One wouldn't be wrong to say that Louisville limped into the NCAA tournament.
They finished fourth in the ACC. They lost their conference tournament opener against North Carolina by double-digits. Notre Dame beat them in early March -- badly. And while that carries no shame, they also had losses against NC State and Syracuse in February.
For a team that won 11 straight to start the year, this was not good.
But Rick Pitino rolled up his sleeves and sprinkled some of his go-to postseason magic.
And once again, we're seeing Louisville throwing its weight around. It's 75-65 win over NC State on Friday was more than just revenge; It sends them to the Elite Eight. And after beating 31-win Northern Iowa in the third round, one thing is clear.
These Cardinals are dangerous.
Could Louisville emerg as the winners of the East?
Well, they've certainly been helped along the way.
Both 1-seed Villanova and 2-seed Virginia have been thrown off the slate by startling upset losses. That leaves the four-seeded Cardinals as the highest-ranked team still alive, after Oklahoma lost to Michigan State on Friday night.
Is that road smooth enough for an up-and-down Louisville team to win out?
Remember that, while the Cardinals did lose quite a few winnable games, they also had some strikingly impressive performances. Beating No. 2 Virginia was perhaps the greatest sign of Louisville's potential, and that happened just 20 days ago.
With the Cavaliers out now, there aren't quite as many dominant teams in the field, at least, not until we get into the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world.
And with Rick Pitino at the helm, it's never smart to count Louisville out.
Forward Montrezl Harrell has been the team's rock this year and they'll have to keep relying on him.
Luckily, he's got large shoulders, and quite the ability to carry the load.
Montrezl scored 24 points, adding seven rebounds and four assists in the victory over the Wolfpack. He's the team's most efficient scorer, averaging 57 percent from the field.
But if the Cardinals are to advance, they'll need help from guard Terry Rozier -- the team's leading scorer, who had 17 points Friday, the same as his season average.
Together, the pair give the Cardinals an inside-out punch. Double Harrell inside and you're going to get a jumpshot from Rozier. Put pressure on the ball, and watch Harrell muscle up in the paint or take it to the rim.
That dual action could keep the Cardinals dancing.
After all, it's certainly a sight we're used to seeing.
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