Last night was the greatest and sports moment of my life and I know I share that sentiment with the Card Nation. That was one of the best national title games of its 75-year history. It had everything the pageantry, the stars, two great teams, two incredible fan bases, and one shining moment. And our Louisville Cardinals seized the day as they beat the Michigan Wolverines 82-76 in an instant classic. The win gave our Cardinals their 3rd National Title and puts them in an elite group with only 8 other programs reaching that mark. They closed out this magical season on a 16-game win streak.
This season has been like a fairy tale in many ways and one that could be a future 30 for 30 feature on ESPN. In a college basketball culture with kids coming to school for one year to boost their NBA draft stock Louisville has established a team-first approach. Coach Pitino and his staff have done a great job of recruiting the guys that fit into this team-first system. Louisville has become the model program for doing it the right way and in a more traditional way.
The emotional journey to this championship story started with that 5 overtime loss to Notre Dame. After that loss Coach Pitino challenged this team to bond together and to win the rest of the way. And they answered his challenge by winning the regular season and winning the final Big East tournament championship. That alone will be something that will never be forgotten but this team wasn’t done yet. They would parlay the great season into the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament. They had a great team run through the first round in Lexington and then in Indy Cardinal Nation and the rest of the world would understand what it means to be bonded together as a team. That’s when we started to understand how special this group was.
The Cards rode that wave of emotion of losing one of their brothers into the Final Four. Here they would run into two great teams who also seemed to be playing for something greater than themselves. And this is where this fairy tale story had its greatest moments. A walk-on who had only played sparingly and had scored 16 points on the season comes into the national semi-finals and hits two of the biggest three-point shots you’ll ever see to give the Cards a spark to overcome a 12-point deficit. Then in the national title game, a guy that had been averaging around 6 points a game becomes the first player to come off the bench to win the tourney’s most outstanding player. At the end of this fairy tale season, the Cards turned out to be the most dominant team in the country.
The Cardinals were locked in on defense, momentously hot on offense, and too emotionally charged to let this one get away from them. They had the experience of last season, a Hall of Fame head coach, the emotional leader Ware, and the individual playmakers Peyton, Russ, Gorgui, Wayne, Chane, Hancock, Montrezl, Stephan, and Tim. This was a great season and a great story and these Cardinals seized the day.
I know I will never forget this group and the experiences they have awarded me from being a Cardinal fan. I have written so much about these guys that I feel like I know each of them personally. And I’m very grateful to be somewhat connected to them through those words. I’m going to seize this moment and this day for the rest of my life. My Louisville Cardinals are National Champions. Oh and I’m glad I can finally sleep and shave.
-A CHAMPIONSHIP IN PHOTOS