The Year of the Cardinal dominated the Top 10 Sports Stories in Kentuckiana during 2013.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Texas did not connect on a last-minute Hail Mary pass to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on New Year's Eve so I did not have to reshuffle my list of the Top 10 Kentuckiana Sports Stories in 2013.
I've got my list – and it reads like the Year of the Cardinal.
I'm certain you have your nominees and reasons to shuffle this ranking. Please do – and then please share.
Happy 2014. Thanks for being faithful readers of WDRB.com. More great things on the way.
10. Male football defeats St. Xavier and Trinity – twice. The public schools have spent year after year after year having their lips bloodied by the Catholic powers. The Bulldogs showed it didn't have to be that way. Male wasn't able to finish the job and win a state title, but those are four wins their players will remember forever -- while giving motivation to other public school programs.
9. Kentucky announces a $110 million renovation to Commonwealth Stadium. The results on the field were not immediate for Wildcats' new coach Mark Stoops, but the administration provided more resources to change that by pushing forward on spending major SEC-type dollars that will make their stadium, locker room and recruiting lounge sparkle.
8. Western Kentucky's football team beats Kentucky in back-to-back seasons. It was only about 20 minutes ago that WKU had lost 26 straight. Not any more. WKU proved its 2012 win in Commonwealth Stadium was no fluke by handling the Wildcats in Nashville, 36-26, the first step in an 8-4 season under Bobby Petrino.
7. Indiana basketball players Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller go 2-4 in the NBA Draft. The Hoosiers had not had a player taken in the draft since 2008. Oladipo (second to the Magic) and Zeller (fourth to the Bobcats) changed that, providing temporary balm to IU's stinging Sweet Sixteen NCAA Tournament loss to Syracuse.
6. Louisville and Indiana make the College World Series. These trips to Omaha are becoming common here. The Cardinals handled No. 2 Vanderbilt to make their second trip to the CWS since 2007. They were joined in Omaha by the Hoosiers, who showed up for the first time after knocking out Jameis Winston and Florida State. The teams met in Omaha – and IU won 2-0.
5. The Louisville women upset Baylor and finish national runners-up.Purdue. Baylor. Tennessee. California. It didn't matter which team you put in front of Jeff Walz's determined team – until they got to powerful Connecticut in the national championship game. It's fair to call their Sweet Sixteen upset of Baylor and towering Brittney Griner the upset of the year in college sports.
4. Rick Pitino is inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The folks in Springfield, Mass., finally acknowledged what basketball fans in this area have known years. Pitino is one of the best coaches the game has seen, the only guy to win national titles at two Division I programs. He could win more.
3. Orb delivers Kentucky Derby win for Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. The good guy finally won the race that he had been chasing for years and years – his Kentucky Derby. He thought he would win in 1989 with Easy Goer. He thought there would be others. But Orb finally got McGaughey to the winner's circle with a powerful stretch run at Churchill Downs. For a guy who grew up in Lexington and trained in Louisville, it was everything he imagined.
2. Louisville wins two football bowl games in one calendar year. This is the reason Charlie Strong is the hot, hot, hot name in college football. His program opened 2013 by embarrassing Florida in the Sugar Bowl and then closed it by doing the same thing to Miami (Florida) in the Russell Athletic Bowl. We won't see two bowl wins like that in the same year again.
1. Louisville wins the NCAA men's basketball championship. In February the wise guys were saying it was a wide-open season in college basketball with perhaps a dozen teams that could win the title. In March and April, Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan and friends showed that it wasn't wide open at all. The Cards won their final 16 games and put the exclamation point on the school's third NCAA title by dispatching Michigan, 82-76, for the title in the Georgia Dome.
Delivering for their injured teammate Kevin Ware made the victory even sweeter for the Cards. The horrific compound fracture that Ware suffered to his right leg against Duke motivated Ware's teammates. It also made Ware a national celebrity for dealing with such cruel news with poise and grace.