Ranked No. 5 in the AP poll & No. 3 in the USA Today’s coaches’ poll? Check.
29-5, same record as last year when it was the overall No. 1 seed? Check.
Won 14 of its last 16 games? Check.
AAC regular season co-champion? Check.
AAC conference tournament champion? Check.
Only team that’s top 5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency (2nd in defense, 3rd in offense)? Check.
No. 2 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings behind Arizona? Check.
Best chance to win the tournament according to Nate Silver’s projection system (15%)? Check.
And despite the above resume, Louisville is a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, behind teams such as Iowa State (seven losses, No. 23 in Pomeroy), Wisconsin (seven losses, No. 11 in Pomeroy) and Syracuse (losers of five of its past seven, No. 15 in Pomeroy).
Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, only two teams have entered the tournament with a top five ranking in the AP Top 25 and a seed worse than three: the 2005 Louisville Cardinals and this year’s Louisville Cardinals.
Not only were Louisville players, coaches and fans stunned by the seeding, but the large majority of the media were as well.
When the bracket was revealed Sunday evening, Seth Davis blurted out, “Absolute shock,” and continued, “In my 11 years being on the selection show, this is the most surprised I’ve been. We thought they might be a one, they end up a four.”
Both Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas also weighed in to express their surprise.
Vitale professed, “I can’t believe that Louisville, based on an eye test, could be a 4 seed. I thought they deserved so much better, and I thought they should’ve been much higher.”
While Bilas added, “To suggest that Louisville isn’t one of the top 12 teams in the country just boggles the mind. I just don’t understand that. They absolutely are.”
Why did the committee rank the Cardinals so low?
The biggest chink in the Cardinals’ armor was their strength of schedule. Louisville’s overall strength of schedule was ranked as the 80th toughest in the nation, and the AAC competition wasn’t anywhere near the teams from last year’s Big East bunch.
The Cardinals only had four wins over ranked teams, and each one was a victory over an AAC foe. Louisville lost their only two nonconference games against ranked opponents with losses to UNC and Kentucky and were only 4-3 against other ranked AAC squads.
However, as the season came to a close, Louisville began to resemble a No. 1 seed as they vaulted to No. 5 in the rankings, won 14 of their last 16 and cruised through the AAC tournament. They’re one of the hottest teams in the country right now and pass the “eye-test” as a No. 1.
All disrespect from the selection committee aside, Louisville getting a No. 4 in the Midwest is a blessing in disguise and one of the best scenarios that could have occurred in order to help their chances to repeat.
The Cardinals should greatly prefer to be a No. 4 in a sub-region with Wichita State and Duke than the No. 2 seed in Arizona or Florida’s region. The committee hurt Louisville with their numerical draw, but their matchup draw is one of the best for any title contender.
Fans and media pundits began to realize shortly after the notions of disrespect faded away and obligatory bracket analysis was completed that the committee had done the Cardinals a favor.
The Cardinals are now disrespected. The Cardinals are now angry. Rick Pitino now has bulletin board material.
The sentiment among the other coaches in the tournament has been the exact same: Great, now Louisville has a chip on their shoulder. That’s the last thing they needed.