LOUISVILLE — The defending national champion Louisville Cardinals are ranked No. 5 in the country and ran roughshod over their competition in the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
All it earned them is a No. 4 seed in possibly the toughest region of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Rick Pitino's Cardinals had been talked about as a possible No. 1 seed heading into Sunday's selection show. Instead, they'll face No. 13 seed Manhattan — coached by former Pitino assistant and UK player Steve Masiello — in the round of 64.
The game will be played Friday night in Orlando.
U of L (29-5) has won 12 of its past 13 games, and defeated its three conference tournament opponents by a combined 100 points.
It wasn't enough to move as far up the seeding line as some had predicted.
"You look at the No. 4 line and we have some great teams," committee chairman Ron Wellman said. "We look at the total résumé, though. Right now, if you ask anybody, Louisville is playing as well as anyone, and the committee certainly agrees with that. However, we look at the total body of work, comparing everything they did from November through March."
Louisville spokesman Kenny Klein said Sunday night that Pitino would not comment on the Cardinals' seed.
Pitino said after Saturday's AAC title game that he thought his team had done enough down the stretch to earn consideration for the final No. 1 seed.
The Cardinals' opener will be against Masiello, who played for Kentucky from 1996-2000 — the first of those seasons under Pitino — and later went on to be an assistant coach on the U of L staff for six seasons.
Manhattan (25-7) finished second in Metro Atlantic in the regular season, then defeated No. 1 seed Iona in last week's conference tournament title game.
If Louisville defeats the Jaspers, the next opponent will be either No. 5 seed Saint Louis or the winner of the 12-seeded play-in game between North Carolina State and Xavier.
Saint Louis (26-6) was ranked No. 18 in the most recent Associated Press poll, but the Billikens were upset by St. Bonaventure in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
The Cardinals might have been hurt by the perceived strength of the American Athletic Conference.
Four teams from that league made the field, and Louisville did not have any signature victories over non-conference foes.
Wellman said that Southern Methodist, which topped the list of tourney snubs, was the "last team out" of the NCAA Tournament.
Louisville will play next season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Other teams in the Cardinals' region include top-seeded Wichita State, No. 8 seed Kentucky and No. 9 seed Kansas State.
Louisville would likely play one of those squads if it advances to the Sweet 16.
The bottom half of the bracket includes No. 2 seed Michigan and No. 3 seed Duke.