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Saturday morning Cardinal news and notes

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The Deskins are all geared up for another memorable stretch run.

I_medium Spread check: Louisville by 13.

I_medium Hard to believe, but Friday was opening day for Louisville baseball, which took down preseason SWAC favorite Alabama State 7-0 in Clearwater. The Cards will face No. 22 Maryland today at 6 p.m. on 93.9 The Ville.

I_medium One year ago yesterday.

He was not lying.

I_medium Louisville is still the No. 7 overall seed according to Chris Dobbertean's latest Bracketology.

I_medium Louisville basketball shoots for program win No. 1,800 on Saturday.

I_medium A reminder that U of L women's hoops is holding a pink out on Sunday for its huge home game against North Carolina.

I_medium Johnathan Motley is awesome, and he's pretty much the reason Baylor is awesome this year.

I_medium The Cardinal softball team rolled over Ohio State 9-0 in five innings on Friday, and then followed that up with a 6-5 triumph over Purdue. U of L is now 6-1.

I_medium Thoroughly enjoy this.

I_medium Miami LB/DE Robert Hicks continues to list Louisville as his leader.

I_medium Dick Vitale -- who you may or may not have heard knows Ryan McMahon -- says McMahon "feels like family."

"I was going crazy the other night watching," Vitale told the Courier-Journal this week. "It was special because you like to see kids do well. And he's more than just a player. He's a friend. ... He's like family almost now."

After the game, Vitale said McMahon sent him "a beautiful text," relaying to Vitale how U of L coach Rick Pitino had told McMahon how proud of him he was and how hard he'd worked to get to where he is now.

It was Vitale, the iconic, ebullient ESPN analyst, who laid the groundwork for McMahon to get there.

As has been recounted many times the past two years since McMahon committed to Louisville as an unheralded senior at Cardinal Mooney High School in Sarasota, Florida, Vitale, a Sarasota resident, used his college coaching connections to advocate for McMahon as a recruit worthy of an NCAA Division I scholarship.

At 6 feet and then only about 150 pounds, McMahon had no D-I offers through the middle of his senior year, despite being one of Florida's best scorers and most dangerous shooters.

Vitale heard about McMahon in part because McMahon's younger brother played lacrosse on a club team coached by Vitale's son-in-law. Vitale decided to come out to a Cardinal Mooney game in December of the 2014-15 season, and McMahon delivered with a big scoring night.

"It just amazed me that he was not being recruited by Division I schools," Vitale said. "It blew my mind - a kid that shoots the ball exceptionally well, is a good athlete, can handle the ball, has good passing ability."

I_medium The Derby Festival game, which will be played on April 15th and feature all four U of L signees, will be broadcast on WDRB this year.

I_medium Gary Parrish says that unrealistic expectations are partly to blame for the relative lack of success at NC State over the last two decades .

But it seems doubtful. Which means NC State will likely end up shopping from a second tier of candidates, and here's what one second-tier candidate told me Thursday: "I wouldn't touch that job. If making four NCAA Tournaments [in six years] gets you fired midseason [in your sixth year], it's not a good job to take if you already have a good job."

That seems to be the consensus in the industry. If you have a good job, don't mess with the NC State job. And that's probably why NC State, last time around, ended up hiring a television analyst who'd been fired from Alabama two years earlier.

Either way, I'll leave you with this ...

Mark Gottfried and Jim Larranaga got hired 17 days apart at NC State and Miami back in 2011. When this season is over, Gottfried will have made four NCAA Tournaments and two Sweet 16s. And he got fired two days after Valentine's Day. Meantime, even if Larranaga makes the NCAA Tournament this season, his first six years at Miami will amount to three NCAA Tournament appearances and, more than likely, two Sweet 16s. And Larranaga has a contract through 2022 that nobody has even thought of buying out. He couldn't be more comfortable in Coral Gables.

Two men.

Two ACC jobs.

Two wildly different sets of expectations.

So keep that in mind as this coaching carousel starts spinning.

NC State isn't happy with anything less than what it wants, and what it wants it hasn't had in more than 25 years. But good luck. Perhaps this time will be different.

I doubt it.

But maybe.

I_medium Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post has a good read on what life on the bubble is like for Jim Larranaga and Miami.

I_medium Yahoo's four college hoops writers list their top coach of the year candidates, and Rick Pitino gets one top five nod.

I_medium I enjoy these fellas.

I_medium Evan Daniels lists 11 teams that could play Cinderella this March.

I_medium Harry Giles is living in the shadow of his former self, but he's now finally starting to see the light.

I_medium The U of L women's swimming and diving team took third place at the ACC Championships.

I_medium Patrick Stevens of The Washington Post wonders why no one is taking Louisville seriously as a national title contender.

The overarching identity of Louisville basketball — well, 21st century Louisville basketball — is obvious enough.

It's Rick Pitino, still prowling the sidelines into his mid-60s. (And did you know his 16 seasons at Louisville matches his combined total of years with Providence, the New York Knicks, Kentucky and the Boston Celtics?)

By extension, the Cardinals' identity is ferocious defense. Annually, it winds up among the most miserly in the land. Usually, it features strength in numbers. Occasionally, there's a charismatic offensive star who can turn a really good team into a true national title contender.

Louisville checks all of those boxes this season, yet the Cardinals aren't quite as popular in the national title discussion as some other programs. Villanova won it last year. Kansas is loaded (again). Kentucky and Duke are both stocked with young talent and included in such conversations by reflex. Gonzaga is undefeated.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals are 21-5, lead the country in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com and own the country's best three-point percentage defense. Their coach has six Sweet 16s, five Elite Eights, two Final Fours and a national title in his last eight trips to the tournament. Louisville understands the formula for postseason success, and this group is equipped to follow it.

I_medium And finally, beat Virginia Tech.