Do the Louisville Cardinals Deserve a Number One Seed In The NCAA Tourney?

jonathan staubCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2009

The Louisville Cardinals, not the Pitt Panthers or UConn Huskies, are the Big East regular season champions.

By defeating West Virginia 62-59, they improved to 16-2 in the Big East, one game better than Pitt and UConn who finished 15-3.

They are the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament, and can lay legitimate claim to a top seed in the NCAA tournament with a strong performance in New York.

"Right now we're number one," Head Coach Rick Pitino said of the Cardinals' NCAA seeding. "If we lose once in the Big East [tournament] in the first game we could be two. We're Big East champions and they should honor the Big East champ, especially since we did it on the road. If you're going to pick one Big East team [it should be Louisville]. I'm not lobbying about it nor do I care about it."

If anyone believes that Pitino is not lobbying for a No. 1 seed, then they probably also believe that the BCS crowns a true national champion in football.

Pitino may not care, but he makes a valid point. Pitt and UConn have been ranked in the top five all year. They have also traded spots at No. 1 in the rankings on multiple occasions. Both teams, come Selection Sunday, are likely to receive top seeds in the NCAA tournament, with Pitt being a strong candidate for the No. 1 overall seed.

Louisville, however, is the Big East regular season champion, not Pitt or UConn.

When the rankings come out for this week it is likely that Pitt, UConn, and Louisville will all be ranked in the top five—certainly no worse than the top six.

It is not inconceivable that all three teams could end up with a top seed.

Barring a total collapse—and a couple crazy twists of fate—North Carolina all but locked up a No. 1 seed with their victory over Duke.

This leaves three number one seeds up for grabs.

Pitt is all but assured another one of those top seeds. As the No. 1 team in the RPI, a difficult strength of schedule, and multiple quality wins, they are gaining national recognition as the team to beat.

UConn is likely to receive the third top seed, leaving Louisville, Oklahoma, and Memphis battling for the fourth.

Louisville controls their own fate. If they win the Big East Tourney, there is no way the selection committee will deny them a No. 1 seed.

It is highly likely that Memphis will cruise through their conference tourney. This leaves Oklahoma in a very interesting situation. If they are to win the Big XII Tourney, and Louisville does not win the Big East, then they will get the last No. 1 seed.

Oklahoma has stumbled to the finish, with and without Blake Griffin. This has opened the door for Louisville and Memphis to make a run at the last top seed. This has also turned the Big XII Tourney into a must win for Oklahoma.

No one expected Louisville to win the Big East regular season championship this year. To win it with only two losses was unfathomable.

"I thought if we went 12-6, we would have a really good year," Pitino said.

I think it’s safe to say that Louisville had a really good year then.

After starting slow with losses to Western Kentucky, Minnesota, and UNLV, not to mention a 33-point blowout last month to Notre Dame, Louisville has come on strong.

They are getting hot at the right time, and will be a difficult team to deal with come tournament time.

The Big East regular season did not disappoint. With a chance to send three teams as top seeds to the NCAA Tournament, it is safe to say that the Big East has firmly erased any doubts as to whether or not they are the best conference in the land.

No matter what seed Louisville ends up with, and depending on the draw, I would not be surprised to see Pitt, UConn, and Louisville all reach the Final Four.

If there is a better conference in college basketball then I’d like to see it.