LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Barring a remarkable string of upsets in conference tournaments, yes, Louisville will play in the 2021 men's NCAA Basketball Tournament.
The Cardinals might be forced into an opening-night game at Indiana or Purdue next Thursday night.
But the projections by the top bracketologists show that even after back-to-back double-figure losses to Virginia and Duke and a short stack of quality wins, Louisville has enough bracket cushion to make the 68-team field when it is announced at 6 p.m. Sunday.
The primary thing that could topple U of L would be at least 5 off-the-grid upset winners in the 8 unfinished conference tournaments still being played in multi-bid leagues.
The Cards likely benefited from the news that Duke withdrew from The Athletic Coast Conference Tournament on Thursday morning, less than 15 minutes after the Blue Devils defeated the Cardinals, 70-56, in Greensboro, North Carolina. According to the report, the Blue Devils were forced to withdraw because of a positive test for the novel coronavirus.
According to the latest brackets shared by Joe Lunardi of ESPN, the BracketMatrix and top forecaster Dave Ommen of Bracketville, the Cards are positioned ahead of 5-to-7 teams at the bottom of the at-large field.
Lunardi is the most bearish on the Cardinals' tournament outlook, playing them 5 spots above the cut line, ahead of Drake, Boise State, Colorado State and Syracuse, his last four teams in the field.
Drake finished its league tournament. Colorado State and Boise State play in the Mountain West. So does Utah State, a team ranked just outside the field by most bracketologists.
The best case scenario for Louisville would be for Mountain West favorite San Diego State to win the league tournament and keep the Mountain West a 1-bid league.
There are seven other multiple-bid leagues still playing conference tournaments. Here is a list of teams capable of stealing a bid from Louisville.
Big 12 -- Kansas State is the only threat to the Cards. Bruce Weber's team upset TCU to improve to 9-19 on Wednesday. The Wildcats play No. 2 Baylor on Thursday. Not happening.
Big Ten -- This league is packed with 8 teams that will make the tournament ahead of Louisville. Michigan State has also climbed ahead of U of L with Lunardi and Ommen.
These are the 3 long-shots that Louisville needs to lose: Indiana, Penn State and Minnesota. According to Bart Torvik's tournament calculator, the odds of one of those 3 winning is 1.7%.
Southeastern: If Louisville fans are looking for teams to root against, these four qualify, in order of importance: Ole Miss, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Georgia.
Ommen lists Ole Miss as his last team out. The Rebels play South Carolina Thursday. Beating the Gamecocks wouldn't carry much juice. But a second-round upset over LSU would.
ACC: With Duke's absence, there are 2 teams Louisville needs to lose:
Syracuse as quickly as possible, like Thursday against Virginia.
Miami, any time in the next 3 days. The Hurricanes would have to win the ACC Tournament to steal a bid.
Big East -- Seton Hall, St. John's, DePaul, Butler and Georgetown are the five bid stealers. Xavier, Chris Mack's former program, helped Mack's current team greatly with a stinging loss to Butler Wednesday.
Torvik put the win probability of one of those five teams winning at Madison Square Garden at 23%.
Pac-12 -- Don't listen to Bill Walton. The conference of champions looks like a conference of chumps, but there are four teams that could steal a bid.
Torvik puts the odds of either Oregon State, Utah, Arizona State or California doing that at 8.8 percent.
American Athletic -- Houston and Wichita State are in. A tournament victory by anybody else in the Cards' former league would be a bad thing.
What are the chances of that happening?
Torvik's formula says 27.5%. Memphis and SMU are the biggest threats.
So the Cardinals have some cushion -- unless things get really crazy.
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