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March 15, 2009, 08:59 AM ET
The Louisville Paradox

by John Gasaway

Louisville won the Big East tournament last night, beating Syracuse 76-66. The win gives the Cardinals an absolute jewel of a sound bite to take before the selection committee: outright champions of the Big East, winners of the Big East tournament.

That sound bite is true, and Rick Pitino’s team has earned it. Moreover, this team really does look like national championship material. And I mean that in the best purely visual sense. Watching them last night against the Orangemen–creating second-half turnovers not only with their athleticism but also with their relentless pressure; knocking down second-half threes; scoring points on some polished post moves executed by Samardo Samuels; getting, as usual, whatever’s needed from Terrence Williams–I could very easily imagine them inflicting their will on an opponent on a Monday night in Detroit three weeks from now. Very easily.

So don’t brand me a “doubter” (I spent almost the entirety of last season yelling and waving my arms about how the ‘Ville was outrageously underrated) or a disrespecter if I bring up a couple more sound bites, ones that are also true.

Louisville won the Big East tournament by beating Providence, Villanova, and a Syracuse team that had already played the equivalent of nearly four games before they took the floor against the Cardinals.

In winning the regular season championship, the Cardinals’ per-possession performance was a hair below that of Pitt and Connecticut, even though the latter two teams had to play each other twice.

Again, I’m not doubting this team per se. They did take care of business and that’s all we can ask of any team. Indeed it would be the height of irony if I doubted Louisville due to its schedule the day after I scolded anyone who would dare doubt Auburn due to its schedule.

No, I’m just offering full disclosure for anyone about to put pencil to bracket. As I said, it’s a paradox, one I’m still working through myself. Right now I’m coming down about here:

Louisville is clearly one of the six best teams in the country, yet they haven’t shown me they’re as dominant as the honorific “overall number one-seed” would imply, should they indeed earn said honorific later today. 

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