Louisville Cardinals (23-9) vs. Stanford Cardinal (18-12)
When: Thursday, 12:20 p.m.
1. Time to make the donuts. The Cardinals' late-season turnaround is due in large part to the emergence of Louisville's talented freshman class, including center Derrick Caracter. DC, who has footwork that Greg Oden would kill for, has gotten his act together after serving a pair of suspensions this season. Caracter's mother deserves part of the credit for keeping her son focused via the US Mail. Did she send him letters of encouragement? Well wishes from friends and family back home in Jersey? No, she sent him an application for employment at Dunkin' Donuts; a not-so-subtle reminder of what the big fella had to look forward to if this whole student-athlete thing doesn't work out.
2. Bigger boobs: Anna Nicole or Congress? Prominent Louisville alumni include senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chris Dodd (D-CT). But before any Cardinal alumni get too smug, Anna Nicole Smith's putative babydaddy Larry Birkhead also graduated from the 'Ville.
3. Mark it eight, Dude. Rick Pitino is the only coach to take three different schools to the Final Four. But according to Card Chronicle, Pitino's winning ways on the hardwood extends beyond hoops to bowling. After Pitino posted high-game honors at the team's recent ten-pin throwdown, he triumphantly posted the scores on his personal website. Other Cardinals also maintain a presence on the internets. On his MySpace.com page, reserve Cardinal center Terrence Farley states that he is "just lookin to be easy and relax all the time," which belies his fervent game-day hustle. (Apparently Farley's laissez-faire off-court demeanor leads hottie coeds to be his internet friends.) — flubby
1. Dynamic Duo. In everyday life, seven-foot Stanford twins Brook and Robin Lopez are mild-mannered freshmen on the Cardinal's basketball team (some say a bit too mild mannered). But while not hiding behind their secret identities, they enjoy writing and drawing homemade comic books. "They draw their own little comic characters and comic strips," Alex Lopez, the younger of their two older brothers, told the Arizona Daily Wildcat. "I think they both like Batman, and Superman and Flash and all the Justice League type of characters." Alex Lopez, by the way, started for Santa Clara for two years. Deborah Ledford, their mom, was the world's second-fastest female swimmer in the 400-yard individual medley in 1976; and Heriberto Lopez, their dad, played baseball in Cuba.
2. A Knight's Tale. Trent Johnson (Bosie State, '83) has done a serviceable job as Stanford's head coach for the past three seasons (52-39 overall, three straight NCAA Tournament appearances), after having led Nevada-Reno to the NCAA Tourney Sweet 16 in 2004. But the real coaching story on the mid-Peninsula is located about four miles down the road in Atherton, where former Stanford player Kris Weems has coached tiny Menlo School to three straight Peninsula Athletic League titles and a Central Coast Section playoff semifinal appearance. Weems was a junior guard on the 1998 Stanford team that reached the NCAA Final Four. With the smallest enrollment in the league and with his teams usually undersized, Weems has coached the hell out of the Knights, and some say that it wouldn't be surprising to see him in Stanford's top spot one day. Another rumor has Mike Montgomery coming in to take the vacant Santa Clara University head coaching job, and bringing in Weems as his assistant.
3. Cardinal notes. One reason we're glad Stanford got in; the world will now meet the gloriously-named Taj Finger, a 6-foot-8 junior forward from Kisco, N.Y. ... Sophomore guard Drew Shiller was San Mateo County MVP in three sports, football, basketball and baseball, and most thought that his future was as a college quarterback, as he set Peninsula Athletic League passing records for two straight seasons with Burlingame High ... After several incidents including drunken behavior and frolicking in restricted areas during games, the two previous people to wear the Stanford Tree mascot costume, Thomas Leep and Erin Lashnits, were summarily dismissed. There have been no complaints so far regarding the current Tree, John Whipple. The tree mascot, by the way, was chosen by the Stanford Band in 1975 over runners-up the Steaming Manhole and the French Fry. — Rick Chandler.