At 26-4, Cards should be No. 1 NCAA seed

Though Kansas, Oklahoma State, Duke and Kentucky faltered late in the season, college basketball's talking heads and prognosticators still project them as No. 1 or 2 seeds in the Big Dance. Yet, Louisville, at 26-4, doesn't even get a mention even though they have the resume to be one of the tournament's top seeds.

Admittedly, I watch a lot of college basketball. In fact, my very understanding girlfriend often says I watch too much. Still, I watch.

I've seen all the Top 10 teams play this season - most more than once - and lately I've seen several of them losing games, a few of them quite often I should add.

That's why I'm puzzled when I hear college basketball's talking heads, guys like Billy Packer, Jay Bilas and Seth Davis, continue to tout teams like Duke, Kansas, Oklahoma State - and even Kentucky - for No. 1 and 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

I'm puzzled because Kansas has dropped 4 of their past 6 games, two of which came to unranked opponents. I'm puzzled because Oklahoma State has lost 3 of their last 4 games, two of those also to unranked foes. I'm puzzled because Duke is 7-5 in their past 12 games. And Kentucky's dropped 2 of the past six games, both to unranked opponents.

Even more puzzling is why Louisville doesn't get mentioned as a possible No. 2 seed, even though they have the resume to be one of the tournament's top-seeded teams.

Behind the leadership of three seniors, Pitino's
squad is 8-1 against the NCAA Tournament field,
3-1 vs. Top 25 ranked teams and 8-1 on the road

I continue to hear that Louisville's out of conference schedule simply doesn't warrant that type of attention or their RPI just isn't strong enough. I continue to believe that kind of talk is pure hog-wash, and everyone knows the RPI has serious flaws.

Answer this for me, if you please.

If Kentucky can be considered a No. 1 seed with an OOC schedule that consisted of Coppin State, Ball State, Georgia State, Tennessee Tech, Morehead State, William and Mary, and Campbell, why shouldn't Louisville? I know the Wildcats played Kansas, North Carolina and Louisville. I also know Louisville played Kentucky, Florida and Stanford.

The difference? The Cardinals beat two of those three NCAA teams, while the Wildcats won just once against tournament caliber competition outside conference play.

In fact, Louisville has beaten three non-conference opponents that will play in the NCAA tournament later this month - Stanford, Florida and Eastern Kentucky. And though they lost, the Cardinals also played Iowa (19-10) and Kentucky tough earlier this season.

So why not Louisville as a top seed? Forget the No. 3 seed website's like have the Cardinals currently projected. Don't waste your time hoping to jump up to a No. 2 seed. Louisville, at 26-4 and Conference USA's regular-season champion, has the resume to see a No. 1 next to their name come Selection Sunday.

Think I'm a homer? You're right, I am. Think I've lost my marbles? No way!

Having finished 14-2 to win Conference USA against the toughest schedule Britton Banowsky could dish out, Louisville had to knock off No. 21 Cincinnati twice, beat No. 18 Charlotte with the championship hanging in the balance, then turned around and beat Depaul, also projected to Dance, on the road just 36 hours after dispatching the 49ers. Not many teams could have done the same.

And if you think winning C-USA is no big deal, you better think again. Why? Conference USA is one of the nation's better conferences, despite the lack of respect it gets around the nation.

So why do I believe C-USA deserves much more respect than it receives nationally? For one, C-USA has three teams ranked in the Top 25. Guess what, only one league, the Big East (5) - has more ranked teams. And Conference USA will send four teams to the Big Dance - Louisville, Cincinnati, Charlotte and Depaul. For the record, the Cardinals were 4-0 against those teams.

Some of the more important factors I've always heard the NCAA selection committee considers when doling out seeds - how team's finish the season, road record, and record vs. the Top 25 - the Cardinals must rank near the top of the list nationally.

Afterall, Louisville is 9-1 in its last ten games and has won 14-of-15 since falling on the road to Houston (18-12) by three without the services of Otis George and Taquan Dean. If you compare how Louisville finished the regular-season against Kansas, Oklahoma State, Duke and Kentucky, you'd realize the Cardinals are playing much better basketball heading into the season's final month. Simply, the Cardinals have been a model of consistency all season, while the Jayhawks, Cowboys, Blue Devils, and Wildcats have faltered - often - down the stretch.

Louisville is as hot - or hotter - than any
team in college basketball. The Cardinals
have won 14 or their last 15 games, and
finished the regular-season by beating
Memphis, Charlotte and Depaul. (AP)

And don't forget these three important facts as we get ever closer to Selection Sunday. Louisville is 8-1 against the 2005 NCAA Tournament field, finished 8-1 on the road this season, including wins at Florida (something Kentucky couldn't do), at No. 21 Cincinnati, at Marquette (with a healthy Travis Diener), at UAB, at Memphis , and at Depaul (NCAA tourney team), and went 3-1 against Top 25 ranked teams, the only loss a controversial 60-58 setback against Kentucky in December.

So now that we've proven Billy Packer, Jay Bilas and Seth Davis don't have a clue, here's who should be the No. 1 and 2 seeds next Sunday.

There's no way Illinois and North Carolina aren't top seeds. Likewise, Louisville and Wake Forest also deserve No. 1 seeds. In order, the top four seeds are Illinois, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Louisville.

The next four - the No. 2 seeds - should look like this, in order, Arizona, Connecticut, Boston College, and Kentucky.

Where's Kansas, Oklahoma State and Duke, you ask? Based on the way those three teams finished the season, I'd say they're fighting for No. 3 seeds with Washington, Gonzaga, and Michigan State.

Will things pan out the way I think they should? Probably not, but hey, you never know. Perhaps the selection committee has more sense than Billy Packer, Jay Bilas and Seth Davis.

At least I hope that's the case. However, I won't be holding my breath.

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