Thursday, March 17, 2005

Revisiting Louisville's Snub

I can't seem to let go of this. Louisville was a team that was being talked about as a possible #1 seed and that Joe Lunardi had penciled in as a #2 on his final Bracketology projections. How in the world did they drop to the four line?

Regardless of how it happened (although I suspect drugs were prominently involved), they are going to have to put it behind them and get ready to play Louisiana-Lafayette tomorrow ... which brings us to the real problem with the Cardinals' seeding. A cutoff point has always existed in regard to the double-digit seeds in the tournament; a line between the legitimately scary mid-major and small conference champs and those that are doomed to become mere cannon fodder. That's why there are so many blowouts involving #1 and #2 seeds ... it isn't just that those teams are the best in the country, it is because the #15 and #16 seeds signify a huge dropoff in talent.

The line used to be right around #12 or #13 back in the 80's and it has been drifting further down the bracket ever since. Now it pretty much vacillates between the #14 and #15 seeds, depending on the year. The last eight seeds are going to have a rough time, the next four (the #14's) are hit and miss, but everyone else can line up and have a legit shot at winning. If you project out Louisville's path to St. Louis, it's not terribly unfair from the second round on. Everyone is hyping that potential matchup with Georgia Tech in round two, but the Jackets should have been a #7 seed, so the Cardinals are still getting a matchup that would have been typical of a #2. In the Sweet 16 round, they project out to a showdown with UW, but again, Louisville and Washington could easily have met in a 2-3 contest. Getting a team like Wake or Gonzaga in the Regional Final wouldn't be any different than if they had been the #1 seed in the region.

So the only real difference that this makes is that Louisville is denied a cupcake in the opening round. Had they received the #1 or #2 seed they deserved, they would probably be a lock to win by 25 points tomorrow. Instead, they face a dangerous team in the form of the Ragin' Cagin (probably one of the 10 most athletic teams in the country), and could see their Final Four run end before it even begins.

If the Cardinals take care of business tomorrow and get by LA-Lafayette, I'll shut up, because their brutal seed won't matter much anymore. But if they lose to a team that is a full notch better than anyone they should be playing, well, you'll never hear the end of it.

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