Men’s Big East Notebook 4/3/12

Cardinals postseason run comes to an end

Kentucky has been the most talented team in the country, and it would’ve taken a near-perfect game from its opponent to upset them. Louisville (30-10, 10-8 Big East) was not perfect against Kentucky, but the Cardinals were able to keep it close in a 69-61 loss on Saturday.

Kentucky shot 57 percent from the floor, which normally results in the Wildcats winning by double figures. However, Louisville forced 14 turnovers and corralled 16 offensive rebounds, scoring 27 points off turnovers and on second-chance points combined. Without those two statistics, Louisville may not have been close late in the game.

The Big East Tournament champions were not known to shoot at a high percentage all season, but they were able to attempt 20 more shots than Kentucky on Saturday. The Cardinals shot just 35 percent from the floor as their season came to an end.

Louisville suffered a multitude of injuries throughout the season, yielding some inconsistency. The Cardinals were as healthy as they were all season heading into postseason play. Louisville won eight straight until their loss in the national semifinals.

Rick Pitino will be in great shape to contend for the top spot in the Big East next season. The Cardinals lose Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith to graduation. It will be difficult to replace their scoring, but Louisville may be more consistent next year.

Louisville returns Big East Tournament MVP Peyton Siva and West Regional MVP Chane Behanan next season. Include Gorgui Dieng, the Big East’s leader in blocks this season, and uber-talented freshman Wayne Blackshear, and the Cardinals may find themselves back in the Final Four.

Notre Dame, Cincinnati Expect to Battle Louisville for Big East Title

A lot of people thought Notre Dame would finish near the bottom of the Big East standings when preseason All-Big East selection Tim Abromaitis suffered a torn ACL in November. The Fighting Irish were able to bounce back and finish third in the conference standings.

Expectations for Mike Brey’s club will be to replicate that finish in the Big East next season. Second team All-Big East selection Jack Cooley will return in the middle. Cooley finished first in the conference in field goal percentage, shooting 63 percent from the floor. If he continues to improve, Cooley could put up double-double averages.

Notre Dame also returns a backcourt of budding stars. Big East All-Rookie team selection Jerian Grant returns with the look of a player that can rank in the top ten in scoring. Sophomore Eric Atkins averaged the fourth-most minutes in the conference last season and will be a premier point guard.

The Fighting Irish will ask the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility for Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin. If the NCAA complies, the Irish could start the season as a top-five team in the nation.

Cincinnati will lose Yancy Gates and Dion Dixon from a team that went to the Sweet 16, but the Bearcats will return four of their top six scorers.

Mick Cronin’s group will be led by leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick. The second team All-Big East selection should be a preseason first team All-Big East selection and could be near the top of the league in scoring. Cashmere Wright returns to run the point and if the Bearcats can get some post presence, Cincinnati should contend for the league title.

Player of the Week

Gorgui Dieng, sophomore center, Louisville, #10

Seven points, 12 rebounds, four blocks

Dieng had the toughest task of any Louisville player in its match-up with Kentucky. Anthony Davis had the kind of game a national player of the year is supposed to have on the big stage, but Dieng played admirably against Davis. The Senegal native had eight offensive rebounds for a Cardinal team that shot just 35 percent from the floor, keeping the Cardinals in the game.

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