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Tuesday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

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Zach Hamilton, Luke Hancock and Mike Marra are all ready for better days for Louisville basketball.

—The Louisville baseball team got its mojo back with a three-game sweep of No. 13 Boston College over the weekend.

—The Cards will play at Eastern Kentucky later today. Here’s a preview.

—The Louisville men’s basketball team’s existence as an NCAA tournament replacement team will come to an end at 6 p.m. this evening.

—Pat Forde writes about the sadness that has (once again) enveloped the city that loves March Madness more than any other.

Pitino was in. Louisville was out. Kentucky’s AD was in charge of the selections. Holy meltdown. The talk radio in town will be radioactive this week.

But these are things that Mitch Barnhart did not impact: The Cardinals missed too many games, had too few opportunities to improve their résumé (including two canceled matchups with Syracuse, which could have reversed which ACC team got that last bid). They didn’t play well in some big spots. Their losses coming off long pauses were avert-your-gaze hideous.

Pitino is a different part of the equation. His appearance in the field of 68 is the ultimate example of the broken NCAA crime-and-punishment system: He was fired at Louisville, went into exile in Greece, came back to America, got a new job and took his new team to the Dance all before any sanctions could be applied. (By the NCAA penalty matrix, he’s due to be suspended a number of games if the charges against him are upheld—up to half a season.)

In fact, nobody has been punished by the NCAA for the scandal that broke open in September 2017. That’s gross ineptitude, even with a federal investigation and a pandemic factored in.

But while Pitino is still coaching free of sanctions, so was Louisville playing this year without sanctions. Whatever comes the Cardinals’ way (a likely postseason ban) won’t be felt until the 2021–22 season—if then. So Louisville had its Stay Out of Jail Free Card to play this season, and blew it.

The plot twist was that nobody knew they’d blown it until the selection committee unveiled its work on live TV. In a sudden flurry of bracket reveals, it became clear. March Madness was canceled again, in the city that loves it more than any other.

—Louisville native Justin Thomas won The Players Championship.

—The Louisville volleyball team swept Duke over the weekend.

—Even without Dez Fitzpatrick and TuTu Atwell, Louisville’s wide receiving group should maintain elite depth in 2021.

—Cool. Cool, cool, cool.

—Cool, cool, cool.

—Cool.

—Boston College surprised pretty much everyone by announcing that it was hiring Charleston’s Earl Grant to be its new head basketball coach.

—Cardinal wide receiver Justin Marshall is standing out during spring practice.

The story (Athletic link) of the man who inspired the character of Ted Lasso is a good one.

—Pastner completely deflected the face shield question. Have to think it’s here to stay long-term.

—Dave Laitao is out at DePaul. The time has come for the Card Chronicle community to assume its rightful place as the head of the Blue Demon men’s basketball program.

—The Bellarmine Knights will play in the CBI.

—A day after being let go by Minnesota, Richard Pitino has been named the new head coach at New Mexico.

—Eric Crawford covers five bad things (and has one hopeful thought) about Louisville basketball’s current state.

4. THE LOOMING CLOUD. Obviously, this situation is made more painful by not knowing when the NCAA hammer could fall from allegations still not dealt with by the NCAA infractions process. Within that is the feeling that U of L, as a repeat offender, could still see a one-year NCAA postseason ban at some point.

NCAA bans are bad enough. Not making the tournament on your own merits (or lack thereof) is even worse.

One compounds the other. There are good players at Louisville who should get the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament, but who can reasonably look at the landscape and wonder about that possibility.

And what is that possibility? With Louisville involved in the new Independent Accountability Resolution Process, what is the timeline? At least one person involved in these kinds of matters told me that it might not even be resolved in time for the 2022 tournament, which pushes the uncertainty even further out.

Who knows? This much is certain. Being left out of the field this season is the last thing Louisville needed, no matter what viewpoint you take — from a basketball, program, department, financial, emotional or even reputational perspective. It’s not the end of the world, mind you. But it’s not good on multiple fronts.

5. IT’S A LOSS FOR THE CITY. Louisville needs some wins. Its downtown is struggling. You haven’t read much about the KFC Yum! Center debt crisis with the pandemic taking center stage, but it’s still there. Louisville basketball is a centerpiece of this arena. Because of that, when it struggles, the city is going to struggle.

Downtown needs the business. It needs the good vibes. It needs a rallying point. This program is one of the handful of this city’s most visible institutions. That’s a lot riding on a bunch of college kids playing basketball. More than is fair, probably. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

—The ACC has eliminated the league’s intra-conference transfer rule. So if Trevor Lawrence wants to play for Scott Satterfield next season, he now has that option and doesn’t need special approval from Clemson.

—Louisville baseball is up to No. 6 in the College Baseball Nation top 25.

—Baseball America has the Cards up seven spots to No. 8.

—Jordan Sperber’s work is always worth watching, even when your basketball soul has been eviscerated.

—Former Murray State head coach Steve Prohm is out at Iowa State.

—The U of L women’s swim and dive team is all set for the NCAA Championships.

—The latest Cardinal Sports Zone podcast is out.

—Louisville is reportedly among the teams that have reached out to American University grad transfer Jamir Harris. Harris, who started his career at Minnesota, averaged 20.5 ppg and shot 43.8 percent from three last season.

—That’s a long time.

—Loyola Chicago team chaplain Sister Jean, who is now 101-years-old, is trying to convince NCAA officials to allow her to attend the tournament in Indianapolis.

—Carlik Jones has been honored on the 2020-21 National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division I All-District first team. He has also been selected to the 2020-21 U.S. Basketball Writers Association All-District IV Team, based on voting from its national membership of over 900 people.

—The CJ’s Cameron Teague Robinson takes an in-depth look at the Alamo Region, where the U of L women are the No. 2 seed.

—Three years ago today, we saw a 1-seed lost in the first round of the men’s tournament for the first time.

—Brian VanGorder is now the defensive coordinator at Gulf Shores High School. If I’m Doss, I’m getting Gulf Shores on the schedule immediately.

— Former quarterback Shai Werts — who left Georgia Southern as the Sun Belt Conference’s career leader in quarterback rushing yards — is making a smooth transition to wide receiver at Louisville.

—Pervis Ellison (No. 55) makes this list of the best NCAA tournament players of the expanded bracket era.

—Jeff Greer reacts to Louisville being left out of the field of 68 in his latest newsletter.

I tweeted this last night, and it holds this morning: A bubble team not making the NCAA Tournament should never surprise us. A team on the bubble left doubt in the minds of Selection Committee members. That is a problem in Louisville, where the minimum expectation is reaching the NCAA Tournament.

So, herein lies the challenge ahead for Chris Mack’s Louisville program, as mentioned in last week’s newsletter. The circumstances this season — multiple COVID-19 pauses plus key injuries — certainly allow for some slack in not reaching the Tournament. Still, the energy and enthusiasm struggles stuck out as fixable issues, and the lack of effort in key moments was both befuddling and concerning, even with a roster as inexperienced as Louisville’s. Beyond that, the lack of depth in some areas suggests roster-building and recruiting evaluation lapses, too.

More than anything else, this situation amplifies my point from last week: Year No. 4 is now awfully important to Mack and company.

We don’t know yet if Louisville will sneak into the 68-team field by Tuesday night as a replacement team, but it’s not good one of the Cards’ biggest boosters tweeted that missing the Tournament was “horrific” while going after the former chair of the school’s board of trustees for setting Louisville basketball “back decades” for clearing house after the FBI scandal. (Rick Pitino’s Iona winning its conference tournament added a particularly potent ingredient to this weekend’s cocktail of frustrations.) The NCAA hammer will come down on Louisville at some point, and, as Pat Forde wrote last night, this was the perfect window to get into the field and maybe do some damage before a potential lockdown mode the next couple years, especially after last year’s Tournament was canceled.

You’re always glad you cleared the gutters before a monster rainstorm.

—Sam Vecenie’s latest NBA mock draft for The Athletic has David Johnson slipping all the way down to the second round.

—Cardinal Authority’s weekly Louisville baseball notebook is out.

—And finally, Jeff Walz is seeing signs that his team is ready to take things up a notch on the sport’s biggest stage.