LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A dark and pitiless day for University of Louisville fans began at 10 a.m., when ESPN ran an "Outside the Lines" report about the sordid sex scandal that led UofL President Dr. James Ramsey, in a Feb. 4 press conference, to self-impose a ban on an interesting team that many felt had a chance to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
The report didn’t provide much news. It served mainly to allow ESPN to show off the "interview" it got with Andre McGee, the former U of L player and assistant who's at the center of the storm. He's working in Kansas City as an Uber driver. Now that his anonymity has been blown, he may feel the need to find new work.
So Cards' fans had that to chew on while the final conference championship games were played and the tournament committee made last-minute changes and polished up the bracket before it was released to the public.
The content of the show could be handled in 15 minutes, a half-hour at the most, but CBS stretched it into a two-hour marathon that provided an excellent forum for the wit and wisdom of Sir Charles Barkley, who follows college basketball about as closely as my 6-month-old grandson.
I don’t have any idea how many UofL fans are so despondent that they skipped the Selection Show. Many have vowed that they have given up college basketball for Lent, but I wonder about that. I have a feeling that a lot more watched the show than will admit it. Old habits are hard to break, after all, and Cards fans are accustomed to being in the middle of the March mix.
Now that the bracket is known, I'm sure many UofL fans will see a path to the Final Four for Rick Pitino's team. They will grouse about it as the tournament progresses: "We could have beaten that team," or, "We could run through that region with no trouble."
Well, sorry, but I can’t see it. Had Ramsey allowed his team to participate, the Cards might have made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Maybe it’s possible to make a case for the Elite Eight. But even that is a reach. I just don’t see any scenario in which this team would have gotten to Houston.
We know, first, that UofL would not have been put into the South Region, because the semifinals and finals will be held on the Cards' home floor in the KFC Yum! Center. So had they been eligible, they probably would have been a No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the East, Midwest or West.
There's no way the Cards would have gotten to the Final Four out of the Midwest, where Virginia is the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers humbled the Cards twice in the regular season. They would have humbled them again in the Midwest. They simply do what they do better than UofL does what it does.
In the East Region, the Cards would have been lucky to advance to Philadelphia. On a neutral floor, it says here the following teams would prove to be better than the Cards: North Carolina, Indiana, UK, Xavier and West Virginia. For my money, this is the toughest and most interesting region.
That leaves the West, which I think is the weakest region. Had the Cards been placed here, they would have had their best shot to make it to Houston. The top three seeds – Oregon, Oklahoma and Texas A&M – are only a tad better than UofL, if that. Nevertheless, each also would create matchup problems that might expose the Cards’ flaws.
I believe Ramsey did the Cards a disservice by imposing a post-season ban so late in the season. Heck, it's the first time any university has done that in the same season that possible violations were revealed. Yet many UofL fans seem to believe that Ramsey's decision will pacify the NCAA enough that next season's team – which figures to be better – will be free and clear to pursue the title.
Well, as Lee Corso might say, not so fast, my friends.
Ramsey's decision comes with no guarantees. The sex parties allegedly orchestrated by McGee and his accomplice, former prostitute Katina Powell, apparently happened over a four-year period. It's an ugly case that is unprecedented in NCAA history. If the NCAA decides to make an example of UofL, there's no telling how stringent the penalties could be.
Once again this season, TV ratings indicated that Louisville was the nation’s No. 1 city for watching college basketball. I doubt that will be the case during the NCAA Tournament. Some fans are heartbroken, others are sour and disillusioned. It will be painful to watch a tournament under the circumstances.
Yet there are brackets to be filled out and office pools to be entered. Can a basketball fan really resist that? Can UofL diehards really resist pulling for Indiana to beat UK if they meet in the second round? Can they not pull for former Pitino assistants Tubby Smith, Kevin Willard and Mick Cronin?
Even if Ramsey had let his team play, the Cards weren’t going to make the Final Four. Too many other teams are better on neutral floors. If you can accept that, you might still be able to squeeze a modicum of fun out of the tournament, which is still the best show in sports, even without the Cards.
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