Expect an emotional outpouring from the Louisville Cardinal players, coaching staff, and fan base when the Irish visit the KFC Yum! Center this Saturday. As if Jerian Grant's "theft" of their victory at Purcell Pavilion waste enough motivation, Senior Night for Rick Pitino's side also offers the opportunity to clinch the final Big East regular season title and the #1 seed heading in to MSG.
For Mike Brey's troops, the trip to Louisville represents a chance to finish with a 12-6 regular season record and secure the double-bye should Georgetown beat Syracuse Saturday night. The Irish put to bed any notions of being a bubble team with the 2nd half vs. St. Johns, but finding a way to further frustrate the Cardinals would go a long way towards seeding. With such a wide open field, it would be great to see the ND benefit from a little easier path to the Sweet Sixteen.
It is hard to believe the "Sherman Tank Offensive" that surprised the world in the 5OT thriller will be the key to Saturday night's contest, but Irish fans can dare to dream, right? This game looks like another opportunity for Zach Auguste to establish himself as the physical presence, and future star, that could power a very potent front court into March. The Irish won't have Cam Biedscheid Saturday, as he's sitting on a one game suspension for his altercation with Sir'Dominic Pointer at the end of the SJU game.
With all the swirl surrounding the future of the Big East, the Catholic 7, and ND's entry into the ACC, there's a decent chance that Saturday represents ND's final regular season game in the Big East. It seems appropriate that it comes against a rivalry developed during our shared time in the conference. ND and Louisville have produced some classic match-ups that will hopefully follow both in to the ACC in the future.
This is a very interesting game because it represents a barometer for ND. Going in to a very hostile environment against a top 10 team is a phenomenal way to springboard into NYC and beyond. However, even the biggest ND homer has to admit this is going to be an uphill climb.