Rick Pitino doesn’t do much under the radar.
After losing four big name players after last season, Montrezl Harrell, Chris Jones, Wayne Blackshear, and Terry Rozier, Louisville was expected to take a step back. Those four players were the Cardinals’ four leader scorers, accounting for more than 77% of the team’s points. Then, when news of a prostitution scandal involving former players and staffers broke, on-court success became an afterthought.
And yet, Pitino’s team has succeeded thus far. The Cardinals find themselves ranked 3rd in KenPom and 2nd in Jeff Sagarin’s rankings. The human voters have not been as kind, with Louisville yet to crack the top 15 of the AP Poll. Most bracket projections have Louisville projected as low as a 4 seed.
The discrepancy is clear. The Cardinals have lost only three games to date, all on the road and at the hands of top 60 competition. They now boast six wins over the KenPom top 100 teams. Louisville leads the nation in scoring margin, outscoring opponents by 21.6 points per game. That feat has not come against a collection of cupcakes, as Louisville has played a middle of the pack, 170th ranked schedule so far.
Then why the discrepancy? In this year of upsets and parity, Louisville awaits their moment in the sun. Back in November, Pitino theorized that his team had been disrespected by the polls because of the recent scandal. He felt voters ignored his controversial Cardinals. That may have been the case in the preseason, but at this point voters and the court of public opinion await a good reason to acknowledge Louisville. Their schedule has yet to feature a signature win. Their best two victories have come over Pittsburgh and Florida State, both of which came at home. The Cards lost to the two best teams they have played–close games on the road at Michigan State and rival Kentucky.