Now, after four years of building, Louisville's All-American senior forward has the Cardinals 40 minutes from the Final Four.
All that stands in UofL's way of a first trip to the Final Four in St. Louis– top-seeded Maryland (31-4).
"This has been a dream since I came to college, to make it to this level and become part of the Final Four," McCoughtry said. "We just want to get there. All these other programs have been there, they have experience, and we're just trying to get the experience that they had."
The Cardinals already made history with their 56-39 win over Baylor in the Raleigh Regional semifinal, advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. Now, McCoughtry hopes to lead the Cardinals past Terrapins and into the Final Four.
Maryland came from behind against Vanderbilt on Saturday to advance to the regional final. Marissa Coleman scored a career-high 42 points to lead the Terps to a 78-74 win over Commodores, overcoming an 18-point deficit.
Louisville coach Jeff Walz should be familiar with the Terps. He was an assistant to Maryland coach Brenda Frese for six seasons – one at Minnesota, five at Maryland. Before becoming head coach at Louisville in 2007, Walz helped recruit many of the players that led Maryland to the 2006 NCAA title, including Coleman, then a freshman.
"Those kids, they're still friends of mine--they still call and talk," Walz said. "It's just one of those situations where it's going to be a lot of fun for our kids to play and for me to coach."
Since coming to Louisville, Walz has quickly taken the Cardinals to new heights. In just two seasons, Walz has guided Louisville to a 58-14 record, including a 5-1 mark in the NCAA Tournament. Now, Walz is prepared to lead his program in the most important game since he left Maryland for Louisville two years ago.
The experience factor certainly favors Maryland. Besides winning the title four years ago, the Terps advanced to the Elite Eight last season before falling to national runner-up Stanford. Louisville hopes it can rely on Walz' big-game experience as an assistant at Maryland to pull off the upset and advance to the national semifinals.
"Both coaches are going to be well-prepared," said Frese. "Obviously, when the ball tips it's Maryland vs. Louisville. It doesn't have anything to do with the two coaches. It's all about two teams."
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 pm on ESPN.
Scouting the Terps
Four players are averaging double figures for the Terrapins. Kristi Toliver leads the team in scoring averaging 18.6 points per game. Marissa Coleman is second on the team with 18.1 points per game. Lynetta Kizer and Demauria Liles round out the group with 11.5 and 10.6 points per game.
Maryland enters the contest averaging 79.5 points per game and giving up 67.5 points to opponents. The Terrapins are shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from beyond the arc.