Don't look now, but Louisville is the beast of the East. As in, Big East champion.
The Cards, 25-5 (16-2), won at West Virginia, giving Rick Pitino his first conference championship. Does this represent the best coaching of his career?
You could make the case. Given the Big East is considered one of the two best leagues in America, Louisville's 16-win season is remarkable. If not dominant. Pitt and Connecticut could be top seeds in the NCAA Tournament, yet the Cards finished a game ahead of each in the league standings. I haven't heard anyone mention Louisville as a number one seed. A good showing in the Big East Tournament could change those opinions.
The Cards are red hot, too. Heading into the post season, Louisville has won seven straight, including 17 of their last 19 games. This, after early season losses to Western Kentucky and Minnesota on the road, and at home to UNLV.
UK fans will look at Pitino's Kentucky teams, which won five SEC Tournament titles, four East titles and a National Championship, as the benchmark for the coach's career. During the 1995-96 season, Pitino's Cats were 16-0 in SEC play. Thankfully, UK lost to Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament finals, which ended a 27-game winning streak.
At the time, Pitino argued it was a bad loss, robbing the Cats of another SEC Tournament title. In hindsight, it launched the Big Blue toward its seventh national championship.
This year's U of L team isn't as deep as the '96 Cats, but they play in a deeper conference, which makes Louisville's title run just as impressive.
Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.