Posted: 5:56 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, 2013
By Mike Rutherford
Louisville fans have taken to calling the last few weeks of the Cardinals' season the "Revenge Tour," and with good reason. Five of Louisville's last six games have come against teams that had defeated them earlier in the season, an impressive statistic considering that U of L has just five total losses. The Cards have won all five games.
In spite of the fact that U of L hasn't played two of the three teams in its pod and beat the other by 23 points, the Revenge Tour will not slow down on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. In fact, the next two weeks represent the biggest stop for the tour yet.
I'm assuming the reason we haven't talked about this yet is that we've been scared to look it directly in the face, because the similarities are so eerie that I'm quite certain all of us have picked up on them. The fact of the matter is that right now Louisville finds itself in a place nearly identical to the one it was in back in 2009, and not just because it's once again the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed.
One generation of Louisville fans has the U.S. Reed shot, the Terry Howard missed free-throw in 1975 and the Final Four loss to Phi Slamma Jamma in '83. My generation has the Demonte Harper shot in 2011 and the loss to Michigan State in the '09 Elite 8, the latter representing the same feeling of being "robbed" of a shot at a national championship that my father felt in '83.
The reason we all still feel the sting of 2009 is that it was the first time in decades (or ever, in the case of people my age) that a national championship felt like more than just a daydream. The heartbreak wasn't the product of a buzzer-beater or a late-game collapse - the Spartans dominated the game and deserved to win as handily as the final score indicated - but of a snatched dream that pickpocketed Louisville fans never saw coming.
The sting is the same reason it's so hard to look at the current state of things and see admit all the similarities.
Louisville entered the 2009 Big East Tournament with what most called an outside shot at snatching a No. 1 seed in the big dance. The Cards then proceeded to dispatch of a tournament-bound Villanova team (yep) and then beat an eventual top-4 seeded Syracuse team (yep) to claim their second Big East title (yep) of the season. While this was going on, each and every one of the other teams with a shot at earning the No. 1 overall seed in the big dance fell before their conference title games (yep). It was the perfect storm.
On Selection Sunday, U of L was, as expected, announced as the tournament's top overall seed (yep). The Cards would headline the Midwest Region (yep) with the potential of playing their Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games close to home in Indianapolis (yep). Still, many thought that Louisville was dealt a bad hand by being forced to play in the same region as national power Kansas (read: Duke...yep) and Tom Izzo's Michigan State team (yep).
On top of all this, there's the fact that 2009 also saw Kentucky land surpsisingly in the NIT (yep) and President Obama pick Louisville to lose in the national title game (yep). Obama's pick, North Carolina, wound up cutting down the nets.
Am I mentioning all of this to say that I'm scared of history repeating itself? Nope. I'm merely just pointing out that the Revenger Tour has not rolled to a stop. It's just getting started.