We're getting to that point in the season when each win or loss directly feeds into bubble talk. Just like Christmas decorations in your local mall, it happens earlier every year, whether you like or not.
The latest in this category is Louisville, whose 66-60 win at Syracuse yesterday launches them squarely back into tournament consideration. Louisville was all but done before Sunday's Valentine's Day win -- a couple of controversial losses to West Virginia and Seton Hall in January, plus a 19-point loss to Big East cellar-dweller St. John's last week, seemed to have sealed Louisville's fate. It didn't help that the Cardinals occasionally limped through their nonconference slate, losing to Charlotte, at UNLV, and -- the coup de grace -- to Western Carolina at Freedom Hall on Dec. 12.
Now, though, things are looking brighter. The Charlotte and UNLV losses don't look so bad, now that both of those teams are themselves hunting tournament bids. And the win over a dominant Syracuse in front of 30,000-plus Cuse fans is the sort of thing a tournament committee will fawn over.
Nothing's decided yet, though. The Cardinals are 16-9 overall and 7-5 in the Big East, and the rest of their slate (Notre Dame, at DePaul, Georgetown, at Connecticut, at Marquette, and a return date with Syracuse at home to close the Big East season) is both winnable and rife with opportunities to impress the committee. If Louisville wins four or five of those games, Rick Pitino's team may not need a strong showing in the Big East tournament to warrant bracket consideration.
In some ways, Louisville has been a slightly underrated team all season; they have one of the best offenses in the country and have, uncharacteristic for a Pitino team, been unable to defend. If Louisville suddenly figures it out -- suddenly becomes even an average defensive team, suddenly starts turning its opponents over at an even higher rate -- there's no reason why the Cardinals can't make a run at this thing. The talent is there. The won-loss column just needs to show it.