that would point to them being that year's team of destiny. Despite their struggles, they always find a way to win. Some may call it luck, but luck sure keeps showing up. It seems that more and more of their games come down to the wire. They just kind of 'snuck up' on everybody. You know, kind of like Syracuse two years ago, or even Connecticut last year. When it comes to March Madness, you have to be a team with that type of destiny. Destiny was on Louisville's side in Memphis.
While the Cardinals have won 18 of their last 19 games, many of those victories came by narrow margains. They overcame a late 11-point Marquette lead - on the road. They fought off a very strong UAB team, also on the road. They swept the season series from Cincinnati. This team had built a character of never giving up, no matter the situation. They refused to lose.
If you didn't believe in destiny before Darius Washington Jr. was fouled on a three-point attempt as the buzzer sounded, then you do now. No way would he miss one, much less two. Moments later you leaped out of your chair in a state of shock as Washington's second and third free throws bounced off the right side of the rim. Cards win!
However, I didn't feel the same when it came to the NCAA tournament. I didn't want the challenges. Afterall, this team deserved to be a #1 seed and basically receive a free trip to the Sweet 16. I shouldn't have given up on my belief in their destiny so easily.
This is a team that thrives when given a challenge. The years of injury, added to the years of tournament disappointment, have created a will to win that hasn't existed for awhile at U of L.
All year long this team has been destined to face challenges and it has overcome each, so why change the formula now? Yes, this team did deserve a #1 seed, at worst a #2 seed. (Has the country's 4th-ranked team ever had less?) However, destiny didn't let it happen. Destiny has this team's Final Four run starting as an underappreciated #4 seed with last year's national runner-up Georgia Tech as the likely second round opponent. However, destiny does have a sense of history, placing the Cardinals in the Albuquerque bracket, a city U of L visited in the 1983 Final Four.
Ahhhh, the Madness!
In my humble opinion, this year's Conference USA tournament in Memphis was essentially the funeral for the league. Until the Cardinals and Tigers hooked up, FedExForum basically looked like a funeral. You could sense it as fans of both Louisville and Memphis began strolling into the arena for the title game. You could tell that Memphis was playing not only for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but also for what pride C-USA still had.
Behind the scenes was just as telling. Often the talk between games centered around Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida headed to Big East Conference.
Conference USA as we all once knew it was soon to no longer exist. No longer will C-USA be considered a league that could send four or sometimes five teams into the tournament.
Was there a conspiracy to make sure Louisville lost the C-USA title game? Some of the calls the officials made sure make you wonder.
During halftime of the game, I briefly spoke with a Cardinal coach who could see the conspiracy as we all could. "I'm sure the conference commissioner didn't have anything to do with Garcia's third foul," the coach sarcastically said. Of course, I agreed.
Continuing on, how in the world was Ellis Myles not selected to the C-USA All-Tournament team? That's just wrong!
Come On Down!
Two football signee's will be on hand when the Cardinals open spring practice on March 31st. Darius Mann and Brian Roche, who also anticipate attending the spring game, will be in the River City to watch the team open the practice session.
Brian Roche update. Roche, who broke his leg when he slipped on a patch of black ice earlier this winter, has had the cast removed and is now wearing a boot. He also just resumed working out.
As a lifelong baseball fan (St. Louis in '05), I wanted to congratulate Lelo Prado's baseball squad on taking two of three against #12 Georgia over the weekend!