With the likes of Maryland, Michigan State, Syracuse, and UCLA all floating around the bubble entering today, there was bound to be at least one huge program going home disappointed today. The Louisville Cardinals got the short end of the stick this time around, and are the first team on the outside looking in for the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
This year, that doesn’t necessarily mean their hopes are done. Teams like Kansas and Virginia had to bow out of their conference tournaments this week, and are currently in the field. There is absolutely a chance that one of the 68 teams in the bracket has to drop out, and Louisville is now first in line to take that team’s place.
The Cards would probably take it, but that’s a tough thing to hang your hat on. A few weeks ago, even with a shoddy resume, most people had Louisville penciled in. Between a shaky finish to the season, with and a long COVID-19-related pause sprinkled in, they failed to really put a stamp on things and pick up the big wins necessary to secure a place in the field.
Louisville basketball fans are obviously not thrilled about things, though plenty have conceded that the team didn’t exactly have the resume necessary to make it, even in a weak bubble year. The fact that former coach Rick Pitino is in with his new team, the MAAC Champion Iona Gaels, has to sting though. At least they were closer than Kentucky, which didn’t even sniff the bubble this year?
— Louisville Basketball (@LouisvilleMBB) March 14, 2021
Last Four In:
– Michigan State
– Wichita State
First Four Out:
– Colorado State
– Saint Louis
– Ole Miss#SelectionSunday
— ESPN (@espn) March 14, 2021
Selection committee is chaired by the Kentucky AD. Louisville is first team out. Rick Pitino is in though. I'm sure all of this will go over well with Card fans.
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) March 14, 2021
Pitino in. Louisville and Kentucky out. pic.twitter.com/klAfqKutM6
— Rush the Court (@rushthecourt) March 14, 2021
During an interview on CBS, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, who led the selection committee, acknowledged that the shocking conference tournament runs of Georgetown in the Big East and Oregon State in the Pac-12 ultimately doomed the Cards. Neither of those teams was even in tournament consideration, and they wound up winning their leagues on Saturday night.
Louisville did not play between Feb. 1 and Feb. 20 due to a COVID-19 pause for the program, costing it some serious momentum after a win against Georgia Tech, and a few chances to add to its resume. When it returned, it got blown out by UNC 94-54. The Cards recovered to beat Notre Dame and Duke—two name programs but non-tournament teams—but lost by 10 to Virginia in the regular season finale, and fell to Duke in the ACC Tournament.
Louisville basketball last missed the NCAA Tournament in 2018, when the team was led by interim head coach David Padgett, after Rick Pitino was fired during the offseason.