Four rounds, 16 games, 27 months of voting; it all comes down to this.
It's time for us to finally crown the best Louisville game of the decade.
1. LOUISVILLE BEATS WEST VIRGINIA TO GO TO THE FINAL FOUR (3/6/05)
HOW IT GOT HERE:
Defeated No. 16- 2001 Liberty Bowl (94%-5%)
Defeated No. 9- '03 Bball win over UK (83%-16%)
Defeated No. 5- The '02 football win over FSU (71%-28%)
After dismantling top seed Washington two days prior, it's safe to say that Louisville fans were confident heading into an Elite Eight matchup with seventh-seeded West Virginia. That confidence was shaken quickly as the Mountaineers quickly hit the Cardinals with a barrage of three-pointers and built a 20-point first half lead.
"I've never seen anything like it in my life," Rick Pitino said. "They were falling out of bounds, shooting from half-court and banking them in. You've got to give them all the credit in the world."
Pitino abandoned the zone defense in the second half and Louisville pressed, trapped and clawed its way back into the game.
With leading scorer Francisco Garcia on the bench with five fouls and Taquan Dean suffering from cramps, homegrown Larry O'Bannon took the game over. His driving lay-up with less than a minute to play ultimately sent the game into overtime where the Cardinals were able to hold off an exhausted Mountaineer squad.
The win secured Louisville's first trip to the Final Four since 1986 and made Pitino the only coach to ever lead three different programs to the national semifinals.
When Brandon Jenkins blocked J.D. Collins' shot and Taquan Dean started toward the other end of the floor with the clock ticking down in regulation, I'll always remember thinking in the back of my mind: "I've never felt a feeling like this in my chest...oh my god, am I dying?" It was an amazing, amazing day.
2. No. 5 Louisville blacks out No. 3 West Virginia (11/2/06)
HOW IT GOT HERE:
Defeated No. 15- 2007 Big East tourney victory over West Virginia (Stats unavailale)
Defeated No. 7- The miracle comeback against Tennessee (81%-18%)
Defeated No. 11- '06 stomping of Miami at PJCS
When I'm 177-years-old and my mind is finally starting to go, I will still always remember that the '06 Louisville/West Virginia game was played on Nov. 2. It was a game that was talked about so much, from the moment the Big East schedule was released up until the opening kickoff, that the date should forever be etched into the memory of any Cardinal fan who experienced the Orange Bowl season.
With all due respect to the Final Four run the year before, this was the most alive the city was for a sporting event in the 2000s. You couldn't go anywhere without seeing someone in card wear or having someone tell you about their tailgating plans or their struggle to land tickets. There were "beat West Virginia" spots on both local television and radio. The game was THE sports story of the week at the national level, and every possible detail was scrutinized for the four work days leading up to it.
It was Louisville taking its biggest step yet towards a national championship...in football. It seemed at times that week like the city might burst.
In the biggest game of his Cardinal career, Brian Brohm tossed for 354 yards and a touchdown as Louisville took advantage of several Mountaineer mistakes to notch a 44-34 victory. The crowd, dressed in all black, stormed the field as U of L stood just four victories away from (probably) playing for the national championship.
Perhaps the biggest case for this being the game of the decade is that it seems to be the "where were you" moment brought up the most by Cardinal fans.
Vote or die. No point in beating around the bush.