Mar 15, 2014, 8:47 PM EDT
On Thursday, Louisville beat Rutgers by 61 points in the quarterfinals of the AAC Tournament.
On Friday, Russ Smith scored a school-record 27 of his 42 points in the first half of a semifinal win over Houston.
On Saturday, there were no records set, but Louisville beat UConn by double-digits for the fifth consecutive time, ending what had grown to be a terrific rivalry with a 71-61 AAC title game win that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate. A Luke Hancock three, a Shabazz Napier turnover and a layup by Terry Rozier in the last 30 seconds of the first half put the Cardinals up 37-23 going into the break, and the Huskies never really challenged Louisville the rest of the way.
That will vault Louisville into Selection Sunday as arguably the hottest team in the country.
Don’t believe me?
Well, the Cardinals won their three AAC tournament games by a combined 100 points. Seriously. 100 points. That came after they best UConn by 33 points exactly one week ago today. Ten days ago, they overcame a 14-point first half deficit at SMU, one of the toughest home courts in the country, to beat the Mustangs by 13. Since a Janaury 9th loss to Memphis at home, Louisville has won 16 of their last 18 games, with the two losses being by three points at home to Cincinnati and by six points at Memphis in a game that the Cards choked away an eight-point lead in the final three minutes.
For the third straight season, Rick Pitino has got his team playing their best basketball in March, which is a scary thought considering that Louisville is currently sitting at No. 2 in KenPom’s rankings and have spent the majority of the season sitting in the top five.
Do you want to play this team right now?
I certainly don’t, and I’m sure that there are quite a few No. 1 seeds that are thinking the same thing. Because right now, not only does Louisville look like they are one of the three or four best teams in the country, but they did so little in non-conference play that there is a legitimate possibility that they could end up being a No. 4 seed.
Imagine being a No. 1 seed that has to play the Cardinals in the Sweet 16?
Pretty miserable, right?
That’s still a long ways away, however, and with a number of games with significant seeding implications coming on Sunday, we can’t assume anything at this point.
But I will say this: With Russ Smith playing the best basketball of his career; with Montrezl Harrell dominating the paint for the last month; with Chris Jones finally finding a way to mesh with Smith; with Luke Hancock healthy; with the Louisville defense hitting another gear; with all of that happening right now, we’re realizing that there was a legitimate reason that the Cardinals were a consensus top three team back in the preseason.
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