Rick Pitino quite possibly just had the best day of his life.
After it was announced earlier in the day that Pitino would be a part of the next group to enter the Hall of Fame, he watched his Louisville Cardinals take down the Michigan Wolverines 82-76 in the NCAA championship game Monday night, as he now becomes the first coach to ever win two championships with two different schools.
Even though Michigan jumped out to a 12-point lead late in the 1st half, Louisville remained focused on playing a full 40-minute game as they have done all season and all tournament. Just a few days ago, the Wichita State Shockers also held a 12-point lead, which Louisville erased by game’s end. These Cardinals know how to rally like another Cardinals team from a different sport…
This event was simply a great basketball game to watch with two teams that had budding basketball players. To put it simply, this was some high-quality basketball and good for the league.
The Wolverines (52.1 percent) actually shot better than the Cardinals (45.9) for the game, but due to Louisville doing the little things, they pulled this one out. The men in red snatched 15 offensive rebounds, led by Chane Behanan (15 points and 12 rebounds), who grabbed seven big offensive rebounds – only one less than the entire Wolverine team. That ability to pound the glass on the offensive end gave the Cardinals 13 more possessions than their opponent.
Even though Trey Burke (24 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field) continued to show the nation why his draft stock keeps rising, possibly all the way to a top-3 pick position, this game was about Luke Hancock‘s hot hand and Peyton Siva‘s ability to do it all.
Sixth man Hancock made all five of the three-pointers he attempted Monday night, leading to a team-high 22 points. This matches his season-high for the year and gives him 42 points in the last two games. The Cardinals have had to fight back to win each of these games and Hancock suddenly becoming extremely dangerous from deep has been a cornerstone to their resiliency.
What Siva did should be considered as just another Siva-type night. He’s been doing it all year long. The senior point guard may not have the best shooting touch but he makes up for it in every other possible way.
18 points. Six rebounds. Five assists. Four steals. Six-for-six from the free throw line. 36 minutes played.
I really like what this 6-0, 185 guard brings to the court night in and night out. His team can always count on him to give one-hundred percent, no matter the opponent and no matter the deficit. Monday night was no exception for the Cardinals’ leader. I believe he has the raw skills to find himself a place in the NBA.
This team showed the nation how you catch fire at just the right time. While the Kansas Jayhawks and Indiana Hoosiers – also No. 1 seeds – looked to have teams ready to make a deep run, each had losses less than a month before the tournament began. Louisville finished the year on a 16-game winning streak, including 12 double-digit victories. That is how you finish a season strong.
The 2013 college basketball champs have kept a trend going of predictability when it comes to the one team that wins it all in this March Madness. (Pay attention to this next stat bracketology gurus.) Six of the last seven and 16 of the last 22 champions have been a No. 1 seed. Even though plenty of Cinderella teams, such as Butler, VCU, FGCU and George Mason, have made an exciting push, none have been able to make it to the finish line.
If you’re not a fan of the rich getting richer, you might as well look away at this point.
Following an 11-2 football season in which they defeated the Florida Gators to take home the All-State Sugar Bowl, their sports program is in the middle of a spectacular Spring sports season. In addition to this recent championship, the Women’s basketball team will continue their Cinderella run when they face the Connecticut Huskies Tuesday for their own national championship. Also, their 14th ranked baseball team is holding their own with a 25-6 record. Director of Athletics Tom Jurich must feel like it’s been Christmas Day 24/7 this entire academic year. For those students currently enrolled at Louisville – you have my jealousy.
Over all of these accolades and numbers, the best part about this championship was the Cardinals’ desire to win this for someone not on the court.
I’m sure most of you have seen the Kevin Ware injury video. Yes, it’s disgusting. But it’s also sad to see a young man fail to finish out his sophomore season playing the sport he loves.
His teammates and brothers wouldn’t let this be a gloomy season’s end for Ware. All the players again came out with Ware’s No. 5 on the back of their warmup jerseys and “Ri5e to the Occasion” on the front. Once the title was obtained, he was right in the thick of the celebration, giving just as many high fives and hugs. Finally, when it was time for that net to be cut, they lowered the net in order to let Ware cut the final strand out of the net.
These are the moments that make sports so captivating and intriguing to watch. When you can visually grasp the type of powerful bond that is formed on these sports teams, especially at the college level, and take a dive into the positive off-court stories, that enriches the game itself and makes it more enjoyable to watch. The support that Ware received from his basketball home couldn’t be more admirable and is simply amazing to see.
“These are my brothers,” Ware said. “They got the job done. I’m so proud of them, so proud of them.”
Now they can enjoy this championship together as a family. Congrats, Louisville.
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