LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A week ago, there was a cushion of 12-15 teams between the University of Louisville basketball team and a spot on the outside of the NCAA Tournament.

That is not the size of the gap the Cardinals carry into their first home game in 22 days when Notre Dame visits the KFC Yum! Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Here are three Reasons this is a game Louisville better not lose:

1. Bracket Drop

Joe Lunardi’s latest offering at ESPN.com dropped the Cardinals to a No. 10 seed, ahead of only six other at-large teams (in order: Seton Hall; VCU; Indiana; Xavier; Minnesota; Colorado State).

The news is a bit sunnier at BracketMatrix. Louisville is the final consensus No. 9 seed, tucked one spot ahead of North Carolina, the team that flattened the Cards by 45 points Saturday. The Cards suffered monstrous drops in their computer numbers because of that result. They dropped 19 spots in Ken Pomeroy, from No. 32 to No. 51; 18 spots in Bart Torvik (to No. 64); and 31 spots (No. 71) in Erik Haslam’s formula.

You can find coach Chris Mack’s team at No. 53 in the NCAA Net Formula. That’ heartburn territory.

2. Don’t Look Ahead

On second thought, look ahead. No matter what coaches warn, everybody looks ahead on an hourly basis.

When you look at the Cards’ four remaining scheduled regular-season games, one thing is certain:

This is Louisville’s most winnable game.

The Cards are favored by 4 1/2 points against Mike Brey’s team, which, for the record, has won at Duke, Pittsburgh, Miami and Kentucky.

The Irish might be the most improved team in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Three weeks ago, Notre Dame was ranked ranked No 84 by Pomeroy. On Tuesday, the Irish are No. 56.

The Fighting Irish are starting to think they can grind into NCAA Tournament consideration with a thunderous finishing kick.

This will be Notre Dames 12th road game, ninth in the ACC. Nobody in the conference has played more.

“We’ve not had the best of luck with the cancellations of home games,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey told Tom Noie of the South Bend Tribune. “It seems like I keep packing my bag every 48 hours. We are Road Dawgs, and here we go again.”

But Notre Dame at home is a more favorable assignment than Duke on the road Saturday, at Virginia Tech on March 3 or Virginia at home March 6.

A home victory for U of L would not qualify as a Quad I win. A defeat, however, would qualify as Louisville’s first Quad II loss. The Cards are 0-4 in Quad I games and 7-0 in Quad II games.

3. Change the Chatter

When you lose by nearly 50 points, people start speculating what is going with a basketball team.

Yes, it was Louisville’s first game by from a nearly three-week pause created by the novel coronavirus. Yes, it was the first game Malik Williams played this season. Yes, North Carolina is unbeaten in Chapel Hill this season. But Louisville’s 37-point loss to Wisconsin and 45-point loss to the Tar Heels glow like florescent ink on the Cardinals’ resume.

Follow that clunker with a loss to Notre Dame and then a trip to Duke and ...

... skeptics will be eager to fill in the blanks.

Mack said he liked Louisville’s effort in practice Sunday and that he expected another solid effort Tuesday.

“If it’s anything like (Sunday) then we’re going to get a whole lot better,” he said. “Now, if that’s good enough to beat Notre Dame, I don’t know.”

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