The Big East was great for Louisville. It was a tide that raised all ships, and ended up carrying the school all the way to the ACC.
It gave Louisville BCS berths and epic conference tournaments in Madison Square Garden, all on a national stage.
And it gave Louisville a basketball series with Notre Dame.
The Cardinals and the Irish weren't long-time rivals when Louisville joined the Big East in 2005, but it didn't take long for a rivalry to ignite.
It's fitting, too, that the first meeting between Notre Dame and Louisville as conference mates in 2006 went to overtime at Freedom Hall. Louisville won, 89-86, after Taquan Dean sent the game to an extra period with a late 3-pointer. He scored 20 in the game, while David Padgett poured in 24.
Even though it wasn't that long ago, there's something wonderfully nostalgic about Louisville's time in the Big East. Notre Dame is far from the only highlight, but games against them have just meant a little more in recent years. They've lasted for more minutes, too.
A lot more minutes.
It's not like games between these two schools just happen frequently. Most of Louisville's games against Notre Dame have been memorable in their own way for one reason or another. There's Kyle Kuric's dunk over Scott Martin in 2011, the game that would never end in 2013, any of Louisville's Big East Tournament victories at the Garden, etc.
Over the past five seasons, Louisville has played eight games against Notre Dame and gone to overtime in five of them. Notre Dame will never be Louisville's primary rival, but it's hard to find an opponent that has consistently made for better basketball than the Irish.
Here's an overview of the recent meetings between the two:
2009-10: Feb. 17 at LOU — W, 91-89 2OT
2010-11: Feb. 9 at ND — L, 89-79 OT
2010-11: March 11 at Big East — W, 83-77 OT
2011-12: Jan. 7 at LOU — L, 67-65 2OT
2011-12: March 9 at Big East — W, 64-50
2012-13: Feb. 9 at ND — L, 104-101 5OT
2012-13: March 9 at LOU — W, 73-57
2012-13: March 15 at Big East — W, 69-57
Now, Louisville and Notre Dame are set to meet again, and most things will be similar. The two are still in college basketball's best conference, they're both ranked teams, they're still coached by Rick Pitino and Mike Brey.
Pitino mentioned in his ACC teleconference on Monday that many of the challenges that Louisville will face against Notre Dame on the court will be the same, too. As Pitino said, Notre Dame can still shoot, cut and pass as dangerously as ever.
Wednesday's meeting in Louisville will restart a series that should instantly become one of the ACC's marquee games every season. As usual, there's a meaningful backdrop to what should be another intense matchup.
Louisville is still getting used to life without Chris Jones, but the early returns have been increasingly promising, regardless of opponent. Notre Dame is coming off of a loss to Syracuse, but is one game up on Louisville for third place in the ACC heading into the game.
Sans Chris Jones, that paragraph could have been written back before the Big East fell apart.
As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.