Elite 8 2012: Why Louisville Is This Year's Version of UConn

Jessica MarieCorrespondent IIMarch 24, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 22:  Jared Swopshire #21 and Gorgui Dieng #10 of the Louisville Cardinals react at the end of the first half while taking on the Michigan State Spartans during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball West Regional Semifinal game at US Airways Center on March 22, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Louisville accomplished what no team in this year's NCAA tournament has been able to do so far—knock off a No. 1 seed—and now only one game stands in between the Cardinals and their first Final Four since 2005.

In taking down Michigan State 57-44 in the Sweet 16 on Thursday, the Cardinals made believers out of plenty who didn't think they had a shot at defeating the 2012 Big Ten champions.

Not only did Louisville take down the Spartans, they held them to the lowest points total for a No. 1 seed in NCAA history during the shot clock era.

The Cardinals limited Michigan State to 22.2 percent shooting from the floor and forced 11 turnovers, while shutdown center Gorgui Dieng had seven blocks and three steals, just the fourth player to put up those numbers in a men's basketball championship game.

History was certainly not on the Cardinals' side in this one. Never before had a Tom Izzo-led Michigan State team failed to reach the Final Four when earning a No. 1 seed in the tournament, and never before had one of Izzo's top-seeded Michigan State teams lost to a team that was not seeded No. 1 or 2.

Maybe all those weeks of playing in the toughest conference in the country paid off for Louisville. Though the Cardinals appeared to be less than impressive at the close of the regular season after dropping four of six—including two to Syracuse—they still managed to win the Big East tournament.

Just like Connecticut did last year right before winning the NCAA championship.

The similarities don't end there. The Cardinals' potential road to victory this year looks eerily similar to the one their Big East rivals took last year. In 2010-11, UConn registered nine conference losses while this year's Cardinals had eight. Both teams went 2-4 over the final six games of the regular season before winning the Big East tournament.

Last year, the Huskies earned a No. 3 seed (Louisville is seeded fourth) and if Louisville manages to make it through the Elite Eight and into the Final Four, it could have to bypass Kentucky to get to the national championship game—just like UConn did last year.

Louisville has certainly proven it has the ability to be this year's UConn. Maybe the fates are aligning and they're meant to be cutting down the nets on April 2 after all.