NCAA Tournament 2012: Louisville Looks Like Final Four Contender

Gabe ZaldivarPop Culture Lead WriterMarch 24, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 22:  Chane Behanan #24 of the Louisville Cardinals reacts after the Cardinals defeat the Michigan State Spartans 57-44 during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball West Regional Semifinal game at US Airways Center on March 22, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Louisville smothered a bigger Michigan State that was supposed to rebound them to death. The label of most dangerous team in the tournament now belongs to Louisville. 

Michigan State was huffing and puffing after a game that left fans just as exhausted. The Cardinals and Spartans certainly put on a show. 

In the end, Louisville out-hustled the weary to the tune of a 57-44 Sweet 16 victory. Up next is a challenge just as big in the Florida Gators. 

After watching Louisville's tenacity on Thursday, there is no reason to think they are not headed to the Final Four. 

We quickly came to a realization in this game, and that is Louisville can be as formidable as any team when Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng are on their games. 

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 22:  Russ Smith #2 of the Louisville Cardinals reacts along with his teammates as Travis Trice #20 of the Michigan State Spartans walks by in the second half during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball West Regional Semifinal game at US Airw
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Behanan scored 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting and also grabbed nine boards. He wasn't alone in the heroic efforts department.

Every great team needs a big man down low who can disrupt shots and wreak havoc on the boards. If you need a defensive presence, look no further than Dieng, who had seven blocked shots. 

Spartans star big man Draymond Green tipped his hat after the loss, via CBS Sports

He was very disruptive. We're not going to back down from anyone. We took it at him. He pulled off some great blocked shots. That's what he does. That's his strength.

That is precisely what Louisville has done all tournament. They take your best shot and counter. If you think you are going to outwork or out-hustle this team, you are sorely mistaken. 

The Cardinals understand they aren't the biggest or baddest team in the nation, but that doesn't mean they aren't the scariest. 

If they continue to play with that kind of defensive prowess, there is no reason that the 2012 Louisville Cardinals cannot sneak into the Final Four. 

From there, anything can happen.