In my non-college basketball-watching life -- and in my college basketball-watching life most of the time - I'm a senior journalism major at an above-the-line school and the managing editor of my student newspaper. Thanks to said above-the-line school hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, I managed to snag myself a credential, and in the meantime ended up with the best opportunity of my journalistic career to this point: my first assignment for a professional newspaper.
As I always say, "I'm a journalism major. I like making bad career choices." But what can I say? I like the press.
Apparently, so does Rick Pitino.
Matched up with the Louisville Cardinals, the Davidson Wildcats, one-time Cinderella darlings, were making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since Stephen Curry left the sleepy college town in North Carolina for the NBA, and were doing so in Portland, Ore. (Not that you could tell where, what with the NCAA's snooze-worthy, one-size-fits-all court designs that adorn each and every regional site.) And if there's one thing the Wildcats want to do more than anything else, it's run. And run. And run and run and run.
Pitino's patented press would just seem to be enabling what Davidson wanted to do with the ball. But Louisville's athleticism instead allowed it to keep the Wildcats in front of them all afternoon, giving them two fast breaks the whole game. Instead of fueling an attack that many had predicted would cause problems for the Cardinals, the press just served to weaken Davidson's legs and exhaust its guards, which combined to go 2-for-13 in the first half and 5-for-25 in the game.
There was a time when upset felt like it could have been in the air. Coming in, people were picking Louisville out for being susceptible to an upset, especially given its 0-for tournaments each of the last two years. Davidson's upset of Kansas in Kansas City early in the season also gave its supporters hope for a huge upset, but their hopes were slowly deflated, starting with a 9-3 Cardinals run to end the first half, and punctuated by their season's closing moments.
Davidson's futile battle was encapsulated in the final minutes, after it tried to mount a comeback from a double-digit deficit. The foul parade at the end of the game did bring the Wildcats closer to their foes' score, but all it turned out to be was disheartening window dressing, as the final minute seemed to take 20, and reserve forward Clint Mann fouled out and had to watch from the bench for the final seconds as his junior season ended in a loss.
As much as I wanted to see a Red Line Upset for the first time where my favorite team wasn't on the big-money losing end, I couldn't find myself quite rooting for the Wildcats. If it wasn't for the Cardinals' presence in Portland, I'd never have gotten my opportunity for my first professional story. And if Louisville held serve and won, I was going to get the opportunity to write another story. Plus, Davidson's team is largely composed of juniors, including player of the game Jake Cohen and his 24 points and 10 rebounds, so they'll have their opportunity to end their careers on a higher note, or on a win.
Although this game ended in a loss for the Wildcats and The Mid-Majority, thanks to the press, it ended in a win for me.
LOUISVILLE 69, DAVIDSON 62 03/15/2012
DAVIDSON 25-8 (16-2) -- N. Cochran 1-4 6-7 9; J. Kuhlman 1-7 0-3 3; J. Cohen 9-19 6-7 24; C. Czerapowicz 2-7 0-0 6; C. Mann 6-9 1-2 13; D. Brooks 1-7 3-4 5; T. Kalinoski 1-6 0-0 2; T. Droney 0-1 0-0 0; W. Reigel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-60 16-23 62. LOUISVILLE 27-9 (10-8) -- K. Kuric 4-13 5-8 13; C. Behanan 5-9 4-5 14; C. Smith 0-3 4-6 4; P. Siva 7-12 3-4 17; J. Swopshire 1-4 2-2 4; R. Smith 1-7 3-4 6; G. Dieng 2-3 5-7 9; E. Justice 1-1 0-0 2; W. Blackshear 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-52 26-36 69.
Three-point goals: DAV 4-19 (J. Kuhlman 1-3; N. Cochran 1-3; J. Cohen 0-1; D. Brooks 0-1; C. Czerapowicz 2-6; T. Droney 0-1; T. Kalinoski 0-4), UL 1-5 (C. Smith 0-1; K. Kuric 0-3; R. Smith 1-1); Rebounds: DAV 35 (J. Cohen 10), UL 37 (C. Behanan 11); Assists: DAV 12 (J. Kuhlman 3), UL 8 (P. Siva 6); Total Fouls -- DAV 23, UL 19; Fouled Out: DAV-C. Mann; UL-P. Siva.