CRAWFORD | Louisville moves past ACC loss, heads to NCAA Tournament as No. 2 seed
The University of Louisville returns to the NCAA Tournament for the 42nd time but first time in two years after last year's postseason ban.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Louisville left Brooklyn after losing to Duke in its first game of the ACC Tournament heavy with disappointment. Then Duke beat everyone else it played, too, rolling to the ACC Tournament title with four wins in four days.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, enter the tournament well-rested, and with a nod of respect from the tournament selection committee as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region. The Cards will face Kentucky native Ray Harper's Jacksonville State team, which won the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
The Cards played Harper's teams at Western Kentucky, though the series ended after an incident between WKU players and Montrezl Harrell. Louisville will face Jacksonville State (20-14) on Friday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The winner of that game faces the winner of No. 7 seed Michigan (24-11) and No. 10 Oklahoma State (20-12). The Wolverines, who are coming of a four-game sweep through the Big Ten Conference Tournament after a harrowing skid off their runway while taking off to go to the Big Ten Tournament. It would be a rematch of the 2013 NCAA championship game, and Rick Pitino and Jim Beilein also met in the 2005 Final Four.
But Michigan will have a difficult test in Oklahoma State, which boasts the nation's No. 1 offense, according to Ken Pomeroy's efficiency ratings.
Louisville's last game was an 81-77 loss to Duke on Thursday. It wound up being the closest anyone would come to Duke in the tournament. The Cards came away from that game kicking themselves over missed free throws and missed jumpers against Duke's zone defense.
Now, they get a chance to correct those issues.
Louisville finished the season ranked No. 7 in the Ratings Percentage Index, with a record of 24-8 against a schedule ranked second in the nation.
The Cardinals' athleticism and length make them a difficult matchup. This is the best offensive team Pitino has taken into the postseason in a couple of years, but has struggled to stop teams off the dribble.
Sophomore Donovan Mitchell began the team leader during a stretch when point guard Quentin Snider was out with a hip injury, and remains the Cards' most dangerous player. He's playing in his first NCAA postseason, as are most of the Cards. Only Mangok Mathiang, Quentin Snider and David Levitch remain from a team that was a free-throw away from making the Final Four two seasons ago.
Coach Rick Pitino is hoping that the difficult schedule the Cards have played has prepared them for the tests ahead in the tournament.
Louisville is making its 42nd NCAA Tournament appearance, fifth-best all-time, after sitting out last season as part of self-imposed sanctions the school enacted in response to a scandal involving strippers and prostitutes with recruits and players in the program. Louisville has been to 10 Final Fours. Pitino has been to the Final Four seven times, with two championships.
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