The 1980 Louisville Cardinals, had one of the best college basketball coaches of all-time in Denny Crum. Who won two national championships at Louisville in the 1980s. Which is big for Louisville, but huge for the state of Kentucky outside of Lexington. Because Kentucky like North Carolina and Indiana, is a huge basketball state in terms of how popular the sport is. And the Kentucky Colonels folding in the ABA and not becoming part of the ABA, major league college basketball is what they had for big time sports in this state.
The Kentucky Wildcats, traditionally one of the top college basketball programs in the country, had a great run in the 1970s winning the national championship in 1978. But in the 1980s, Lexington fell back a little bit as Louisville stepped up and won two national championships. Starting in 1980 and had three future NBA players on it in Darrell Griffith, the star of the team, Rodney McCray, who played for the 1986 Houston Rockets NBA Finals team and Derek Smith, who was a talented swingman in the NBA. Playing both off-guard and small forward, but who had several major leg injuries. And never full filled his potential.
So in 1980 the Cardinals have a great year and get to the Final Four and play a hard-working overachieving Iowa Hawkeyes team coached by Lute Olsen who had great success at Arizona and won a national championship with the Wildcats in 1997, but with the Hawkeyes, he had no big names there. And other than Ronnie Lester, didn’t really have any great players in 1980. But had a team that played very well together and had great chemistry. That went 23-13, but not a great team that overwhelmed anyone. Playing a very talented Cardinals team and gave them a great game in the Final Four.