Date: Friday, March 27th
Time: 7:07 p.m. EST
Site: Lucas Oil Stadium (70,000) in Indianapolis, IN
Series History: Tied 2-2 all-time (2-0 in Louisville, 0-2 neutral)
Last Meeting: UofL 65, Arizona 72 (Dec. 5, 2006 in New York, NY)
National Rankings: UL No. 1 AP, ESPN/USA Today, (Mar. 16)
The Louisville Cardinals (30-5) have reached their 17th NCAA Sweet 16 via hard fought victories over Morehead State and Siena. The 17 appearances rank fourth all-time since the NCAA began Sweet 16 records in 1975 (North Carolina 23, Kentucky 20, Duke 20, Louisville, UCLA and Kansas 17)
Louisville coach Rick Pitino is now 37-12 all-time in the NCAA Tournament (31-4 as the higher seed) and ranks third behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (.769) and Florida’s Billy Donovan (.759) among active coaches winning percentage. His career record now stands at 551-196 in 23 seasons, the second most victories ever by a coach in his 23rd season.
This is the fifth time in the program’s history that the Cardinals have won 30 games. Each of the previous four seasons saw Louisville land in the Final Four:
This Louisville team has also made another Top 5 list.. their coach’s: “(This team) is not the best, but I put them in my top five. The ’96 team is one of the greatest teams Ive seen in my life, never mind coached. But they’re definitely a good pressing team. We dont have as much shot blocking that would make it really terrific. But everything else is there. The quickness is there, the length is there, the hard work is there.”— Coach Rick Pitino on how this team compares to other teams he’s coached in its ability to apply pressure on defense.
Arizona (21-13) is the lowest-remaining seed (12) in the field. Controversy swirled on Selection Sunday when the Wildcats learned they would be included in the Dance. Despite winning only 19 games against 13 losses; despite losing five of their last six; despite having only two (2!) true road victories (Oregon and Oregon State); despite having an RPI of 63rd (SIXTY-THIRD!!); despite finishing below .500 in Pac-10 conference play (9-10); despite all this, the committee thought Arizona’s season resume was deserving of an at-large selection.
No one is doubting that Arizona is one of the more talented teams in the country. With three NBA ready players on their roster, they have to be. However, the Wildcats don’t really have a coach. Interim coach Russ Pennell has filled in admirably for Lute Olsen, but it appears it is all but guaranteed he will not return to Tucson next year.
Nic Wise, Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger. That’s all you need to know about this Arizona team. These three have combined to score 118 of Arizona’s 151 points the first two games—78 percent of the Cats’ total.
Nic Wise, generally considered to rank third amongst the trio, has been playing outstanding thus far in the tournament. He has netted 50 total points and shot 17-for-17 from the charity stripe. On the season he scored 15.7 points a game while dishing out 4.6 assists.
Chase Budinger has averaged 17.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists a game for his junior campaign. A freakish athlete, he is also projected to be a first round selection in the upcoming NBA Draft. As a 6′ 7″ wing player, Budinger makes for a difficult matchup no matter the defender. Chase is an excellent spot-up shooter (hitting 41% of his threes this year) and does a good job running the floor in transition, moving off the ball, utilizing screens and finding ways to cut to the basket (where he can finish lobs with authority), and has even shown some willingness to post-up smaller defenders inside. Budinger sometimes lacks a bit of toughness finishing through contact, which the Cardinals should take note of…
Jordan Hill, projected by many to be a top 3 pick in the NBA Draft this year, leads the Wildcats with 18.4 points and 11.0 rebounds a contest. He also pitches 1.8 shots a game back to whence they came.
Louisville freshman Samardo Samuels will have to keep Jordan Hill from going off big time. Louisville’s pressure zone defense should keep the Wildcats from doing much from the outside, and Samuels will get a lot of help from fellow freshman center Terrence Jennings in dealing with Hill down low.
Bobby E’s Gamebreaker: REVENGE!!!
Disclaimer: The following paragraphs are pure opinion and filled with more bias than can be found anywhere this side of the Mississippi.
Louisville, Rick Pitino, Big Blue Nation, and the entire Nation have plenty of cold dishes just waiting to be served: REVENGE!!!
For Louisville: revenge upon Arizona knocking them out of the NCAA’s in the 1994 West Regional Semifinals.
For Louisville: revenge for a 2006 defeat (the last meeting of these two squads) in the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden. In that game Terrence Williams was just a sophomore. Earl and Edgar were freshmen.
For Rick Pitino and the entire state of Kentucky: 1997.
For the entire nation: 2009. Arizona DOES NOT BELONG in this tournament. Not only do they not belong but they get paired with a scrub Utah squad in their first round game, and then get to face a Cinderella Cleveland State team to advance. Hogwash!!
Arizona has cemented itself as my most hated college program of all-times. It all started on March 19th, 1993: (15) Santa Clara 64, (2) Arizona 61. Yep, I was 11 years old and had penciled in ‘Zona for a trip to the Final Four. @#$!’n thanks a lot Lute!