LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- We're still a week away from filling out brackets, but that doesn't mean the notebooks aren't filling up. Time to pull together some loose threads before one of the best weeks of the sports season heats up in earnest . . .
-- The University of Louisville is without question playing for a No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament this week, but it has little margin for error if it wants to lock down a No. 1 -- most likely in the South Regional in Arlington, Texas, with an early site game close to home, probably Rupp Arena in Lexington. U of L is neck-and-neck with Georgetown for a No. 1 seed and whichever team has the better Big East Tournament likely will emerge with it. Not only that, but ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi says U of L could be the No. 1 overall seed if others fall by the wayside.
"Duke, if they win ACC, Indiana if they win the Big Ten, or maybe Louisville if they win the Big East Tourney could eclipse Gonzaga," Lunardi said Monday night on ESPN's SportsCenter.
-- Lunardi went on to point out, however, that the overall No. 1 seed, "means nothing."
Gonzaga will be No. 1 in the West. Nobody is taking that away. And this is why Indiana will be the No. 1 seed in the Midwest: The Big Ten Conference will get a No. 1 seed, and the only two teams who could conceivably steal it are teams the Hoosiers swept during the regular season -- Michigan and Michigan State.
Indiana would appear to be comfortably slated for the No. 1 seed in Indianapolis. Though U of L's computer rankings are better than IU's, it seems unlikely that the Cardinals could unseat IU from Lucas Oil Stadium. More likely, as Lunardi has penciled in, the Cardinals would be the top seed in Dallas, playing early-round games in Lexington.
-- A couple of e-mailers this morning wondered about the possibility of a U of L-UK rematch right off the bat if UK is slated for a play-in game. That's not likely. If U of L is a No. 1 seed and gets to play in Lexington, UK won't be sent there. And having met during the regular season, I wouldn't expect to see U of L playing UK or WKU early on.
-- That doesn't mean the national media won't still pit the programs against each other. Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports last week contrasted the Senior Days at the two schools, and USA Today published a piece on one-and-dones, couching it as a "debate" over one-and-dones. Pitino was asked by the paper if he'd want to coach a team with at least three one-and-done players. Then the paper took his comments to Calipari asking for a response.
Neither coach spoke specifically about the other, responding only to questions asked. Yet the comments were then packaged as a "debate."
-- Let's not get too far ahead of things with NCAA tourney talk. Let's take a look at conference tournament history a little bit. Rick Pitino has a career 42-13 record in conference tournaments (11-7 in the Big East, 8-2 in C-USA, 17-1 in the SEC, 4-1 in the North Atlantic and 2-2 in the ECAC North). Pitino has won 10 conference tournament titles, including two in the Big East.
-- U of L is 27-26 all time at Madison Square Garden, but has won five straight there and seven of their last eight.
-- The Cardinals have won nine of their past 11 Big East Conference tourney games.
-- Over the past nine years, U of L is 44-18 in March. Pitino has a career collegiate record of 112-40 in March. In the past nine seasons, U of L is 63-20 in February and March, a winning percentage of .759.
-- Russ Smith of U of L finished the regular season atop Ken Pomeroy's statistical Player of the Year standings. Pomeroy in 2010 attempted to provide a pure statistical measure, suing a combination of a player's offensive rating and possessions used, and on defense using a method of calculating "stops responsible for." In Pomeroy's explanation, then ranking is "a standalone honor designed to identify the most valuable player in the game, free of reputation, future potential, or amount of times the player appears on Big Monday. I'll track the candidates every week until tourney time, and then we'll have a season-ending awards ceremony two days after the title game."
Smith stands at No. 1 entering the postseason, followed by Cody Zeller of IU, Trey Burke of Michigan, Mason Plumlee of Duke and Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga. The second five are Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Otto Porter (Georgetown), Victor Oladipo (Indiana) and Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State).
-- UK enters the SEC Tournament at No. 50 in the RPI, with two wins over Top 50 opponents. But the Wildcats figure to be sitting in comfortable NCAA Tournament position if they can gather at least one victory. UK still ranks No. 37 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings and at No. 27 in Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings.
Among teams on the bubble, Middle Tennessee has no wins against the RPI Top 50, Ole Miss has just one win against the Top 50 (and lost to UK at home) and Tennessee, which beat UK by 30 in Knoxville, has four wins over the Top 50.
-- Joe Lunardi includes UK in his "Last Four In," in his most recent Bracketology, along with Boise State, Virginia and LaSalle.
-- The struggles of this year's No. 1 teams were well-documented. It's worth remembering, with team's ranked No. 1 in the nation, John Calipari has compiled a career record of 63-8.
-- Since 1992, UK is 105-27 in postseason play. Calipari's overall NCAA Tournament record is 36-13. Because of NCAA sanctions, however, his official March Madness record is 26-11.
-- UK has won 11 of the past 19 SEC Tournament championships. John Calipari has won 10 conference tournament championships.
-- Before losing to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament championship last season, Calipari had won six conference tourney titles in a row. Calipari is 42-10 all-time in conference tournaments and has won 21 of his last 22 conference tournament games.
-- Despite his success in conference tournaments, Calipari says he's "not a fan" of them. On the SEC coaches teleconference Monday, he elaborated.
"I wish none of us played in the (SEC) tournament," he said. "Let's go on to the next tournament. But, we're in this tournament and now – some years we're playing for a seed. There is an importance to the game. It's not the tournament itself. I have not changed. Other years, it's OK, you've got to get this one to make sure you're in or you may have to get two or you may have to win the tournament. So, there's an importance to it that way, seeding or whatever else, but as far as playing in a tournament at this time – three games in three days – I'm not a big fan."
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