The NCAA Tournament Selection Show couldn't have turned out better for the University of Louisville. For starters, the Cardinals earned the tourney's No. 1 overall seed by virtue of winning both the Big East Conference regular season crown and the conference tournament.
And the Cards won't have to travel far in order to get to Detroit for the Final Four. U of L will open play in Dayton, Ohio, a 2½ -hour drive from Louisville, in Midwest Regional action on Friday against the winner of the play-in game between Morehead State and Alabama State.
If the Cardinals advance past the first two rounds their next site will be Indianapolis, less than a two-hour drive up Interstate 65.
"I think the number one seed is a tremendous accomplishment for our basketball team," Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said in a statement. "It speaks volumes for what it means to win the Big East regular season and tournament championships. ... We've sat here in other years when we were in Conference USA, thinking we deserved a number two or three seed when it didn't come to fruition, so this is very exciting for our team."
Morehead (19-15) earned a tourney bid by virtue of a thrilling 67-65 win over Austin Peay in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship game. The Eagles will have to knock off Alabama State (22-9), the Southwestern Athletic Conference champions, in order to play the Cards. The two teams will play in Dayton on Tuesday night, with the winner sticking around town for Friday's opening round.
U of L beat Morehead 79-41 on Nov. 22 at Freedom Hall, but Pitino said facing the play-in winner can make things tricky.
"When you have a play-in game, you have a disadvantage in preparation because you don't know which team you'll play for two days of practice," Pitino said. "We'll just scout and prepare for them both."
If Louisville advances to the second round, they'll play the winner of No. 8 seed Ohio State (22-10) and ninth-seeded Siena (26-7). The Buckeyes will also be playing close to home. Big Ten regular-season champ Michigan State (26-6) is the Midwest's No. 2 seed, followed by No. 3 Kansas (25-7) and No. 4 Wake Forest (24-6).
The Cardinals have been on a roll during the season's final month, racking up 10 consecutive wins since a 33-point loss at Notre Dame on Feb. 12. Louisville also is one of the nation's best road teams, having won at NCAA Tournament teams Villanova, Syracuse and West Virginia. The Cards beat Syracuse 76-66 on Saturday to win their first-ever Big East Tournament crown.
U of L is led by its frontline of senior Terrence Williams (12.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 5.1 apg), junior Earl Clark (14 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and freshman Samardo Samuels (11.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg).