5 – The new Beast in the Big East
The Cardinals had a memorable 2008-2009 basketball season with several of their moments worthy of a top 10 countdown. After finishing the season claiming their first regular season Big East Title in a thrilling win over West Virginia the Cardinals headed into a Big East Tournament that would be one of the wildest ever.
They opened up play in the quarterfinals against Providence with an easy win over the Friars, but would have their hands full with Villanova in the semifinal round. As they had done several other times during this crazy season the Cardinals came out flat and uninspired in the first half. Rick Pitino would tell his guys at half time that he didn’t know who they were. The Cardinals would eventually wake up in the second half and top Villanova putting them in the Finals against Syracuse.
#5 Louisville and #18 Syracuse would face of for the Big East Tourney crown after Cuse had played an epic 6 overtime game against Uconn the night before. This tourney seemed like destiny for Cuse, but the Cardinals would have something for their magical run. The Louisville pressure defense would be too much to overcome for a team that had played an extra half of basketball in overtime games. Louisville would pull away from Cuse in the second half and win 76-66
Louisville would win its first Big East Tournament Championship to go along with the first regular season title they had already claimed. They would do this in what most believed the toughest year since the Big East’s inception. The Big East would have 9 teams ranked in the polls at one time during the regular season, and four teams were ranked in the top 10 when the Big East Tourney started. This included the #2 and #3 teams. Rick Pitino would say of his teams accomplishment “These guys have bought into total team.” “We did it in the toughest year in the history of the Big East to sweep both. I’m gushing with pride.”
This game would put a bow on a magical season for the Cardinals. They would sweep the Big East in only their 4th season in the league, and would finish the season at 28-5 with the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. All of this made this game an easy choice for the top 5 in my countdown.