Looks like Louisville

Posted: March 20, 2013

I LIKED LOUISVILLE to win the 2013 championship before this season ever started. I saw them once in person and they could not have been worse when they lost to Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center. I never wavered. When a top-tier coach knows he has a championship-caliber team, he builds to a crescendo in mid-March for the six-game run to that Monday night in April. Rick Pitino has timed it just right.

I was hoping Louisville would lose to Syracuse in Saturday's Big East championship game so that everybody else would not see what I was seeing. The Cardinals did not cooperate. Even when they were down 16 and looked like they might get blown out of Madison Square Garden, their body language never changed. They had belief in their coach and themselves. And when the rally commenced, it was obvious how it was going to play out.

Louisville is nobody's secret now. The Cardinals are exactly where their coach planned for them to be as the tournament gets under way. They play the country's best defense. Their defense leads to easy baskets. They are deep at every position. They have experienced guards who played in the 2012 Final Four. Their bigs are improving hourly, it seems. They have enough shooters. And they have a coach who seems at peace with himself, his team and this time.

Pitino is a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame. If he does not get elected, something is amiss. They will announce the 2013 inductees the morning of the championship game in Atlanta. I see Pitino's name being announced shortly before noon and his team's name announced shortly before midnight.

Seed upsets: Oregon over Oklahoma State even though I am a huge Marcus Smart fan. South Dakota State over Michigan because I am not a fan of Michigan's attempt at defense. Iowa State over Notre Dame and then Ohio State. Love the way the Cyclones play offense. Belmont over Arizona. Rick Byrd is one of my favorite coaches. North Carolina over Kansas in Kansas City in third round. Love those KU fans, but want to see their reaction if Ole Roy beats them so close to campus.

Has a team ever gone from winning a major conference championship to getting shut out? That could be Ole Miss when it has to deal with Wisconsin.

Love the metrics for Florida, but don't love what I have seen at the end of close games. I am going with the Gators' efficiency numbers in a teacher/pupil finale that will give Pitino and Billy Donovan four combined titles.


Email: jerardd@phillynews.com

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