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Friday, March 27, 2009
Louisville puts on Sweet 16 show

INDIANAPOLIS -- Big East vs. Pacific-10?

Put it this way: If Arizona were in the Big East this year, it would be Seton Hall. At best. The Pirates finished 11th in America's toughest conference. Louisville finished first.

Friday night, Louisville gave the Big East half the Elite Eight field and terminated the Wildcats and the Pac-10 with extreme prejudice. The Cardinals buried them beneath a hail of 3-pointers (14) and laser passes (29 assists). Final score: 103-64, the biggest margin in a Sweet 16 game since 1967. The Cardinals' assist total was third highest in a regional round in tournament history, and the 103 points was a school record in NCAA tournament play.

"When we pass well," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said, "we're a great shooting team."

Just like that, Louisville reasserted itself as the team to beat in this tournament. If the Cardinals shoot the ball like this, everyone else is in trouble.

"When they play like that, they're going to be really difficult to beat," Arizona interim coach Russ Pennell said.

"This is the best I think we've played all season," said Louisville guard Jerry Smith, who had 16 points.

Arizona couldn't have played too much worse. The Wildcats were soft defensively and slow reacting in their zone. They were badly bothered by Louisville's length and athleticism inside. Their guards couldn't do much against Louisville's relentless perimeter.

All things considered, this makes Jim Livengood's job a little easier in the coming days. There has been something of a groundswell of support to keep Pennell on full time, but after this horror show that support will evaporate. Livengood can get back to wooing established head coaches now.

Pennell knows as much. Asked about his uncertain future, he said, "It's pretty certain."