The big question: How far will Louisville fall in the seeding column having dropped their past two games?
in the NCAA Tournament.
Granted, losing a three-point decision at Georgetown last Saturday and an over-time contest to the Panthers, rated No. 21 in the RPI, isn't the end of the world. But a two-game losing streak heading into the Big Dance isn't usually the stuff the selection committee rewards with favor – or high seeds. Plus, word is the selection committee will give more weight to performance in the conference tournaments this season when assigning seeds. If true, that's sure to knock the Cardinals down one or two rungs on the seed line.
Prior to their last two setbacks, Louisville was projected as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now, though, it's hard to see the Cardinals any higher than a four-seed. In fact, after the loss to Pittsburgh, Rick Pitino predicted as a much.
While there's some speculation that Louisville could fall all the way to a No. 5 seed, a No. 4 seed seems most likely. The Cardinals still have a lot going for them, including a strong RPI, outstanding strength of schedule and, despite the two recent setbacks, a strong finish to the season. Those are all important criteria the selection committee uses in the seeding process.
So how will the NCAA selection committee evaluate Louisville's entire body of work? For one, they'll have to account for the early season injuries to David Padgett and Juan Palacios. Padgett missed 10 games in November and December with a fractured knee cap, while Palacios missed the first nine games with a torn MCL. Louisville lost three games with those two key performers sidelined with injury.
The committee also will take into account Louisville's strong power numbers. Over the course of the season, the Cardinals have built an impressive resume. Consider the following: a No. 13 ranking in the RPI; the fifth-toughest strength of schedule; a second place finish in the Big East Conference regular-season standings; a 5-4 record vs. RPI Top 25 opponents; a 5-2 record against team's ranked No. 26-60 in the RPI; and an 8-2 record in their final 10 games.
Louisville also has several impressive wins on their resume, including road victories at UNLV, Kentucky, No. 19 Marquette and No. 21 Pittsburgh. During a nine-game winning streak in February and March, Louisville strung together strong wins over No. 7 Georgetown, No. 19 Marquette, No. 21 Pittsburgh and No. 23 Notre Dame. The Cards also had a win over bubble team Villanova during that win streak.
And how about Louisville's eight losses? No. 7 Georgetown, No. 15 UConn, No. 21 Pittsburgh, No. 25 BYU, No. 34 Dayton and No. 37 Purdue. That's a pretty strong group with half of their losses this season coming against Top 25 RPI teams. The only losses that reflective poorly on the Cardinals was a 1-point loss to No. 117 Cincinnati and a road loss at No. 110 Seton Hall.
So, what will it be for the Cardinals? A No. 3, 4 or 5 seed? Who will be Louisville's first-round opponent? And where will the Cardinals be headed to play their first-round game?
It's a waiting game now for the Cardinals.