CRAWFORD | Louisville left out of NCAA Tournament field - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Louisville left out of NCAA Tournament field

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford WDRB photo by Eric Crawford

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A basketball season that began with a bombshell ended with a thud on Selection Sunday. The University of Louisville basketball team missed the cut for the NCAA Tournament.

The Cards were viewed as a bubble team at best heading into the weekend after a 17-point loss to No. 1 ranked and No. 1 overall NCAA Tournament seed on Thursday in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. An upset win by Davidson over Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 Tournament Sunday afternoon helped seal their fate.

The Cards may yet accept a bid to the National Invitation Tournament. That bracket will be announced at 8:30 p.m. on ESPNU. Louisville interim athletic director Vince Tyra said last week that he had completed the paperwork for U of L to compete and host games if it is selected for the NIT.

After Thursday’s ACC Tournament loss, several Louisville players, including seniors Anas Mahmoud and Quentin Snider, would not comment on how they would respond to an NIT bid.

Louisville finished the ACC Tournament with a 20-13 overall record and had an overall Ratings Percentage Index ranking of No. 38 against the No. 15-rated schedule in the nation going into Selection Sunday.

In some ways, it was an admirable effort, behind an interim, first-time head coach who was appointed two days before the start of practice and didn’t have a staff in place for three weeks. Louisville's program was thrown into free-fall by allegations made through a federal investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball. Former coach Rick Pitino and his staff wound up losing their jobs in the fallout of a second scandal to befall the program in five years. Padgett praised the resilience of his team late in the season, but in the end, it came up at least one significant win short of what the tournament selection committee wanted.

“Their head coach that they came here to play for got relieved of his duties three days before practice starts,” Padgett said. “We have to deal -- I'm coaching the team by myself for three weeks. I'm not able to hire assistant coaches for the first month of the season. We have to deal with the distractions of a scandal that happened before most of them were even here. It just kind of goes on and on.

“But the way these guys, for being 18 to 22 years old, have handled it is absolutely remarkable. They deserve a ton of credit for that publicly, because so many times this year they could have just folded up and said, this is not why we came here. They could have felt sorry for themselves. And not one, single time throughout the last four or five months did they do that. And I mean that with all sincerity. It's been the most remarkable thing I've ever seen. Just getting the opportunity to coach these guys day-in and day-out has been the best experience of my basketball career, both as a player and a coach.

The Cardinals were the first Top 40 RPI team from a power conference ever left out of the NCAA Tournament field since the metric went into use in 1981. It also was the first time a 20-win Louisville team was left out of the field since the 1975 Louisville team was left out, but the NCAA field was only 32 teams then.

The two primary reasons the Cards were left out:

1). THE VIRGINIA FIASCO. Up four with 0.9 seconds to play against top-ranked Virginia in the KFC Yum! Center on March 1, the Cards fouled a three-point shooter, then gave up a three-pointer after traveling on the ensuing inbounds pass to lose 67-66. Adding insult to that injury, Davidson salted its victory away with a 58-57 lead over Rhode Island, sending all four of its players to the other end of the court with 0.9 seconds left and lofting a pass downcourt that was deflected harmlessly as the buzzer sounded.

That victory would’ve given Louisville the signature win that it needed. But it wasn’t the only time Louisville fell short this season when it had a chance.

2). LACK OF QUALITY WINS. Louisville had good wins at Florida State and Virginia Tech. The Cardinals swept the Hokies and took two of three from the Seminoles, who both made the field. But Louisville also couldn’t close out an overtime game at Clemson, and lost at home to Seton Hall after leading 71-70 with three minutes to play.

Louisville led by three with 59 seconds to play at Miami, and lost in overtime.

The Cards came close all season – and were better, in some cases, on the road than at home. But they couldn’t get the one win to hang their hat on, even late in the season at home, when they lost by 17 to North Carolina in the KFC Yum! Center. In all, they went 0-11 vs. the RPI Top 50.

Now comes another waiting game – finding out whether the team will play in the NIT, and what its coaching situation will be moving forward.

Tyra continually has said he won’t address that until the season is over. After a disappointing Selection Sunday, that time could be upon him sooner, not later.

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