University of Louisville

NCAA bubble bursts for Louisville. Cards, WKU and NKU headed to NIT

Louisville interim coach David Padgett watched his team play during the first half against Virginia in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament on Thursday.
Louisville interim coach David Padgett watched his team play during the first half against Virginia in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament on Thursday. AP

Kentucky and Murray State locked up their NCAA bids with conference tournament victories.

Stumbles down the stretch cost Louisville, Western Kentucky and Northern Kentucky. All three ended up in the NIT field announced Sunday night.

Louisville had a chaotic season that saw the firings of coach Rick Pitino and AD Tom Jurich amid the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.

The Cardinals, with interim coach David Padgett at the helm, finished 20-13 overall and 9-9 in the ACC. Louisville had lost five of its last seven games (all to tournament teams), but its two wins in that span came against two teams that made it into the field: Florida State and Virginia Tech.

Louisville, a No. 2 seed in the NIT, will host the seventh-seeded Norse in the first round at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN. The winner of that matchup will get Middle Tennessee or Vermont.

Deng Adel leads the Cards in scoring (15.4), followed by Kentuckians Ray Spalding (12.3) and Quentin Snider (12.2). Spalding, a junior from Trinity, averages a team-best 8.6 rebounds. Snider, a senior out of Ballard, posts 4.0 assists per game.

Northern Kentucky (22-9) finished first in the Horizon League’s regular season with a 15-3 record, but the Norse were knocked out in the first round of the conference tournament by Cleveland State.

Drew McDonald paces NKU in both scoring (16.9) and rebounding (9.5). The Norse’s roster is loaded with Kentuckians, including former Ballard star Lavone Holland II (13.8 points and 4.5 assists) and ex-Owen County standout Carson Williams (12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds).

Western Kentucky (24-10 overall, 14-4 in league play) was defeated by Marshall in the Conference USA Tournament championship game on Saturday night. The fourth-seeded Hilltoppers will host fifth-seeded Boston College (19-15, 7-11 ACC) at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday on WatchESPN in the NIT’s first round. The winner facing Southern Cal or UNC Asheville.

WKU also fields a roster with multiple Kentuckians. Justin Johnson, a senior out of Perry County Central, is the Toppers’ top scorer (15.3) and rebounder (9.6). Freshman star Taveion Hollingsworth (Paul Laurence Dunbar) has contributed 13.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Another freshman, former Scott star Jake Ohmer, averages 5.8 points.

Dennis Varney: 859-231-3514, @ExCats

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