As the nation gears up for the Sweet 16 tomorrow and Friday, all the national sites are coming up with their picks and stories on best match-up’s, key players, etc. Here’s a few links and excerpts to get you through the day.
CBS’ Jeff Borzello ranks the Sweet 16 games in order of importance and intrigue and he places Louisville – Michigan State at #3.
3. No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Louisville: Two of the best coaches in the country will battle wits in what should be a defensive struggle. Louisville has the ability to force turnovers and cause Keith Appling to turn it over, but the Cardinals have no one to guard Draymond Green. After watching him will the Spartans to a win over the weekend, I’m not sure anyone does.
CBS’ Matt Norlander then goes on to rank each of the Sweet 16 teams and he places the Cards at #9.
9. Louisville My gut reaction to this team’s inclusion in the Sweet 16 is all about Peyton Siva. I don’t see parallels with 2011 UConn (won the Big East tournament, etc.). What I see is a junior point guard carrying a team but don’t know when that ends. I can see it ending Thursday night around 10 ET, but wouldn’t be completely surprised — though it would be a little weird — if this group managed to get two more Ws. And if that happened … Louisville vs. Kentucky in the Final Four? No, no — we’re too far off to dream of such a thing.
ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan takes a look at the Sweet 16’s most indispensable players.
No. 4 Louisville: Gorgui Dieng, forward — I promise, this list isn’t all forwards. The obvious answer here is Peyton Siva, but the Cardinals already have a pretty willing on-ball defender and shot-happy penetrator in guard Russ Smith, while Dieng — a crazy-lanky shot blocker, rebounder and defensive anchor — has keyed so much of the Cards’ No. 2-ranked
Dan Wetzell of Yahoo Sports says that 7 of the midwestern teams in the Sweet 16 have a common thread: hatred for one another.
The best place to start is Kentucky because pretty much everyone hates Kentucky. The Wildcats are the most successful program – seven national titles. They also often run afoul with the NCAA (although there are not a lot of virgins among this group).
Rooting against Kentucky coach John Calipari and his roster of future NBA talent is a national phenomenon (they also have arguably the most fans, so it evens out).
Nowhere is this done better than at Louisville, where the old feeling has gained new spice with the battle between Calipari and Cardinals coach Rick Pitino. They exchange pointed one-liners in the media, mock each other privately and generally can’t stand each other, which is funny since Pitino recommended Calipari for his first job at Massachusetts, Pitino’s alma mater.
Kentucky fans can’t stand Pitino, of course. He coached the Wildcats to the 1996 NCAA title but eventually left for the Boston Celtics only to commit the unpardonable sin of returning to the college game to take a job at Kentucky’s archrival. As such, nowhere were his personal stumbles more celebrated than in Lexington.
Crean and Pitino are not close, dating back to various battles in the Big East when Crean was at Marquette. And the IU-UL fans, particularly in Southern Indiana, are not friendly unless discussing their mutual distaste for UK.
That’s just some of the coaching ties. Louisville and Cincinnati have been fighting since their time in the Metro Conference and the rivalry continues to this day, and the fans’ animosity for each other remains constant even though both share a common bond: getting left behind in conference re-shuffling.
Cincinatti coach Mick Cronin worked for Pitino at Louisville and still calls him “coach Pitino” with great reverence. So at least they like each other.
Jason Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports takes a look at the winners and losers of the Tournament and he says the Big East has come up huge.
Conference that has excelled: For all the flack the Big East has taken for underachieving in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament the past few seasons, give it credit for landing four teams in the Sweet 16 in a supposed off year. Top-seeded Syracuse, third-seeded Marquette and fourth-seeded Louisville all avoided upsets, and sixth-seeded Cincinnati ousted Florida State to crash the party. The Big East’s four Sweet 16 bids matches the four teams still alive from the Big Ten, which lived up to its reputation as college basketball’s premier league this season.
Fox Sports.com lists 16 players to watch in the Sweet 16 and Louisville’s Kyle Kuric makes the cut.
Louisville: Kyle Kuric, 6-4, Senior, G, Evansville, Ind.
Louisville finished just 10-6 in Big East Conference play, but the Cardinals rolled to the conference tournament championship, and enter the Sweet 16 on a six-game winning streak. Kuric is perhaps their best offensive player and three-point threat, averaging more than 13 points per game.
Sports Illustrated’s Rob Dauster lists 16 things you didn’t know about this year’s Sweet 16.
9. Kentuckiana is also well-represented:Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana all advanced to the Sweet 16, which marks the first time that has happened since 1993. It’s actually pretty shocking considering we are talking about three of college basketball’s elite programs. That said, Indiana has only made the Sweet 16 three times since 1993 — in 1994, 2002 and this season. Louisville missed the 2002 NCAA tournament and Kentucky lost in the second round to Marquette in 1994.