The Louisville Cardinals go from not having many relaxing nights in the Big East, to pretty much having a summer vacation in the middle of the season.
Compared to what the Big East offered the Louisville Cardinals during the 2012-13 season, the American Athletic Conference shouldn’t give Louisville much trouble.
But will that hinder them come Selection Sunday?
In the Big East’s last season, Louisville’s competition consisted of playing Top 25 opponents multiple times a week—this season, that may not occur multiple times in a month.
UConn, Cincinnati and Memphis offer the Cardinals their best competition and only real opportunity to garnish quality wins in conference. However, schools such as SMU, Central Florida, South Florida and Rutgers don’t offer much juice toward a top seed in the NCAA tourney and can really hurt Louisville’s resume if they beat the Cardinals.
Louisville lost three consecutive conference games last season to Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown and four games overall in conference. Those blemishes were swept under the rug when the Cardinals won the Big East title, which helped them secure the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Conference struggles won’t be tolerated this season.
Rick Pitino has to get his men in sync to avoid any conference lapses this season and increase Louisville’s chances of having a high seed.
Crosstown rivals Kentucky offer an opportunity for Louisville to boost its tournament resume. The Wildcats once again boast a young-but-talented roster of freshmen—John Calipari’s squad is assembled with five 5-star recruits and a 4-star recruit.
Defeating the Wildcats in their meeting Dec. 28 would not only give the Cardinals bragging rights in “The Battle for the Bluegrass” rivalry, but it would bedazzle Louisville’s minuscule list of possible quality wins.
Louisville also needs stellar performances away from home. The Cardinals lost three of their five games outside of the KFC Yum! Center (one loss came at the hands of Duke at a neutral site). In a conference with fewer strong opponents, road woes cannot be tolerated.
The Cardinals have a four-game road trip in late December through early January—this is their longest stint away from Louisville all season (unless they make it through their conference tournament). The selection committee will not look past a losing streak from the likes of UCF or Rutgers.
While they do play the Wildcats during that stretch, Louisville cannot have its resume tainted with a slide during that span.
The chance for a No. 1 overall seed in consecutive seasons for the Cardinals is very slim, especially in the AAC, but Louisville can still flirt with the possibility of earning a high seed in the tournament with a nearly flawless regular season, which isn’t far-fetched.