NEW ORLEANS — As cliché as it might sound, Louisville’s season is the definition of rollercoaster-like.
The Cardinal began 12-0, moving up to No. 4 in the country in the AP poll. But a 2-5 stretch dropped Louisville out of the poll. That was followed by spurts of 6-0 and 2-4.
Yet, no team has been hotter than Louisville since the calendar turned to March and on Saturday at 5:09 p.m., it will play in its biggest game of the year against its biggest rival – Kentucky.
“It still hasn’t hit me that we are here,” guard Peyton Siva said. “It was tough at mid-season because everyone got hurt. Now everyone is coming together, gaining that confidence and getting healthy at the right time.”
Added guard Chris Smith, “Coach (Rick Pitino) pretty much put a fire under us by telling us that it can be either your legacy of getting knocked out in the first round of each tournament or you can have great success and be remembered.”
The Cardinal (30-9) have done it with defense. After holding opponents to 62 points during the regular season, they’re allowing just 56.3 in the past eight games, all postseason tournament wins.
Prior this latest stretch, senior forward Kyle Kuric said the focus became just about the Big East tournament. This occurred after a 90-59 drubbing by Providence on January 10.
And while it took a bit for the team to see progress, it finally took hold in the conference tournament.
“Once we started winning and playing the way we were, I don’t think anybody thought it was impossible,” Kuric said when asked about the probability of making the Final Four. “After the Providence game, we had a players-only meeting, aired some things out and started focusing on the right things.”