LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- You can look at the University of Louisville men’s basketball team’s position for the 2021 NCAA Tournament and find reasons to chest bump, howl or do a double-take.
Just don’t talk about ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi, bubble teams or seeding around U of L coach Chris Mack.
“I don't care about that stuff,” Mack said Tuesday afternoon. “Where we stand on March 2 is irrelevant … You want to play for something, it’s what you work for all season, and all throughout the season.”
That doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting. Everything about this season is interesting and sometimes perplexing. Several hours after Mack discussed the game the Cardinals were scheduled to play at Virginia Tech Wednesday night, the game was canceled because of issues with the novel coronavirus with the Tech program.
So unless the ACC puts something together quickly, the Cardinals will not play again until Virginia visits the KFC Yum! Center Saturday.
A victory would also be the Cardinals’ second Tier I win this season and likely make them a lock for the NCAA Tournament. They already have 10-team cushion from the 37th and final at-large NCAA spot as projected at BracketMatrix.com.
But … indulge me in this slice of silliness. The Cards currently project as a No. 10 seed at BracketMatrix. With a win against Virginia Saturday or success in the ACC party next week, Louisville can ascend to a No. 9 or No. 8 seed.
You can argue that 8 and 9 seeds are essentially the same teams because they play each other in their opening NCAA games.
Then what happens?
The winner almost certainly gets matched against a No. 1 seed. And, this year, that means you’d have a 75 percent chance of playing your second-round NCAA game against one of the 3 teams that clearly look like the class of college basketball in 2021.
That is where this Louisville team sits a dozen days before Selection Sunday, one final burst away from positioning itself to get a crack at one of the best teams in the country.
It’s interesting sports writer talk. But it’s not a conversation any college basketball coach would pursue on the second day of March.
“We have to worry about the task at hand and not all the shifting sands of teams winning and losing and scoreboard watching,” Mack said.
“Go out and earn it, go out and try to win games against really good teams.”
Louisville will have to earn it the rest of the way without forward/center Malik Williams, who will be out at least several weeks after sustaining another foot injury.
Mack said that he expected U of L guard Josh Nickleberry to be available for the Cards' next game. He also said that even with Williams sidelined, his plan was to continue to find ways for Jae'Lyn Withers to play facing the basket.
“I thought Jae'Lyn really looked comfortable (playing forward, not center) and did some good things,” Mack said.
“So we want to try and keep putting him in that position. Obviously, he still has to change his role a little bit simply because of everything we put in and implemented from day one thinking Malik was gonna be a part of it and thinking he was coming back.
“But at the same time, Jae'Lyn, like any freshman, has progressed as the season has gone on regardless of position. He's done a great job here of late.
“We need him to be a consistent guy for us. Yeah, we're gonna try and do things that have Jae'Lyn away from the basket just as much as we have him around the basket.”
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