LOUISVILLE -- The Denny Crum era is over.
Some would argue that it ended several years ago. But a 74-61 loss to UAB Wednesday night officially brought the 30-year coaching career of Crum to a sad end. It was like watching Babe Ruth strike out in his final game. It just isnt the way a Hall of Famer is supposed to go out.
Louisville finishes the season with a 12-19 record. The first round game before a partisan 17,765 at Freedom Hall was the very definition of anti-climatic. The Cards 65-56 victory over Memphis would have made a terrific swan song. But this is March Madness and every team but one, goes home a loser.
Crum was gracious but emotional in a final press conference in front of a packed interview room. He even talked about the deep respect he felt for referees.
This isnt obviously the way we wanted it to end, he said. Weve had a different kind of year, interesting from a lot of perspectives. I really dont think theres a whole lot that needs to be said. I made the decision a long time ago to stay here. In this business, the hardest things to do is stay in one place, but I can honestly tell you I wouldnt change that.
Crum pledged his full support for athletic director Tom Jurich and the Cardinal program. Whatever decision that Tom makes in regards to replacing me, I will support 100 percent. I want nothing but the best for this university and this basketball program. I feel confident that whatever decision Tom makes will be the right one.
Louisville won two national titles in the Eighties (1980 and 1986) but have been quiet as church mice in the past few years. The former assistant to John Wooden at UCLA finished just his third losing season. All of them came after 1990.
The Louisville fans chanted Denny, Denny, Denny for the final minute of the game then stood with the fans from the other C-USA schools to give Crum a standing ovation that lasted for several minutes as he left the court for the last time as coach of the Cardinals. Many of them held hand-held signs such as the one that said: We Want Forget The Father Of Louisville Basketball (ever).
The loss was no fluke. In fact, it was the second time in ten days that UAB had beaten Louisville, both at Freedom Hall and both by double-digits. The Blazers held the Cards to 31 percent shooting, while hitting a blistering 54 percent themselves.
It was emotional there at the end, said UAB coach Murray Bartow. Obviously he is a legend in our profession -- two national championships, six final fours. Its tough to be on the winning side of a game like that. It was incredibly touching that final minute or so.
ADDITIONAL TEAMS MEAN SCHEDULING CHANGES
The league announced the format for next years tournament when the league will expand to from 12 to 14 teams with the addition of TCU and East Carolina. The same format will be followed as this year. The two teams with the worst conference record will not participate in the tournament.
In a related matter, the league announced that East Carolina would be a member of the American Division and TCU will go to the National. The league will maintain its 16-game conference schedule with each school playing every team in its division twice -- home and away, accounting for 12 of the 16 games. The other four games will come from the other division and will be scheduled by the conference office. League officials have the leeway to match up two of those games, with the other two being part of a systematic rotation.
Look for Memphis to continue playing Louisville and Cincinnati every year as part of the TV package.
In the huge media room here at Freedom Hall there are a number of TV sets. At one point Thursday afternoon while Saint Louis was playing Southern Miss none of the sets were tuned to the C-USA game. Instead the SEC and Big Ten tournament games were on the screens. This goes a long way in illustrating the problem that the conference faces.
MEMPHIS MEDIA TURNS OUT
Among the Memphis media representatives here are: WPTYs Greg Gaston, WREGs George Lapides and Glenn Carver, WKNOs Matt Dillon, WMC-790s Ron Martin, Dave Woloshin, and Hank McDowell, the CAs Zack McMillin, and FOX-13s Doc Holliday. It is one of the largest media contingents at this tournament -- maybe the
largest, not counting Louisville.
TIGERS 5-1 AGAINST WEDNESDAY'S WINNERS
Memphis won five out of the six games it played against the C-USA teams that advanced into the second round yesterday. The only loss came to Marquette. Guess who the Tigers play tonight?
RUMOR OF THE DAY
Louisville moves to the Big East to play all sports, leaving C-USA with one less marquee team. "Louisville would think about it for about half a second if the Big East offered," said one observer.
"[Denny] Crum leaves Louisville basketball to one of the great college coaches of the past quarter-century, Rick Pitino, a man who once was Crum's fiercest rival but who is likely to restore the program to the level Crum insists he wants. . . . Pitino almost certainly will be announced as the Cardinals' next coach within the next two weeks." -- Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News
ONE MANS OPINION
By midnight [Thursday], Memphis will be out. Maybe John Calipari sandbagged against the Cardinals here Saturday, but on the off chance that those were the real Tigers committing 24 turnovers and shooting 8 percent from three-point range, the pick is Marquette. Courier-Journal
columnist Pat Forde.
BEATING THE ODDS
In three of the last four C-USA Tournaments, a team has won the championship by claiming four wins in four days. Saint Louis did it in last years tournament, and Charlotte and Marquette did it in 1999 and 1997. Only six teams in NCAA history have achieved this feat, and three are from Conference USA. The other teams in this exclusive group are Arkansas (2000 SEC), UNLV (1997 WAC) and Auburn (1984 SEC).
SCOOTER NAMED TO ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
Memphis guard SCOOTER McFADGON has been named to College Basketball Insiders
All-Freshman Team. RODNEY WHITE also made the team. White is the nations leading freshman scorer (19.6 ppg), while McFadgon is averaging 9.6 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 78 percent from the free throw line.
20001 OCG CONFERENCE USA TOURNAMENT
(All Times Eastern)
Wednesday, March 7th
(6) South Florida 63 (11) DePaul 59
(7) Saint Louis 78 (10) Houston 65
UAB 74 (9) Louisville 64
(5) Marquette 72 (12) Tulane 67
Thursday, March 8th
(3) Charlotte 77 (6) South Florida 74
(2) Southern Miss 63 (7) Saint Louis 54
Game 7, 7 p.m. - (1) Cincinnati 73 UAB 70
Game 8, 9:30 p.m. Marquette vs. (4) Memphis
Friday, March 9th
5:30 p.m. - (2) Southern Miss vs. (3) Charlotte (ESPN Plus)
Game 10, 8 p.m. -1) Cincinnati vs. Game 8 winner (ESPN Plus)
Saturday, March 10th
Game 11, 12 p.m. - Semifinal winners (CBS)