Stop me if you've heard this one before: a Big East team, projected for great things in the preseason and loaded with talent and a legendary coach, led by a senior point guard, stumbles early, makes a shocking run to win the conference tournament and keeps it going in the NCAAs all the way to the Final Four.
It's the precise path the Connecticut Huskies took to the 2011 NCAA Championship behind Jim Calhoun and Kemba Walker, and it's exactly what the Louisville Cardinals are trying to do this year with Rick Pitino and Peyton Siva, who, admittedly, is no Kemba Walker. Still, the Cardinals have proved that they can beat any team in the country with wins against Florida in the Elite Eight, Michigan State in the Sweet 16 and New Mexico and Davidson in the tourney's first weekend.
In the Big East tournament, the Cardinals ran the table with wins over Seton Hall, Marquette, Notre Dame and Cincinnati in consecutive days, and Siva was the tournament MVP. The Cardinals are even built eerily like the Huskies last year; like Alex Oriakhi, Gorgui Dieng is their dominant paint presence, though Dieng is a far superior shot blocker. Instead of Jeremy Lamb, the Cardinals have freshman Chane Behanan, who has more of an inside game but is still a sparkplug who can score in bunches.
The Cardinals face their in-state rival Kentucky Wildcats, the team Rick Pitino coached to the 1996 national championship, in the Final Four, where they are the heavy underdogs. If they continue to follow the script UConn wrote for them last year, however, then defying the odds is all part of the plan.