Monday Evening Cardinal News And Notes

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West region MVP, huh? Babies 4 Behanan is stronger than even the biggest B4B believe could have imagined.


Spread check: Kentucky by 8.5.

So we all knew it would be, but this week is already insane. I looked at the clock today thinking it was about 11 a.m. and it was already 1:30. It's almost too much, but I love it.

Also, I save all the Babies 4 Behanan pictured under "B4B," which invariably gets "B for B buh buh buh B, B. B for B buh buh buh B, GO BAYSIDE!" stuck in my head.

The 12% of you that know what I'm talking about love it.

Peyton Siva appeared on the Jim Rome show this afternoon and said about what you'd expect him to say. He talked about how Kentucky was a great team and downplayed the whole rivalry aspect, although admitting that you can't go anywhere right now without hearing about it. He also talked about Russ Smith's affinity for biting his nails, hugs and complimenting his own passes. "He's definitely a different kind of dude, but I love him."

There's no shortage of Pitino/Calipari pieces already floating around out there, but Dan Wetzel's look at how the roles of the two have suddenly been reversed is worth a gander.

And then we get to this week, Kentucky still the tournament's heavy favorite, Louisville the closest thing to a surprise in the Final Four. So they're trying to perform the other's old act.

Calipari: "Don't worry about Louisville ... Don't worry about them. Let's just worry about us. That's what I'm trying to get across to our fans. I'm just worried about us playing at our best. If that's not good enough, it's been a heck of a season."

Pitino: "There will be people at Kentucky that will have a nervous breakdown if they lose to us. You've got to watch. They've got to put the fences up on bridges. There will be people consumed by Louisville."

Oh, Pitino has to love this script change. For once he's the underdog. For once he's the guy playing with house money, taking a Louisville team few saw coming a month ago to a Final Four that has his fan base elated. Pitino said, and will continue to say, plenty of calm, complimentary words about UK, but he couldn't (and likely can't) resist throwing in some thinly-veiled shots.

The pressure on John Calipari to win his first national title was already immense. Now it's off the charts.

Though he would never acknowledge it publicly, Calipari understands this is a pass-fail year. He's got the future NBA No. 1 overall draft pick in Anthony Davis and probably the No. 2 pick in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. His entire rotation, save perhaps freshman Kyle Wiltjer, will enter the draft in the next couple weeks and he'll start all over again next fall with another group of elite one-and-doners.

As long as Calipari coaches, he'll never have a bad team. But this is THE team, and he knows it. He's known it, in fact, from the moment he signed this recruiting class built around a once-a-decade talent like Davis. And if Louisville ends it - if Pitino ends it - it would be the most devastating moment of his coaching career.

Gary Parrish adds to that. But that's impossible.

And the truth is that, on some level, this matchup that is a sportswriter's dream has to be Calipari's worst nightmare.

Think about it.

The only thing worse than Calipari losing in the Final Four with this roster would be Calipari losing to Pitino's Cardinals in the Final Four with this roster. It would crush the Big Blue Nation more than Christian Laettner's buzzer-beater in the 1992 East Regional final and sink Calipari worse than Mario Chalmers' buzzer-beater in the 2008 national title game.

Kentucky fans might really never get over it.

Calipari almost certainly wouldn't.

The front of CBSSports.com:

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Hmm.

If you haven't already checked it out yet, Luke Winn's feature from Saturday night is the best Russ-centric piece yet.

The scrawny, maddening star of Louisville's journey to the Final Four has a nail-biting problem. It's just one of the many Russ Smith habits that drive Louisville coach Rick Pitino up the wall, but it's one that the coach took extreme measures to curtail. Earlier this season he asked trainer Fred Hina to purchase a product that typically prevents babies from sucking their thumbs - it's called Thum - and paint it on Smith's nails for certain practices, so he'd be less distracted during his coach's lectures. "He's always yelling, ‘Russ! Get your fingers out of your mouth!'" said Smith. "But I can't help it sometimes, and the taste is so nasty - like oil and hot peppers - that it stays in my mouth for 10 minutes."

Smith told this story as if it were nothing out of the ordinary; in the same manner, he explained that he was up until 2 a.m. on the night before the Cardinals' Elite Eight game against Florida, "doing push ups and listening to music" while his roommate, center Gorgui Dieng, tried to sleep. This is because nothing the wiry, 6-foot guard from Briarwood, N.Y., does is ordinary: He overflows with so much nervous energy that Pitino likes to say Smith makes coffee nervous.

...

Pitino is accustomed to Russ-diculousness. He met Smith when he was a Brooklyn seventh-grader attending a Louisville summer camp, and offered him a scholarship as a marginally recruited prep schooler. He took a gamble on a fellow New Yorker, knowing that coaching Smith would not be easy, but that he might develop into an asset in a pressure system. Because Smith has developed - to a degree - Pitino has tolerated the absurdities. Like the day in practice this season when he was alternating between shouting at Smith and sending him to the treadmill as punishment. "He was just very unhappy," Smith said. "It got to the point where he was in my face yelling, and I was like, ‘Alright, coach, alright coach. What I could really use now is a hug.'

"And everyone was just like, ‘What?' He looked at me with a shocked face, and so I just gave him a hug and walked away. And he didn't yell at me for the rest of practice."

When Louisville goes to the Final Four, Earl Clark WILL celebrate by playing a fake purple guitar.

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Jeff Passan wins the award for best first line in the history of journalism.

Crazy-ass Russ Smith.

The Final Four is stacked with premier programs, but that doesn't mean one isn't a giant favorite.

No Karl Hess, Jim Burr or Tim Higgins this weekend in New Orleans. Your Final 4 officials (via a Jeff Goodman tweet): Adams, Ayers, DeRosa, Eades, Harris, Jones, Luckie, Shows, Stuart, Whitehead.

If you haven't heard of them, it's a good sign.

I always wondered why Melanie Griffith completely disappeared from movies. Just saw some pictures of her and I no longer wonder. It hit me pretty hard because her flashing the camera in Nobody's Fool was one of the defining moments of my adolescence.

The Louisville softball team rallied late on Sunday to beat Pitt 2-1 and move to 27-0 on the season. That's insane.

Final Four T-shirt line at JD Becker today:

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Kentucky has seen it season ended in each of the past two years by the Big East Tournament champion. If only 2012 champ DePaul had made it to the Final Four.

Lots of people have requested a "where are we watching" post for the game on Saturday, so if you're an out-of-towner organizing a gathering let me know where (MikeRuth5@aol.com) and I'll help spread the word.

Rick Pitino is in the zone.

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Kentucky will win a Cinderella-less Final Four.

Love this poster from BigTimeYurts.com:

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Seeing Saturday's Dream Game is going to cost you.

And finally, beat Kentucky.

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