UL SYRACUSE Kenny Payne

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The goal is to be 19-3, not 3-19. The goal is to defeat Georgia Tech every season, not for your first victory in 11 Atlantic Coast Conference games.

On the day after Louisville finally scored in the ACC by dispatching Georgia Tech, 68-58, to end a 10-game losing streak, it's time to look beyond the post-game celebration in the KFC Yum! Center Wednesday night.

The goal at Louisville should always be to win games in the NCAA Tournament, an achievement the Cardinals have failed to register since 2017.

This program did not move to the brutal bottom of all Power Six teams in the nine months that Kenny Payne has been in charge. And it's unreasonable to believe that the Cardinals will be a force in the ACC or NCAA Tournament next season.

Even if Payne scores with another recruit and multiple guys in the portal, this will require at least two classes to get back to the tournament.

There can't be another 3-19 with 9- and 10-game losing streaks. But it's silly to expect a 20-win season in 2024. Getting back to .500 seems like a reasonable expectation. Developing a team that doesn't throw the basketball onto River Road and defends like crazy will be a start.

Joe Lunardi's latest 2023 NCAA Tournament bracket projection at ESPN.com featured 38 teams from the ACC, Southeastern, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big East conferences in the 68-team field.

Of those 38 teams, only a dozen (less than a third) failed to make the tournament last season.

Eight of the 12 had losing records.

Four of the 12 have first-year coaches but only one of those guys (Jerome Tang of Kansas State, a leading candidate for national coach of the year) is in his first season as a head coach.

Three guys — Bob Huggins of West Virginia; Porter Moser of Oklahoma and Tony Bennett, who won a national title at Virginia — have taken teams to the NCAA Final Four.

The average number of games those 12 teams won last season was 18.8. That's a big jump from 3, 4 or 5 or whatever the Cards will finish with this season.

The fewest number of games any of those teams won last season was 11 — by Pitt and North Carolina State. Jeff Capel is in Year 5 at Pitt while Kevin Keatts is six seasons into his run at North Carolina State.

Many have worked the NCAA transfer portal. A few have built the old-fashioned way by developing recruits. There is no proven course.

The idea of a quick fix is a sexy social media or talk radio topic. The landscape of college basketball shows that lifting a program back to relevance takes time. 

Payne has two high school recruits as well as a junior college transfer for next season. Emmanuel Okorafor has shown promise in two weeks since arriving from the NBA Africa Academy. But he and his staff will have to work the portal aggressively and effectively to build a winning backcourt.

They know they have to win the portal. I expect them to do that. The word is that several players with 4- or 5-star are interested in relocating to Louisville. You'll have to stay tuned.

Until then, it's revealing to consider what has happened this season.

Here is a look at the 12 Power Six programs that missed the NCAA Tournament last season that are trending to make the field next month.

Pittsburgh

2022 Record: 11-21

2022 Finish: Panthers lost their last five, including a 20-point stumble against Boston College in the first-round of the ACC Tournament.

2023 Record: 16-7, third place in the ACC with two wins over North Carolina

2023 Lunardi Projection: 11 seed

Coach Pedigree: Year 5 for Jeff Capel would be his first winning season at Pittsburgh.

The Big Moves: Capel scored big in the transfer portal, landing Blake Hinson from Ole Miss; Nelly Cummings from Colgate and Greg Elliott from Marquette.

Clemson

2022 Record: 17-16

2022 Finish: Lost to Virginia Tech in the second round of ACC Tournament.

2023 Record: 18-5 overall, first place in ACC.

2023 Lunardi Projection: No. 8 seed.

Coach Pedigree: Brad Brownell is in his 13th season at Clemson. He has taken the Tigers to three tournament and made one Sweet Sixteen.

The Big Moves: Hunter Tyson, Chase Hunter and P.J. Hall are veterans who have started the last two seasons. Guard Brevin Galloway, a South Carolina native, was the primary add from the portal (Boston College).

North Carolina State

2022 Record: 11-21.

2022 Finish: Lost 11 of their last 12, including a first-round game to Clemson in the ACC Tournament.

2023 Record: 18-5, tied with Miami for fourth in the ACC.

2023 Lunardi Projection: No. 8 seed.

Coach Pedigree: Year Six for Kevin Keatts at NC State, where he made NCAA Tournament in 2018 and lost the first game.

The Big Moves: Sophomore Terquavion Smith has developed from a top recruit into a likely NBA Draft pick. He leads the ACC in scoring. Added center DJ Burns (Winthrop) and guard Jarkel Joiner (Ole Miss) from the portal.

Virginia

2022 Record: 21-14.

2022 Finish: The Cavaliers lost to North Carolina in the second round of the ACC Tournament before winning two games in the NIT.

2023 Record: 17-3.

2023 Lunardi Projection: No. 3

Coach Pedigree: Bennett has a national title and multiple ACC championships on his resume.

The Big Moves: Bennett landed Jayden Gardner (East Carolina) and Armaan Franklin (Indiana) out of the portal before the 2022 season but this is a veteran Virginia team that simply needed more time to mature.

Missouri

2022 Record: 12-21.

2022 Finish: Lost 11 of their last 14 regular-season games and exited in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament against Louisiana State.

2023 Record: 17-5, seventh place in the SEC.

2023 Lunardi Projection: No. 7 seed.

Coach Pedigree: Dennis Gates is in his first season in Columbia and fourth as a head coach. His 2021 Cleveland State team won the Horizon League title before it was beaten in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament by Houston. Cleveland State lost its NIT opener to Xavier last season.

The Big Moves: Gates rebuilt the Tigers roster with Isiaih Mosley (Missouri State); Sean East (three previous schools); D’Moi Hodge (Cleveland State); DeAndre Gholson (Milwaukee) and Nick Honor (Clemson).

Penn State

2022 Record: 14-17.

2022 Finish: Lost 7 of its last 10 regular-season games and in the third-round of the Big Ten Tournament to Purdue.

2023 Record: 14-8, 10th place in the Big Ten.

2023 Lunardi Projection: No. 11 seed.

Coach Pedigree: Micah Shrewsberry is in his second season after a long career assisting Brad Stevens and Matt Painter.

The Big Moves: Guard Jalen Pickett was a huge pick-up from the portal (Siena) in 2022. Camren Winter (Drexel), Andrew Funk (Drexel) and Michael Henn (Denver) give the Nittany Lions four starters who played in other programs.

Maryland

2022 Record: 15-17.

2022 Finish: Lost to Michigan State in the opening round of Big Ten Tournament.

2023 Record: 15-7, tied for fifth in the Big Ten.

2023 Lunardi Projection: No. 9 seed.

Coach Pedigree: Kevin Willard. In 15 seasons as a head coach at Iona and Seton Hall, Willard made five NCAA Tournament appearances and won one game.

The Big Moves: Another coach who hit in the portal, adding guard Jahmir Young (Charlotte) to a solid group of holdovers in Donta Scott, Julian Reese and Hakim Hart.

Northwestern

2022 Record: 15-16.

2022 Finish: The Wildcats lost five of their last seven regular season games and exited in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament against Iowa.

2023 Record: 15-6, fourth place in the Big Ten.

2023 Lunardi Projection: No. 9 seed.

Coach Pedigree: Chris Collins is finishing his 10th season in Evanston where he made his sole NCAA Tournament appearance in 2017.

The Big Moves: Collins has two dynamic veteran guards — one (Boo Buie) that he developed and another (Chase Audige) in his third season after starting at William & Mary; The other starters are recruits in at least their third season with Collins.

Oklahoma

2022 Record: 19-16.

2022 Finish: Lost second round of the Big 12 Tournament and second round of the NIT to St. Bonaventure.

2023 Record: 12-10, tied for eighth in the Big 12.

2023 Lunardi Projection: No. 11 seed.

Coach Pedigree: Porter Moser made 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament at Loyola (Chicago) making his name by crashing the 2018 Final Four.

The Big Moves: The Sooners' top player, Grant Sherfield, transferred from Nevada. Two other solid contributors, Jacob and Tanner Groves, jumped from Eastern Washington for the 2021-22 season.

West Virginia

2022 Record 16-17

2022 Finish: The Mountaineers lost 14 of their last 16 Big Ten regular-season games and were routed by Kansas in the second round of the Big 12 Tournament.

2023 Record: 13-9, tied for eighth in the Big 12.

2023 Lunardi Projection: No. 10 seed.

Coach Pedigree: Bob Huggins needs no introduction, crashing the Final Four at Cincinnati and West Virginia with 34 NCAA Tournament victories.

The Big Moves: Huggins found three-point shooter Eric Stevenson at South Carolina; guard Joe Toussaint at Iowa; forward Tre Mitchell at Texas and wing Emmitt Matthews at Washington, so, yes, he worked the portal.

Kansas State

2022 Record: 14-17

2022 Finish: Lost first round of Big 12 Tournament to West Virginia.

2023 Record: 18-4, tied for second in the Big 12.

2023 Lunardi Projection: No. 3 seed.

Coach Pedigree: Jerome Tang in a first-year head coach after serving at Scott Drew’s top assistant at Baylor.

The Big Moves: Keyontae Johnson was one of the best players in the SEC until a heart issue ended his career at Florida. He’s one of the five best transfers in the nation. Desi Sills (Arkansas State) and Cam Carter (Mississippi State) were also portal hits for Tang.

Xavier

2022 Record: 23-13.

2022 Finish: Lost to Butler in the first round of the Big East Tournament before winning the NIT.

2023 Record: 18-5, tied for first in the Big East.

2023 Lunardi Projection: No. 4 seed.

Coach Pedigree: Sean Miller is in his first season back at Xavier after a successful run at Arizona ended with NCAA controversy after a dozen season.

The Big Moves: Four starters were on the team last season but Miller brought in Souley Boum from UTEP and he’s been one of the best guards in the Big East.

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