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Examining Louisville’s potential NCAA tournament first round opponents

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Who do we want to see tonight? Who do we not want to see tonight?

Louisville v Wake Forest Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Barring the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee doing something completely shocking (which is never outside the realm of possibility), it appears as though Louisville is going to see itself pop up as two, three or four seed on Selection Sunday, with the middle number out of that group seeming like the most likely.

This leaves the Cards, obviously, in a position where they’ll be facing either a 13, 14 or 15 seed in the first round next Thursday or Friday. With most of the teams that figure to be on those seed lines having already locked up their automatic bids, we have a pretty solid idea of the pool of teams that includes the name that will eventually pop up next to U of L’s Sunday night.

Unless something unforeseen takes place, Louisville’s first round opponent will be one of these 15 automatic qualifiers:

Vermont (America East)
Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun)
East Tennessee State (Southern)
Winthrop (Big South)
Bucknell (Patriot League)
Iona (MAAC)
Northern Kentucky (Horizon League)
Princeton (Ivy League)
Texas Southern (SWAC)
Texas State/Troy (Sun Belt)
New Mexico State (WAC)
Kent State (MAC)
North Dakota (Big Sky)
Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley)
UC Davis (Big West)

If we’re grouping these teams, here’s how I’d do it:

Least Want to See

Princeton - Undefeated in Ivy League play, Ken Pom rating of 62, and they pretty much terrify somebody every year they make the NCA Tournament.

Vermont - Ran the table in their conference. Best Ken Pom ranking of any of the teams on the list besides Princeton.

East Tennessee State - One spot behind Vermont on Ken Pom. Have several high major transfers on their roster.

Winthrop - Have a potential March hero on their roster in Keon Johnson.

Florida Gulf Coast - We can argue about how much it does or doesn’t matter, but there’s a history of tournament success here.

Don’t Want to See for Purely Selfish Reasons

Texas Southern - We hammered them once this season already, but I love this team so much and do not want to have to root against them this week.

Would be OK, but Not Ideal

Northern Kentucky - There’s nothing to indicate that NKU should be able to hang with Louisville, but the whole “little Kentucky school playing a Kentucky power” storyline/source of motivation is something I’d just as soon avoid if possible.

New Mexico State - The Aggies again have a stellar record (28-5) and have been one of the best mid-major programs in America for over a decade now.

Bucknell - A 26-8 record and another program with a history of doing damage against some big names in March.

Iona - Tim Cluess is probably the best coach of any on this list.

Totally Fine With

Kent State - The MAC isn’t what it was, although the Flashes are one of four teams that send me game notes, which makes me root for them (shoutout to Hofstra, Iona and Ball State as well).

Jacksonville State - Would not hate eliminating Ray Harper.

Texas State/Troy

North Dakota

UC Davis - Despite my love for MTV’s Sorority Life.