Sunday, March 6, 2016

Farewell to the Cardinals

For many, many years, our friends at the University of Louisville longed for the day when they could join a major basketball conference.  In 2006, they go their chance -- joining the Big East back when the Big East was loaded.  Louisville had eight great years in the Big East -- a stretch that ended with the Cardinals capturing the 2013 National Championship.  But by this time, the Big East was on the verge of breaking up.  Louisville spent one year in the American Athletic Conference before getting huge news -- they were going to the Atlantic Coast Conference.  The land of the elites.  Home of John Feinstein, Dean Smith, Billy Packer, and Coach K.

Now they had made it.  Now they had arrived.

Never mind that some of us thought Louisville was a great powerhouse long before it ever entered the ACC.  Never mind the three national championships and 10 trips to the Final Four that they won before signing onto Tobacco Road.  This was the big time, and Louisville fans eagerly looked forward to their games against UNC and Duke.

We are now two years into this experiment, and here's what Louisville has done so far.

In the 2014-15 season, Louisville went 12-6 in the ACC, going 1-2 against Duke and UNC  in the regular season.  The Cardinals came in fourth in the ACC Standings, and were eliminated by UNC in their first (and so far only) ACC Tournament game.  In the NCAA Tournament, they fought their way to the Elite Eight before losing in overtime to Michigan State.

In the 2015-16 season, Louisville went 12-6 in the ACC, going 2-1 against Duke and UNC.  They will not be going to the ACC Tournament or the NCAA Tournament, because they penalized themselves for various irregularities.  Of course, it has been widely reported that UNC had years and years of fake classes where athletes had to do no work.  And of course, UNC has never been punished, and the Tar Heels will almost certainly be a number-one seed in this year's tournament.

And hey, neither Syracuse nor Pittsburgh have reached the NCAA's since joining the ACC, and of course Boston College's basketball program -- which joined the ACC in 2006 -- is only a shell of what it used to be (the Eagles haven't reached the NCAA's since 2009, and this year they were ranked number 254 by Ken Pomeroy).  And, of course, Louisville's Rick Pitino can't coach forever, and no one knows what will happen to the Cardinals when they have to face ACC officiating without the assistance of one of the greatest college coaches who ever lived.

But the Cardinal fans got what they wanted, and they're now in the Big Time.  We hope they enjoy March Madness.

Louisville finishes with a record of 12-6 in their conference, and 23-8 overall.  They are not eligible for post-season play.

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