The Cards, winners of five straight, have captured the nation's attention in recent weeks with their impressive play on the court, including wins over nationally-ranked Pittsburgh and Marquette on the road.
Louisville's, 76-69, victory at UConn Sunday on CBS allowed the Cardinals yet another opportunity to show the college basketball world they're for real. With the win over the Huskies, Louisville now has firm command of third place in the Big East. If the Cardinals win their final regular-season game this weekend at home against Seton Hall (they'll be favored to do so), and Pittsburgh loses one of their last two games (at Marquette, West Virginia), Louisville would tie for second place in the conference and earn the No. 2 seed in next month's Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden.
Squarely on the NCAA bubble earlier this month, the question now facing Louisville less than two weeks until "Selection Sunday" no longer is whether or not they'll make the NCAA Tournament. They will. The question now is how high of a seed can the Cardinals (21-8, 11-4) receive?
The current seeding projections are mixed, but one thing is clear: Louisville is hot and moving upward. Though ESPN's Joe Lunardi still has Louisville a No. 7 seed this week in his "Bracketology," the Cardinals are included in ESPN's "Power 16." MSNBC projects Louisville as a No. 4 seed in the South and the Cardinals also rank No. 18 in CBSsportsline.com's Top 25.
Though Louisville is playing great basketball – at exactly the right time – and the Cardinals are moving up in the Ratings Percentage Index, they're still being hurt by low RPI numbers, primarily because of a weak non-conference schedule that ranks No. 148.
for Louisville's outstanding recent play.
Louisville moved up this week to No. 39 according to RealTimeRPI.com. The Cardinals are also No. 39 on Ken Pomeroy's website, but Pomeroy, a noted rankings expert, rates Louisville No. 16 in his college basketball ratings.
"The RPI is not going to mean a whole lot with us because the committee is going to look at our conference record, all the injuries we had at the beginning of the year, and what we've done in February and March," said Rick Pitino, whose team has won 9 of their last 11 games. "We're one of the hotter teams in the country and the RPI is meaningless for us. We've done everything we've had to do to make the tournament."
The Cardinals are also moving up in the two major national polls. Louisville moved up from No. 26 to No. 19 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll and move up four places to No. 16 in the Associated Press poll.
With just one more regular-season game left against Seton Hall before heading to New York for the Big East tournament, the Cardinals have an excellent opportunity to finish with 22 wins – a number few foresaw just one month ago. The Pirates have lost eight of their past ten games and haven't won a Big East road game all season.