Saturday, March 30, 2013
21 Years Later, Coach K vs Pitino Again
Last night, Louisville and Duke both won their Midwest Region games. For the Cardinals, they outgunned an Oregon team who gave them problems on defense, but had no answer for Louisville's athleticism and spacing. The Blue Devils completely shutdown Michigan State's offense enroute to their win. The Spartans only hit one basket during for about 15 minutes in the second half, at which Duke turned a tied game into a comfortable 10-point win. This means that the only matchup of 1 and 2 in a region will be played in Indianapolis on Easter Sunday. This also means the Rick Pitino and Mike Krzyzewski will face in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since March 28th 1992, when the greatest college basketball game of all-time took place at The Spectrum.
Are we in store for more theatrics at Lucas Oil Stadium tomorrow? Unlike that fateful game in 1992, Pitino's team will be expected to win as Louisville has run roughshod over everyone they faced. Even Oregon, who found a way trail by only single digits late in the second half, never made it more interesting than that as the Cardinals found something to exploit. Duke will be in the underdog role by definition, though to refer to Duke as an "underdog" is an exercise in futility. It's like referring to the Yankees and Lakers that way. Wait, that's a bad example of late? Well, then it's like referring to Manchester United in that way. Plus, Duke beat Louisville this season back in November, though the Cardinals were missing Gorgui Dieng in that one and seem to be playing at their highest-level at this point.
In a couple of years, Duke-Louisville will be an ACC matchup and Coach K and Pitino will see more of each other. Games like this one tomorrow will be needed to be thought of as precious before they become thought of as commonplace, and when either coach leaves, a letdown.
In the meantime, Florida ended the run for Florida Gulf Coast last night by putting the brakes on their uptempo game. It was superbly coached by Billy Donovan after the Eagles were ahead 15-4 early. Now, the Gators have a date with Michigan in an Elite 8 matchup better suited for the Sugar Bowl than the NCAA Tournament. Then again, both teams basketball programs are better than their football programs anyway (yes, I know Florida could have been in the title game, but they aren't the best team in the SEC in football like they are in basketball). That should also be a tremendous matchup tomorrow.