TENNESSEE NEXT FOR LOUISVILLE WBB
The Sweet Sixteen is set for the NCAA WBB Tournament.
16 teams on a (at least) two-game win streak strive to keep dancing. It is survive and advance time and beginning Saturday, four #1 seeds, two #2 seeds, four ACC teams and a few underdogs will see who can survive two more games and wind up in Minneapolis for the Final Four.
The Louisville Cardinals are one of the survivors. The Cards have played five of the remaining teams in the tournament, defeating Notre Dame twice, UConn and Michigan once and falling to North Carolina and NC State. Fellow ACC member Miami drew the misfortune of getting South Carolina in the second round and fell to Dawn Staley's bunch , Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech didn't get by their first round foes. A lot of people were surprised by that. But, Kansas and FGCU weren't in the tournament because of cute mascots. They had skills.
The Cards handled Albany without too much trouble to open the tournament and then tangled with Gonzaga two days later, A scrappy bunch, those Bulldogs, but when you have a Van Lith and Kianna Smith, two excellent portal pickups in Hall and Engstler, two competent centers in Dixon and Cochran, instant defense in Robinson and key role players in Ahlana Smith and Verhulst.-- opponents usually fall by the wayside. Sure, Gonzaga had board strength. They beat an impressive Nebraska team. They ran into a better team, though, in Louisville.
After all, Louisville didn't get to 27-4 just on Walz witticisms and snappy uniforms.
I wonder what Tennessee is thinking. There is no one Cardinals player you can key on that'll shut down the entire offense. The Cards defense will take away what an opponent wants to do and, when you can't score, it's hard to win.
About half of the participants in our bracket challenge didn't figure the Vols would get to the Sweet Sixteen -- Oregon was a popular pick to head to Wichita. Someone forgot to tell Belmont that, though, and the Ducks were open season for the Bruins. Those Belmont Bruins gave Tennessee all they wanted in Thompson-Boling Arena before Rocky Top escaped with a 70-67 win.
Former, long-time Louisville assistant and former Eastern Ky, head coach Samantha Williams is in her first year at UT as an assistant. Her knowledge of the Walz system of hoops is pretty strong, but one wonders if anyone can fully understand the true workings of the Cards mad scientist. Knowing personnel is one thing, but knowing which or how many of the game changers on Louisville roster will be hot and take over a game....I doubt even Walz knows that from game to game.
And that's maybe the big key to Louisville's success. Which assassin is going to pull the trigger? No Dana Evans, Asia Durr, Myisha Hines-Allen or Angel McCoughtry on this squad -- but a double-digit contingent that works well together, likes each other, knows how to find the hot hand in a game and hangs their hat on stopping an opponent from putting the ball in the bucket.
The Cards are 2-2 against UT in the Walz era. They've faced Pat Summiit, Holly Warlick and Kellie Harper.
Pat Summitt Memories..
I remember Pat Summit addressing the media when the Vols played the Cards in the 2010-11 season, looking at the media, smiling and saying:
"Y'all sure got a lot of bars in this place. Never seen anything like it."
It was after her Vols beat the Cards 63-50 in front of 22,124 fans in the KFC YUM! Center. Pat was complimentary, gushed about Monique Reid and surmised that a freshman named Shoni Schimmel just might make some big noise for Louisville down the road.
I went to talk with her some more after the presser. She was standing in the hallway that leads to the visitors locker room, just gazing out at the KFC YUM! Center. I asked her about what she thought about Jeff Walz's work at Louisville. It took her a bit to answer, she was weighing her words, but finally told me that he had the potential to be one of the best in the game. She also looked around again and commented what fun it would be to coach in the Cards arena with the kind of environment present that night...all season long.
Will UofL WBB ever draw 22,000 to the KFC YUM! Center again? It's going to take a pretty special opponent to make that happen. NC State? UConn? Baylor or Stanford? Arch rival UK?
Pat left a legacy that is still legendary. The Vols haven' been quite the same since she retired and eventually passed away. Here's hoping their two game tournament comes to an end Saturday.