NCAA Champion Louisville Cardinals on Cover of This Week’s Sports IllustratedPosted: April 9, 2013
The Louisville Cardinals overcame a devastating injury to reserve guard Kevin Ware in the elite eight, survived a showdown with Wichita State in the national semifinals and rallied from a 12 point deficit to defeat the Michigan Wolverines 82-76 in a national championship game for the ages. The Cardinals’ Luke Hancock, the tournament’s Most Outstanding player, and point guard Peyton Siva appear on the cover of the April 15, 2013, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands Wednesday. This is the fifth time that Louisville basketball has appeared on the SI cover and second week in a row. The victory was their first NCAA basketball title since 1986 and third overall.
Senior writer Luke Winn writes that the key to Louisville’s success was a brotherhood that stood together throughout a tumultuous season. The family atmosphere was the vision of head coach Rick Pitino, who became the first coach to win NCAA titles at two schools on the same day he was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. Winn Writes:
“Pitino’s theme for these Cardinals was humility. A lack of it, he told his players, was the one thing that could doom a team that was coming off a Final Four trip and was ranked No. 2 in most preseason pools.” (PAGE 36)
Humility stayed written on a whiteboard in Louisville’s film room all season and the togetherness of the Cardinals players allowed for Pitino’s theme to remain a constant. The unique brotherhood was displayed on and off the court, from Ware inspiring his teammates to just win and not worry about him to the group text-message thread created by Russ Smith that all 13 Louisville players used to communicate with each other throughout the season.
Winn writes: “And what kind of brotherhood would these Cardinals be if they failed to pick each other up?” (PAGE 40)
With leading scorer Smith struggling from the field, Hancock stepped up and scored 14 straight points to cut Michigan’s lead to one at the half. He finished with 22 points and no turnovers. Hancock also picked his teammates up in the battle against Wichita State, when he scored nine points in the final 6 ½ minutes. Says teammate Tim Henderson: “He’s not afraid to shine in that moment.” (PAGE 40)
Team leader Siva, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the title game’s second half, consistently picked up his teammates throughout the entire season. Winn finds that he was the positive counterbalance to Pitino’s fiery critiques. He says: “Siva serves as a leader-counselor, the one his teammates go to for help on everything from plays to classwork.” (PAGE 40)
While the Cardinals were certainly inspired by Ware and led by Siva, Winn concludes that the 2013 title team belonged to each and every one of Louisville’s brothers.