Iphonepics041513 278
Reflections of a Season & National Championship

If someone had told me at the start of the 2012-13 season that the Louisville Cardinals would win the Sugar Bowl & the Men’s Basketball National Championship I would have made arrangements to travel to as many events as I possibly could.  Lucky for me, I did that anyway.  Since August 2012 I have personally attended 65 University of Louisville athletic contests, the Cardinals’ record during those events is 64-1  The lone loss was Louisville v. UConn Football, where the Cards lost in Overtime and Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater broke his wrist.  The Cards’ record with me in attendance is uncanny, but it has nothing to do with me.  If anything it just speaks to the level of success that is happening on Floyd Street during the 2012-13 season.  But there have been some weird quirks, several come from behind victories & overtimes have constructed some improbable finishes that when thinking back, actually begin to make me wonder if some magic isn’t truly at work.

For those 65 events I haven’t gotten on a single plane. I’ve driven 11,805 miles specifically for Cardinal Athletics this season. All of that travel hasn’t come without some really great stories; I’ve thrown beads off a New Orleans balcony with Chris Leak, I made Kate Upton laugh in the Georgia Dome, and picked up confetti off two logos in post-game. But it was all for UofL and our fans.  I’ve been to press conferences, squeezed into locker room interview sessions, and probably ruined a perfectly good computer.  I knew this season was going to be special, and for all of the miles, logistics, late nights, and sometimes total exhaustion it has been completely worth it.

A week ago today the University of Louisville won the National Championship.  Around 11:30 p.m. tonight, approximately when the game when final I’m going to be drinking some bourbon and remembering.  Where did this all start? Many of us were born this way, I never had a choice.  My first Cardinal game ever was February 28, 1982, I was 80 days old.  Louisville, of course, won that day against a Hank Raymonds led Marquette team 80-68. Many may question bringing an infant to a basketball game and sitting 3 rows from the Louisville bench, but I think for my parents it was just to get me an early start as a Cardinal.

As a child, I was able to stay up past my bedtime ONLY to watch Louisville Basketball or Football.  I had an old Black & White TV with rabbit ears from my grandfather and on game nights I stayed close to that TV constantly adjusting the antenna as the reception changed.  Downstairs I could hear my parents & their friends watching the game.  As I got older I joined them, Summer would become Fall, Fall would turn to Winter, and Winter came to Spring, Louisville athletics was always there.

I don’t remember Louisville’s 1986 title.  Being 4 years old at the time my conscious memory had not yet formed, I’m sure I was there with my mom & dad on March 31, 1986. I was probably banging a pot & pan given to me by my mother & father.  I envision my 4-year old self going to “town” making reckless noise and having absolutely no understanding of why I was being given permission to do something way out of the ordinary.  Who knew it would be this long?  Who knew that Denny Crum’s reign over College Basketball had reached its final peak that night?

Think of the faces and the moments since 1986. LaBradford Smith, Felton Spencer, Everick Sullivan, Cornelius Holden, James “Boo” Brewer, Dwayne Morton, Greg Minor, Cliff Rozier, DeJuan Wheat, Tick Rogers, Brian Kiser, Alvin Sims, Alex Sanders, Marques Maybin, Reece Gaines, Ellis Myles, Francisco Garcia, Taquan Dean, Larry O’Bannon, David Padgett, Terrence Williams, Earl Clark, Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles…………….I could go on. I am only scratching the surface of Louisville basketball.

I think about all the late nights of early season Tournaments and watching games at midnight (or later) when the Cards would play in Hawai’i or Alaska.  All of the games I’ve been to at Freedom Hall arriving without tickets and finding them out front. Somehow I ended up in the stands on December 20, 2001 against Tennessee with upper level endzone seats, separated with from my dad and our family friend John Thomas, and when Reece Gaines hit his final 3-pointer Freedom Hall was the loudest I had ever heard it. Somehow that sound and excitement transported my body to the lower level.  To this day I have no idea how I left my seat or how I ended up down low but I high-fived Card fans out through the tunnel and into the Concourse.

A few years later, Freedom Hall would host its final Louisville Cardinal game and the noise that I once thought would never be be louder, suddenly was. The Cards annihilated the #1 Syracuse Orange in the final game of the legendary basketball venue. It would be the final chapter of one era of Cardinal Basketball, and usher in the start of another at the sparkling new KFC Yum! Center. Still a championship evaded.

We watched the Iraq invasion in 2003 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center between games of the NCAA Tournament.  In 2004 the Cards were eliminated by Thad Matta’s Xavier and 32 days later my good friend Matt French died in an auto accident.  I watched the 2005 Regional Final in Albuquerque at Matt’s parents house. The Cards didn’t start making their comeback against West Virginia until we moved Matt’s stuffed Cardinal Bird in front of the television. Magic. The next day I took a copy of the Courier-Journal to Matt’s grave, his excitement for Louisville’s 1st Final Four since 1986 would have been through the roof and death wasn’t going to stop me from sharing it with him. Many Spring Breaks ago our families decided on a curious destination……ATLANTA. Matt & I walked the same Peachtree Street that week as I did during this Final Four, the same Peachtree stretch of pavement that I celebrated on early Tuesday morning flooded with Card fans.. The significance of place & memory is not lost on me, before and after the game it was all I could think about.  I’d be lying if the anxiety of the moment didn’t get to me, my heart pounded, my eyes swelled, beating Michigan was more than just a game.

Coming out of the Georgia Dome Tuesday morning a genuine sense of euphoria carried me past the exhaustion of a season.  The Louisville Cardinals had won the National Championship. In Atlanta, Card fans were out in force. The bars & restaurants stayed open, the streets were blocked, even after going to sleep past 5:00 a.m. C-A-R-D-S chants would rouse me from my sleep from the hotel lobby/bar.  I’d raise my head and smile.  THIS IS OUR TIME.

Monday Night in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, the little boy in me that dreamed of playing basketball at the University of Louisville and later the adult that would just settle for a national title rejoiced.  I have no doubt that countless children with good parents stayed up way past their bedtime (hopefully not with black & white televisions with rabbit ear antennas).  From one generation to the next Cardinal Basketball lives on. I often doubted whether or not I would ever see my beloved Louisville Cardinals win a national championship.  That doubt is now replaced by a greater sense of pride that I already held for my school. For all of the games, all of the tickets, all of the late nights, sitting in ring road, all of the cold walks to the car after mid-winter’s night ballgame, this makes it all worthwhile.  It is finally here. We never changed who we are.  We’ve always been Cardinals, we’ve always been this way. And that says more about us than any trophy or banner.

Louisville First, Cards Forever.

Mark Blankenbaker

Conference Scorecard: Final Tally

B1G and Big East measured close in many ways, but the later round performance gives BigEast the nod.  A National Champion doesn’t hurt the cause either. The Big East started 3-5 in the RD of 64, but afterwards racked up a 10-2 record after that (one of the two losses delivered by a member conference when Cuse defeated Marquette).  Most metrics are razor-thin, except score, how so?  When the Big East took their upsets, it was early, and they had wins to offset the damage.  While B1G took upsets later, they had less wins to offset.  Meanwhile, the BigEast kept racking up wins (and upset wins) piling on the final margin.   It’s not perfect, but its equal.

  • Winner: Big East, with B1G as 1a.
  • Biggest Suprise:  Pac12 & A10 finished 3rd & 4th.
  • Biggest disappointment:  Big 12, whoa.

Big East Teams vs. Spots Available - by Round.

  • Bids: 8 for 12%
  • Rd32: 3 for 9% (drop)
  • Rd16: 3 for 19% (surge)
  • Rd8:  3 for 38% (mega surge)
  • Final Four: 2 for 50% (supa-mega-surge)
  • Final Game: 1 for 50%
  • Champion: 1 for 100%

Final Scorecard (points earned per round)

You get points for wins, bonus points for upset wins (uw), and bonus subtraction for upset losses (ul).  That point tally leads us to the most efficient tourney performance.









Conference Score Cards – Raw Totals

  • W = win;  L = loss; W% = winning %
  • UW% = % of wins that were upset wins.;
  • UL% = % of losses were via being upset.
  • Upset = by seed.  Not Vegas.
  • Table below sorted by Win/bid
  • Added Win per Bid:  Shows the value of a conference bid.  If 1 made it, and won 3 rounds – their score is 3.0 (every bid, which in this case is only 1, got 3 wins each).








Results from this past Weekend (Final 4 & Champ Game)



Championship Season Sees Many Records


-The Cards Won 35 Games, breaking the previous high of 33 in 1979-80.
-Louisville finished the season on a 16-game winning streak, 2 shy of the school record of 18.
-Louisville finished ‘The Year of the Thief” with 430 steals, SMASHING the record set last season of 353.

Peyton Siva

-Peyton Siva finishes his career 37th on the All-Time Scoring List with 1215 points.
-Siva finishes #2 All-Time in Career Assists with 677. (LaBradford Smith 87-91 is #1 with 713).
-Peyton Finishes #1 All-Time in Career Steals with 254. Siva broke Darrell Griffith’s previous record of 230.
-Peyton finishes his career 2nd All-Time in Career Games played with 144.  Jeff Hall is #1 All-Time with 145.
-Siva finishes with 113 starts, 10th All-Time.


-Peyton’s 2012-13 season is #1 All-Time in Single Season Assists with 228 (LaBradford Smith 1989-90 season was previously 1st with 226 dimes).
-Siva’s 2012-13 season is #1 All-Time in Single Season Steals with 90.  Peyton broke Russ Smith’s previous record of 87 takes from last season.
-Siva’s 40 Games Played in 2012-13 is #1 All-Time (tied with several)
-Siva played 1247 minutes in 2012-13, 8th Most in a Single Season.

Single NCAA Tournament
-Siva’s 2013 NCAA Tournament ranked 4th All-Time in Assists in a single tournament with 28.  Last season, Peyton set the 3rd highest mark with 31. Phil Bond is #1 in a single NCAA Tournament during 1975′s NCAA’s with 35.
-Peyton’s 14 steals during the 2013 NCAA Tournament is the #2 steal performance in Louisville Basketball history for a single tournament. (Russ had 15, best ever)

Career NCAA Tournament

-Peyton Siva finishes with 63 career assists 2nd most in school history. (Milt Wagner is #1 with 69)
-Siva’s 18 career NCAA Tournament steals places him 4th in Louisville Basketball history for career tournament takes.  Charles Jones is #1 with 24.

Russ Smith

-Russ Smith is currently 35th on the Louisville All-Time Scoring List with 1235 points.
-Smith is currently 10th All-Time in Career Steals with 183.  Peyton Siva is currently #1 with 254.


-Russ Smith finished 2012-13 #1 All-Time with 222 Made Free Throws in a single season. (Wes Unseld’s 177 in 1967-68 was the previous record)
-Russ also shot the most Free Throw Attempts in school history for #1 All-Time with 276. Barely edging out Unseld’s 275 attempts in 1967-68.
-Smith’s 40 Games Played in 2012-13 is #1 All-Time (tied with several)
-Russ Finished with the 2nd Best Scoring Season in Cardinal Basketball History with 748 points. (Darrell Griffith 825 points 1st All-Time)
-Russ made 232 Field Goals in 2012-13, 10th most in school history in a single season. (Griffith 79-80 season with 349 makes is 1st)
-Russ also attempted the 3rd Most Field Goals in School History with 560. (Griffith 79-80, with 631 FGAs is 1st)
-Russ’s 2012-13 is the 8th best Single Season of Steals with 83.  Russ set the single season record last year with 87 takes, before Peyton Siva broke that mark this year with 90.

Single NCAA Tournament

-Russ Smith scored 134 points in the 2013 NCAA Tournament #1 in School History.
-Smith’s 15 steals during the 2013 NCAA Tournament is the #1 steal performance in Louisville Basketball history for a single tournament. (Siva had 14, 2nd best ever)

Career NCAA Tournament 

-Russ Smith has 196 Career Points in the NCAA Tournament, 4th Best in School History (Milt Wagner is #1 with 224).
-Russ has 22 career steals in the NCAA Tournament, 2nd best in school history. Charles Jones is #1 with 24.

Gorgui Dieng

-Gorgui Dieng currently has 851 career points.
-Gorgui has 801 career rebounds, 12 shy to move into the Top 16.
-Gorgui Dieng is #2 in Career Blocks with 267, trailing Pervis Ellison’s 374.


-Dieng’s 2012-13 season was the 5th Best Single Season Block Total in Louisville History. Gorgui set the single season mark last season with 128.

Single NCAA Tournament

-Gorgui tied his 44 rebound effort from a year before in a single NCAA Tournament good for 7th All-Time in UofL history for rebounds.
-Gorgui had 15 blocks during the 2013 NCAA Tournament, 2nd best in school history for a single tournament. Dieng set the single-tournament mark in 2012 with 17.
-Dieng’s 8 steals during the 2013 NCAA Tournament is the 8th best effort during a single tournament in Louisville Basketball history.

Career NCAA Tournament 

-Gorgui Dieng is #1 All-Time in Blocks for a Career in the NCAA Tournament with 34. Gorgui broke Pervis Ellison’s mark of 32.
-Gorgui finished 3rd in UofL History with 90 Career Rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.    Pervis Ellison is #1 with 121 career tournament rebounds.
-Dieng’s 15 career NCAA Tournament steals places him 7th All-time in Cardinal history. Charles Jones is #1 with 24.

Luke Hancock


-Luke’s 40 Games Played in 2012-13 is #1 All-Time (tied with several)

Chane Behanan


-Chane’s 39 Games Played in 2012-13 is #8 All-Time (tied with several)

Career NCAA Tournament

-Benhanan’s 77 rebounds rank 7th All-Time in school history for his Career in NCAA Tournament games. Pervis Ellison is #1 with 121 boards during his career.
-Chane’s 11 Career Steals in the NCAA Tournament are 14th in Louisville Basketball history.

Wayne Blackshear


-Wayne’s 39 Games Played in 2012-13 is #8 All-Time (tied with several)

Single NCAA Tournament 

-Blackshear’s 7 steals during the 2013 NCAA Tournament is the 10th best effort during a single tournament in Louisville Basketball history.

Montrezl Harrell


-Montrezl’s 40 Gamesl Playedl in 2012-13 is #1 All-Timel (tied with several)