Why the Louisville Cardinals Are the Team To Watch in the Big East Tournament

DeAnte MitchellCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2010

LOUISVILLE, KY - FEBRUARY 01:  Edgar Sosa #10 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates 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

This year, the Big East was arguably the best conference in the country.

Many speculate that there will be more teams representing the Big East in the tournament than any other conference in the nation.

At one time, there were five Big East teams lodged in the top 15.

Unlike the Big 12, there was no way of leaving this competitive conference with one loss. Even Syracuse could not get out of this tough conference without a ruffle, and some argue they are the best team in America.

So with that in mind, we are going to witness one of the best, if not the best, conference tournaments of the year.

The one team that is going to put pressure on all Big East powers is the Louisville Cardinals. Louisville this season has not fared well against the Big East conference leaders. In fact, the only Big East powerhouse team that the Cardinals defeated was Syracuse. All others have resulted in losses.

But there is more.

Now let’s break this down. In the second round of the conference tournament, the Cardinals are going to have to go through the winner of the Cincinnati-Rutgers game. Both are teams the Cardinals defeated in the regular season.

Predicting a win against either Cincy or Rutgers will set up a rematch against West Virginia. Earlier this year Louisville traveled to WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W. Va. The game went down to the wire, and with less than 30 seconds left on the clock, Louisville held a one-point lead until Devin Ebanks hit the shot to put West Virginia up by one.

Soon after, Edgar Sosa rushed down the court in an effort to score an easy basket. However, they bagged a contested three-point shot and a questionable call on the dead ball. This forced the Cardinals to foul, and Mountaineer forward Da’Sean Butler knocked down two free throws that put pressure on the Cardinals.

There was one instance this year in which the Cardinals did not win the rematch game, so seeing that, the Cardinals certainly can upset the Mountaineers.

On account of Syracuse sweeping the season series of Georgetown, I am predicting the Orange to advance. If that does occur, that will set up No. 1 seed Syracuse with No. 4 Villanova and Louisville with No. 2 Pittsburgh.

Louisville was able to extend the game against Pittsburgh after seeing Sosa’s shot go off the front of the rim with 1.6 seconds left. The game was decided after a missed three-pointer by Louisville and an uncontested dunk at the other end by Pitt.

In my eyes, this is a very winnable game for Louisville. Although the Cardinals face a tough matchup here, I envision an upset.

With the thought of Villanova falling to Syracuse, the Big East conference game will showcase No. 6 Louisville and No. 1 Syracuse.

Syracuse has only three losses this season, one coming to Pitt and the other two against Louisville.

In the first matchup, Louisville rode a late-game run to pull the upset. However, the second time around, Kyle Kuric left his stamp on Freedom Hall history.

Syracuse came out of the gates playing hard, trying to avenge the loss just two weeks earlier. However, instead of staying consistent, the Louisville defense took a toll on the Syracuse offense. The Cardinals forced Syracuse into shooting nightmares, making them work for every shot and rarely allowing them an open look.

Then the second half kicked off with Louisville down by five and senior guard Jerry Smith out with an injury. This allowed Rick Pitino to go deep into his bench and pull out Peyton Siva and Kyle Kuric.

Kuric started to assert his dominance after a steal and a layup at the other end. After that, he made shot after shot, and every ball seemed like it was going in, so Pitino did not doubt his aggressiveness. Kuric continued to be aggressive and racked up 22 second-half points in a double-digit win for his Cardinals.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Cardinals can pull off another upset against Syracuse. It seems as if every time they play the Orange, they find a different flaw. The Cardinals worked to get the open shot, always played aggressively, ran the dribble-drive to perfection, and just so much that Syracuse doesn’t seem to embrace. Not to mention, the margin of victory is getting larger.

In my eyes, any team in the Big East has the chance to win this tournament. But the most likely team to advance from the bottom up will be No. 6 seed Louisville.