Louisville Cardinals: 20-13, 10-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference
Head coach: Chris Mack (1st season)
Players to watch: Jordan Nwora (17.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 37.1 3PT%); Dwayne Sutton (10.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 36.4 3PT%); Christen Cunningham (9.8 PPG, 4.9 APG, 46.9 FG%)
Season recap: After having low expectations to start the season, head coach Chris Mack's team looked strong from the outset and opened the season 16-5, earning a top-15 ranking at the end of January. Jordan Nwora emerged as a dominant scoring threat and helped lead the Cardinals to a trio of marquee wins—vs. Michigan State, a 20-point blowout of North Carolina and a win against then-No. 21 N.C. State.
Louisville showed promise throughout a daunting stretch of conference play, but three losses in four consecutive games against ranked opponents in the beginning of February exposed the Cardinals’ weakness.
Louisville struggled to close out games, highlighted by letting a 23-point lead against Duke slip away Feb. 12. The Cardinals also had an opportunity against Virginia on the road in the regular season finale but could not seal the deal in a five-point loss. After starting conference play 7-1, the Cardinals closed ACC play just 3-7 and will need to play 40 minutes of basketball to make a run during the tournament.
How they make a run: Louisville avoids multiple-minute mental lapses and plays 35-40 minutes of smart offense and high-intensity defense. In doing so, the Cardinals knock off a top-three seed in their region and advance to the second weekend.
How they falter: Jordan Nwora gets locked up and Louisville struggles to find its rhythm offensively. Coupled with sloppy turnovers and defensive lapses, the Cardinals drop a late lead and find themselves going home without a single victory.