Louisville seeks respect

Connecticut has been to the Final Four before. So has Stanford and Oklahoma. As the only newcomer to crash this elite field on the final weekend of the season, the Louisville players still feel they're looking for respect.

No one thought Louisville would reach the Final Four, except the Cardinals' players and coaches. There's certainly a chip on this team's shoulders, particularly star Angel McCoughtry.

It's a little surprising the Cardinals aren't getting more respect.

It's true the Cardinals don't have a long and storied tradition in women's college basketball. But Louisville has been building toward this moment for a while. They went to the Sweet 16 last season, nearly knocking off North Carolina in the regional semifinals. After finishing the regular-season 29-4 this season and advancing to the Big East Tournament finals, Louisville thought they'd earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament – no doubt about it.

Angel McCoughtry thinks the Cardinals have
earned more respect.

They didn't get it. Instead, the NCAA selection committee rewarded the Cardinals for their best season ever with a No. 3 seed. Worse, they sent the Cardinals to Baton Rouge for a second round matchup against LSU on the Tigers home court. Talk about disrespect.

Now that they've crashed the Final Four, Louisville still feels like the outsider in St. Louis.

"It's even in the (Final Four) commercials. If you watch the commercial, the commercial strictly says Oklahoma is on a mission to win a championship, but Louisville is trying to fool with that," McCoughtry said. "We're trying to win a national championship too. So for God's sakes, I mean, I don't know what else we have to do to get some type of respect to say they're good, too, they can win on any given day just like the other teams can.

"But, hey, I think that does fuel our fire."

"It's okay, they can keep doubting us," added Candyce Bingham. "We love it."

Jeff Walz understands where his players are coming from. He was ticked about Louisville's No. 3 seed when the brackets came out. But he understands how this game is played. Women's college basketball has always been sort of an elitist club. As the newcomer at the party, Walz knows his program is still in the process of earning it's stripes nationally.

"The one thing I love about (Angel) is she'll just say the truth. She just speaks from the heart and some people don't understand her," Walz said. "But it's (Final Four commercial) not a big deal. They take the schools that they thought were going to have a chance to make a run for the Final Four and we're the one that wasn't supposed to be here."

When the game starts tomorrow night in St. Louis, Walz understands that seeding or promotional commercials won't impact the outcome of the game between the Cardinals and Sooners.

"They weren't prepared for it, which is okay. And it's understandable," said Walz. "When it comes down to playing, the commercials and all that stuff, it's not going to make a difference either way. It's whoever shows up and plays the best. And at this time of the year a bounce here, bounce there, a call here, call there, can make a difference of if you're going home or if you're advancing."

Over the past two years, Louisville owns a 6-1 NCAA Tournament record. They've also made the Big East Tournament championship game the past two years. The Cardinals have a coach who won an NCAA title as an assistant at Maryland and one of the nation's best players in Angel McCoughtry. So why hasn't Louisville received its due respect?

"I guess because we're the newcomers on the block. We don't have as much tradition as the other schools," McCoughtry said. "But we've played hard to the point we need to earn a little bit of respect. We've had the hardest road to the Final Four. We've had to play LSU. All of the other squads basically played at home. Oklahoma was at home. UConn was at home. We were at LSU somewhere with the alligators. So we had the hardest road here and I think that's why it's so special right now. I think this is our season. I truly believe we can take it all the way."

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