Now, Rick Pitino and the 12th-ranked Cardinals await Selection Sunday to see who they'll face in the NCAA Tournament next week. That seemed a remote prospect just one month ago when Louisville was 16-8 and 6-4 in the Big East. But back-to-back February road wins over Top 25 opponents has U of L squarely in the mix for a high seed come Sunday.
"I think we're all going to be very excited Sunday about being in the NCAA," Pitino said after his team's loss Friday night. "A month ago nobody was making plans to go to the NCAA, so we're very excited."
At 23-9 (the NCAA selection committee will only give the Cardinals credit for 22 wins, excluding the victory over Bellermine), Louisville has some impressive credentials the selection will consider during the seeding process. Among them:
with NCAA experience.
Louisville's weakness, as far as the selection committee will be concerned, is its relatively low Ratings Percentage Index numbers, due primarily to its soft non-conference slate. The Cardinals are ranked just No. 36 according to realtimerpi.com, with the nation's No. 33 strength of schedule.
CBSSportsline.com currently projects Louisville as a No. 4 seed, while ESPN.com dropped the Cardinals from a four to a five-seed after last night's loss to Pittsburgh. ESPN has the Cardinals slated for the East region; CBS has Louisville headed out West. Possible first round opponents: Davidson, Wright State, Vermont, Holy Cross, Akron, Gonzaga and Drexel.
More important for Pitino than seeding or possible first round opponents will be putting the loss to the Panthers behind his team and getting his players back on track after a poor second half showing against Pittsburgh that was marred with turnovers, poor shooting and soft defense.
"It was a good tournament, we're playing good basketball, but we just ran out of gas," Pitino said. "We are very happy with the season we're having without Juan Palacios and playing four freshmen. We came in a number two seed in the Big East and won six road games. We were hoping to win a championship here (but) we're very happy."
The NCAA selection show will air live on CBS Sunday evening at 6 p.m.