Wild Cards: Louisville Closes Freedom Hall In Style

Mike HendersonCorrespondent IIMarch 6, 2010

LOUISVILLE, KY - FEBRUARY 01:  Kyle Kuric #14 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the Big East Conference game against the Connecticut Huskies on February 1, 2010 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky.  Louisville won 82-69.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The last game at Freedom Hall for the Louisville Cardinals could not have been scripted any better.

Led by the least likely of heroes, the Cardinals have guaranteed their invitation to the Big Dance by defeating top-ranked Syracuse 78-68 for their second win this season against the Orange.

Kyle Kuric scored 22 points on threes and dramatic dunks to pace the win. Averaging three points per game this season, Kuric couldn't miss as Louisville fed off of the energy of the record 20,000 plus crowd.

This was definitely a March, Big East game, and one where Louisville was full marks for the win. The question now is: Where in the pecking order will the Cards land?

The Orange have been one of, if not THE best team in the land this season, no question. And Louisville handled them twice. They played without Jerry Smith in the second half, had Peyton Siva at the point for a lot of it and bested the best, again.

Rick Pitino's teams are always a different team by season's end and this year is no different. They have won 5 of 7, including road wins at Syracuse and UConn, and finished the season with 11 Big East wins. This has to translate, in my eyes to a seeding somewhere around 7 or 8.

This is the dilemma that one and two seeds are going to face this year. The lack of a truly dominant team means that the Louisvilles of the tournament are going to be very dangerous in the second round. That is, of course, assuming they get past the first round.

I don't know if Kyle Kuric will ever score 22 points in a game again. And, I don't know if the Cards can make a run in the tourney. But for the second time this season, Louisville was better than what is sure to be a #1 seed in eight days.

And also: I'm sure Mr. Hogan will get a chuckle out of this. NO, the Fighting Irish are not NIT-bound. When you're wrong, you're wrong, and I was wrong Notre Dame won at Marquette today in what should virtually guarantee their ticket to the ball. At a time when some so-called bubble teams are staggering, the Irish have earned their spot by winning their last four against solid BE competition, to finish with 10 conference wins. If that doesn't get you in in this league, I don't know what will.