The Louisville men’s basketball team once again struggled to advance in the ACC Tournament, losing its opening game against Duke on Wednesday night 70-56. Louisville will enter Selection Sunday with a 13-7 overall record. Duke improved to 13-11 and will play Florida State on Thursday night in Greensboro.
Louisville is 2-5 in the ACC tournament since joining the conference in 2014-2015. The loss snaps a three-game winning streak for the Cards against the Blue Devils. Duke holds a narrow 11-9 lead in the all time series between the two programs.
David Johnson led Louisville with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Carlik Jones added 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. No other player scored more than 6 points for the Cards. Louisville shot just 30.6-percent from the field.
For Duke, Mark Williams had a career night with 23 points and 19 rebounds. Matthew Hurt added 20 points and 5 boards. The Blue Devils shot 44.8-percent from the field and 40.0-percent from three.
Louisville used a 16-3 run in the final 3:42 of the first half to erase a 14-point deficit, but, aside from that run, it was a struggle on offense for the Cards all night. Louisville looked completely lost on the offensive end, much like they have looked over the past few games.
Duke was not particularly impressive offensively, but really packed the paint on the other end and forced Louisville to take an abnormal number of threes. Mark Williams completely dominated inside, unlike anything we had seen from him in the first two matchups. In the end, Louisville played a team they had already beaten twice this season and failed to replicate those performances in the third matchup.
In regards to the NCAA Tournament, losing your first game in the conference tournament hardly hurts you in the eyes of the committee. A loss on a neutral court to Duke, after having already beaten them twice this year, will not make or break Louisville’s case for an at-large bid. What does hurt is that the Cards now must wait, and they can do nothing more to improve their resume before Selection Sunday.
As of now, most sites have Louisville in the 10-11 seed range, around the “last four byes” portion of the bracket. With many other power conference tournaments just now starting up, other bubble teams will have the chance to improve their case. That is what probably worries you if you are Louisville.
Leaving the Cards out of the NCAA Tournament would be harsh, but no one knows how the committee will choose to evaluate them. The pandemic hit this team hard and held them back from competing in multiple resume-defining games. That being said, they did miss a few opportunities to solidify their spot in the field.
Right now is no time to panic, but Louisville is hardly a lock to have their name called on Sunday. Only time will tell, but Coach Mack and his team are probably not breathing easy at the moment.
We will be back on Sunday morning with another bracketology update ahead of the Selection Show. By then, the majority of Championship week will be completed, and we will have a much better idea of where Louisville stands in the NCAA Tournament picture.