Louisville basketball: Bracketology Update with USA Today’s Shelby Mast

Louisville basketball’s pursuit of an ACC Championship and a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is in full go. We talk with bracketology expert Shelby Mast about the Cards’ tournament hopes.

The seemingly slow transition from winter to spring is met with a certain buzz among Louisville basketball fans throughout the city as postseason basketball draws closer and closer. Chris Mack and the Cardinals are currently riding a 10-game winning streak that has fans, coaches, and players thinking a deep run into March and early April is on the horizon.

After somewhat of a rocky start to 2020, the Cards have rattled off 10 consecutive wins and are trending upward as one of the nation’s best teams. Louisville’s current hot streak has Chris Mack and company vying for a top-two seed on the sport’s biggest stage. As of February 11th, Louisville’s resume is in solid shape, especially in comparison to the rest of the country.

Zero bad losses and a 4-4 record in Quad-one games put the Cards in great shape in terms of seeding. There are several opportunities for the Cards to make a case for a top seed, with a road tilt at Florida State and of course, the ACC Tournament left before the committee releases the field of 68.

Selection Sunday is just 33 days away, and Big Red Louie’s got you covered. I spoke with Shelby Mast, bracketologist for USA Today with 10-plus years of experience predicting the NCAA Tournament, for a quick update on the selection process and Louisville’s chances at a that highly coveted number one seed.

How important is region/location vs. seed-line? Will the committee drop a seed-line to keep a team closer to home? If so, how much do they take that into consideration when seeding?

SM: First, teams are seeded, then placed in regions for top four seeds, then pods for all others based on geography. If a team would benefit by moving down a seed line to help with travel, the committee will NOT do this unless there are special circumstances – for example – BYU must play in Thursday-Saturday pods/regions. The only other time it might happen is if there are no possible ways to avoid breaking bracketing rules, then they might be moved. But never for geographic considerations.

What are Louisville’s realistic chances at a one-seed?

SM: I think it can happen but a lot needs to happen, and Louisville might have to win out. The ACC is down this year and there is only one chance to get another BIG win – at FSU. Win that and chances increase.

What does the committee value more, number of quality wins or lack of bad losses? It seems like the committee will look past your ugly losses as long as you have several Quad-1 wins on your resume.

SM: Mostly the number of quality wins, I figure basically two quality wins wipe out a bad loss – this is not something they will say publicly but it seems to maybe be the case. They also value non-conference strength of schedule and wins against the field, and wins away from home.

How much does the committee value conference strength, given the fact they’ve been somewhat inconsistent in years past regarding that metric?

SM: Conference affiliation, and therefore conference strength, aren’t supposed to factor in at all, but they are human, so I have to believe it does a little

What’s the margin for error for the teams ahead of Louisville? (Baylor, SDSU, Gonzaga, Kansas) I would imagine Baylor and KU have more room for error than say the West Coast teams.

SM: I think the margin of error for the West Coast teams is significantly smaller than BU or KU but it does exist. Maybe 2 losses for each.

Lastly, will the committee take into consideration the emergence of David Johnson? The Cards have been a completely different team since he received significant minutes in mid-January.

SM: Probably not if an injury isn’t what held him back – if he was on the team and available to play, then they had their full team the whole season.

The Cards are a two seed in the South Region in Mast’s latest projected field of 68. For those interested, here’s a closer look at his proven track record as a Bracketology expert.

Follow Shelby Mast on Twitter (@BracketWAG) and check out his website for all things college hoops, as well as weekly Bracketology updates.