In a contest of two ranked teams, it was Louisville who came to play.
After opening the game on a 17-5 run in the first ten minutes, No. 11 Louisville never looked back as it rolled No. 19 Connecticut 81-48 in a victory that clinched a share of the American Athletic Conference regular season title for the Cardinals.
With Cincinnati clinching a share of the title with their win Saturday against Rutgers, the Cardinals had to do the same, and they did it in emphatic fashion.
Montrezl Harrell finished with a double-double on 20 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Russ Smith only took two shots from the field, but dished out 13 assists and contributed a game-high four steals.
As defending national champions, Louisville (26-5, 15-3) will certainly have a bullseye on their back. After a successful first year in the newly formed AAC, the Cardinals look poised for another deep postseason run.
The experience of Smith and fellow senior Luke Hancock will be beneficial as Louisville enters the tournament with high expectations. Hancock, whose shooting brought the Cardinals back from a double digit deficit against Michigan in the title game, can catch fire at any time. The combination of Smith and Hancock will be key in the Big Dance.
For now, Louisville will enter the AAC conference tournament as the No. 2 seed courtesy of a coin flip that awarded Cincinnati the No. 1 seed. The Cardinals receive a bye and will play the winner of No. 7 seed Rutgers vs. No. 10 seed South Florida. The Cardinals took care of both teams fairly easily in their regular season meetings. If Louisville does indeed get past their first conference tournament match up, Larry Brown and SMU loom in the semifinals.
If all goes well for Louisville, they should reach the AAC title game and have plenty of momentum heading into the NCAA tournament.