It seems as if ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi was right all along. Louisville this season has played like nothing more than a bubble team.
Throughout the season, Lunardi went back and forth on his decision to insert Louisville in the NCAA tournament. After defeating UConn in blowout fashion, the Cardinals could now envision the NCAA Tournament soon. That was before the Cardinals were blown away by St. Johns, 74-55.
Once again, after acquiring marquee wins against quality opponents—Louisville blows it against a team they should have defeated.
Trying to solidify its tournament resume against Syracuse, the Cardinals took on the task of locking down on the heart of Syracuse—Wesley Johnson. Previously the Cardinals were known for letting the opposing teams’ best player get the best of their defense. For example, Kentucky had four players in double-figures, Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds lit the Cardinals up for 36 points, and Mountaineer Devin Ebanks was a force to be reckoned with, scoring 27 points.
However, for Syracuse star Wesley Johnson there was no easy task of filling up the stats sheet. The Louisville defense forced Wesley Johnson to 5-of-20 shooting, and an errant shot that hit nothing but nylon at the end of the game, forcing Syracuse to foul and the Cardinals pulled out the win.
Then Syracuse was the only big win for Louisville, so solidifying their tournament resume was a necessity for the Cardinals. Louisville had the chance against: Georgetown, UConn, Marquette as well as Syracuse—a stretch in which the Cardinals finished (2-2)
The Cardinals stretch was highlighted by their commanding performance over then No. 1 Syracuse. In the last game at Freedom Hall and on senior night you could tell the Cardinals yearned to leave the historical arena with a bang.
The game was highlighted by Kyle Kuric’s astonishing performance. Kuric took on the scoring role after senior guard Jerry Smith went down with an injury. Kuric scored 22 points in the second half, four of which were dunks, along with four three point field goals.
Soon after Louisville swept the conference series of Syracuse, coach Rick Pitino jokingly stated, “Not even Lunardi’s Bracket Buster can keep us out now.”
Unfortunately for Louisville that is not exactly true. After witnessing its title defense end, to the most unlikely opponent in the Bearcats—the Cardinals are now assuming their tournament resume has enough win’s to place them in the NCAA Tournament.
With the lagging UConn Huskies’ staggering down the stretch, that season sweep is showing less importance to the Cardinals resume and the loss to Western Carolina is not benefiting at all either. The Cardinals season sweep of Syracuse and their 11 Big East wins is the only thing left to impress the committee when selection Sunday comes around.
Although the Cardinals lost their first Big East game and did not get that much-needed win in the tournament, they are in. No other team will embrace a season sweep of their conference leader on their resume. In fact, since the Big East was arguably the toughest conference in America—Louisville came out with 11 wins. Not too many teams can say that.
Not to mention, just two years ago Louisville was bounced out of the first round of the Big East tournament. That same Louisville team made it to the elite eight.
So with that in mind, the loss to Cincinnati showed its significance but this Louisville team defiantly has a lot left in the tank. Senior guard Edgar Sosa is not going to allow this Cardinal team to be bounced in the NCAA tournament.
Seeing that Louisville has extended time, Pitino is already developing his boys for that late season run.
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