LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville basketball fans won't have far to travel to see their team play in the NCAA Tournament, but the team's road to the Final Four could be plenty treacherous.
The Cardinals were named the tournament's No. 1 overall seed for the second time in their history and second time in four years and will head to the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis if they can navigate through two games in Rupp Arena in Lexington.
U of L opens with the winner of North Carolina A&T and Liberty University, to be played Tuesday in Dayton. The Cards will open play Thursday in Rupp, with the time yet to be announced.
After that, they would face the winner of an 8-9 seed matchup between Missouri and Colorado State.
The Cards beat Mizzou by 23 points in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas in November, a game in which center Gorgui Dieng suffered a broken wrist. Colorado State is the former school of U of L athletic director Tom Jurich, and is coached by a close Jurich friend, Larry Eustachy. The Rams are the nation's No. 1 team in rebound margin, outrebounding opponents by more than 12 per game. They also are among the top 10 teams in not turning the ball over, averaging only 10.9 per contest.
Colton Iverson, a 6-10 senior transfer, leads Colorado State in scoring at 14.7 points per game and ranks sixth nationally in shooting percentage at 60.1 percent.
At the other end of the bracket, Duke is the No. 2 seed in the region and Michigan State, which upended U of L at Lucas Oil Stadium the last time it reached Indianapolis as the No. 1 seed, is seeded No. 3. Saint Louis, inspired after the death of coach Rick Majerus, received the No. 4 seed after winning the Atlantic 10 title and compiling a record of 27-6.
U of L coach Rick Pitino and players weren't available for comment today, but the Midwest bracket immediately received some ominous reviews.
"I don't think there's any question, the Midwest is the toughest region by far," ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said.
"Louisville? Duke? Michigan State?" posed CBS' Seth Davis, "Those are all Final Four teams."
ESPN's Jay Bilas said via Twitter, "Louisville drew the worst possible 4 seed in Saint Louis. The Billikens are MEN and take care of the ball. Tough draw."
Also down in the bracket is Oklahoma State and former Pitino player Travis Ford, as well as an Oregon team that is playing well at the end of the season.
U of L, meanwhile, has been plenty tough itself, and is playing close to home. It has won 10 straight games and has lost only once since Jan. 28 -- a five-overtime setback at Notre Dame. The Cards are 11-5 against teams in the NCAA Tournament field.
And they're getting no shortage of love from the national media. CBS' panel of Seth Davis, Greg Anthony and Doug Gottlieb all picked U of L not only into the Final Four, but to win the title.
They'll play Thursday-Saturday in Lexington. More details to come online, and on TV, in our 10:30 p.m. selection special Sunday night on WDRB-41.