Looking At The Big East: Louisville

Tuesday’s Big East Media Day began with the release of the media’s preseason projections. WVU overwhelmingly took the top spot, receiving 21 of the 24 first place votes. But with the Mountaineers coming in as the favorite, what can be expected from the rest of the league?

Louisville will be one school looking to make a dramatic improvement over last season. The Cardinals will go into their 2011 season ranked 7th in the Big East, just ahead of Rutgers in the 8th and final spot. Second year head coach Charlie Strong believes this is just a stepping stone.

“We have to get back to the top of this league,” says Strong. “Last year we were preseason ranked 8th, this year we are 7th. We are one slot up, so we are going to continue to move up, and then we have a chance.”

Strong, though only in his second year as a head coach, has plenty of experience on his belt. Last year’s Big East Coach of the Year went to Louisville with two national championships and 20 bowl game appearances. He says Louisville would love to see their team come across that kind of success.

“The fans, they want to be so successful,” says Strong. “They want to see the program be so successful. You look at the recruiting. It’s so easy to get in and out of Louisville. It’s an urban city so we have a lot to offer them.”

The Arkansas native was highly touted for his defensive mind. After joining South Carolina in 1999, he became the first African American coordinator in SEC history. In 2003, Strong went to the University of Florida where he would eventually win two national championships as defensive coordinator.

In 2009, Louisville allowed 26.3 points per game. Under Strong, the Cardinals jumped to third in the conference, giving up only 18.7 points per game. The second year head coach believes such improvement came quicker than expected.

“When I first walked in it was all about confidence,” says Strong. “You have to build confidence in young men. And once you build confidence and you get your program in place, then they start buying into it. That’s what surprised me the most. Usually it takes a year in order to get everyone on the same page. We were able to come in there and get it done so quickly.”

Strong also hopes to see the Big East gain more respect nationally.

“For this league to gain respectability is for at one point, one team to separate themselves,” says Strong. “You look at West Virginia, what they have done over the last few years. Someone said 60 wins in 6 years. They are averaging 10 a year, so what an amazing staff.”

Strong has much higher expectations for his team this year. He believes Louisville can get back to where they were in the early 2000s. However, he knows how tall of an order that will be.

“You just want to see your program get to the top,” says Strong. “And that’s all you ask for. You want to have a chance, but once you get to the top you want to say on top. This is such a competitive league, and you’d like to continue to watch teams develop and get stronger.”

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