This Thursday could have been Russ Smith vs Louisville (his former team)


I think we are all finished believing the notion that the selection committee doesn’t look for story-lines when making the brackets. I haven’t even looked at a bracket yet, other than when they show up on TV, because for some reason I usually wait until I fill mine out on Tuesday or Wednesday to even look at them. This could be why I never do well. Anyways, even without looking, I do know that Dayton plays Ohio State, so that is a story right there.

For Louisville, there are plenty of story-lines just in their region. In the first game you have Pitino vs Masiello. Then there is a potential Sweet 16 match-up against Kentucky or Wichita State. Remember who the last team was that beat Wichita? On the bottom half of the bracket there are potential match-ups with Duke or Michigan. So Pitino vs Coach K in a rematch of last year’s Regional Final and of course Michigan would be a rematch of the National Championship.

This post is about the story-line that almost was, and thankfully never happened. Take yourself back 3 years ago. Louisville entered the NCAA Tournament and before you know it, Morehead State hit a buzzer beater and Louisville was out of the NCAA Tournament. As is usually the case in the offseason, a Pitino assistant coach got a head coaching job as Steve Masiello was named head coach at Manhattan. The thing that some people may forget is, he almost took a couple Cardinals with him. One was George Goode. The other? Russ Smith.

Just check out this blog post (transcribed below) from C.L. Brown on the Courier Journal’s website from April 11, 2011.

***Steve Masiello may not be the only staffer Rick Pitino has to replace this offseason. Ralph Willard, who served as director of basketball operations, may opt to retire when his contract expires in June.

***Masiello’s new roster at Manhattan could have a U of L imprint on it. Center/forward George Goode can transfer and play immediately as long as he graduates by the end of the summer and enrolls in a graduate studies course at Manhattan that is not offered at U of L.

Guard Russ Smith, who stumbled through an injury-plagued freshman season and appeared in 17 games, could seek to return home to New York and play for Masiello.

Smith might get lost in the shuffle next season, especially with U of L recruiting former Tennessee commit Kevin Ware. Even if they don’t land Ware, Smith could see limited minutes again next season because of the Cards depth in the backcourt.

Read that again if you need to. RUSS SMITH MIGHT GET LOST IN THE SHUFFLE! That was a real thought, and at the time it did seem true. He scored 38 points his freshman season. Who knew what was about to happen?

So think about that. Obviously, the whole course of everything on the universe would be different. There would be no “Russdiculous” and who knows if we have a National Championship last year. For all we know, Manhattan may have been cutting down the nets! Ok maybe not, but we have no idea how either program would have been with that move. But it is certainly interesting to think that had Russ transferred, we could be looking at Thursday knowing that Russ Smith, just a junior because he would have sat out a year, would be playing against the Louisville Cardinals with revenge on his mind.

The story began with a first round loss, and it ends with a first round loss as Russ would have scored 65 points to make sure that Louisville was eliminated early. I don’t know about you, but I am happy that Russ stuck around. It seems to have worked out.

The “what if” game is fun isn’t it?

Go Cards!


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