Don't Count Out The Louisville Cardinals

Mike ArrowsmithCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2009

Five day’s ago, I wrote an article pertaining to the dominance of the ACC and the Big East. While addressing the Big East, I went into detail about league front runners Syracuse, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and Connecticut. However, I didn’t really focus on the No. 20 Louisville Cardinals (12-3, 3-0 Big East).

At the time I wrote the article, I wasn’t sure what to make of Louisville. They were off to a pretty good start, with 10 wins early in the season.

However, despite Louisville’s Elite Eight finish in 2008, I was hesitant to name them a true contender for the Big East. I felt this way because Louisville had yet earn a win over a formidable top 25 opponent.

Two days after writing my article, I was watching the Cardinals take on the No. 17 Villanova Wildcats on the road. At half time, Louisville was down by nine and I was starting to think that I was right not give them top-tier status in the Big East.

Then, in the second half, almost as if to prove the critics wrong, Louisville came roaring back. After playing exceptionally good defense for the next twenty minutes, Louisville was able to slowly chip away at the Villanova lead.

With 7.4 seconds to play in the game, Louisville finally took a one point lead and hung on for the 61-60 win as Villanova missed two shots in the closing seconds.

At this point, I started to think that I might have been wrong. Was Louisville in fact a Big East title contender? Two days later I got my answer, as the Cardinals played host to the No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-4, 3-2 Big East).

Backed by Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Luke Harangody (24.8 ppg, 12.7 reb), Notre Dame was my sleeper to win the conference.

The Irish feature one of the most potent offenses in the NCAA, which has dismantled team after team in a variety of ways. If Louisville could contain the Notre Dame offense and handle their business on the glass, then I knew they would have a chance to get their second big upset of the season.

At halftime of the fast-paced, high-scoring game, the Cardinals led 41-38.

After Louisville jumped out to an early nine point lead in the first eight minutes, the Irish fought their way back into the game, making it too close for comfort at halftime.

The second half proved to be just as nail-biting as the first, ending regulation in a 71-71 tie.

It didn’t appear that Notre Dame was going to be worn down by the Louisville defense. Then, over the next five minutes of overtime, the Cardinals stunned the Irish by going on a 16-2 run to snag a hard-fought win in the process.

The time has come to admit I was wrong about the Louisville Cardinals.

They are a contender! Somebody needs to warn the undefeated No. 1 Pittsburgh Panthers to watch their step when they travel to Louisville this Saturday.

This is a team that will match up very nicely against Pittsburgh. The Cardinals are led by one of the best inside games in the Big East.

In the last couple games, senior forward Terrance Williams has dominated the boards with 12.3 points-per-game and 9.3 rebounds-per-game. He has also received help from freshman forward Samardo Samuels, who leads the team with 13.9 points-per-game.

As a team, Louisville features one of the league's stingiest defenses allowing just 60.7 points-per-game. The Cardinals are 9-1 at home, but, more importantly, are 3-0 in conference play. They could very well be dancing late into March once again in the 2009 NCAA tournament.

I guess the moral of the story is that every team in the Big East is a big threat to the rest of the league!