North Carolina A&T is probably riding high after knocking off Liberty in the First Four, their first NCAA Tournament win in ten tries. Bad news, though: up next is Louisville, the top-ranked team in the country, ready to buzzsaw through them.
It would be nice to give NC A&T a shot here, maybe say something nice about how they have a chance of beating Louisville and becoming the first No. 16 seed in NCAA history to win against a No. 1 seed. But let's squelch that here.
Ken Pomeroy's numbers, which, regardless of how you feel about advanced stats, tend to be pretty accurate, rank Louisville as the No. 2 team in the nation. They played 14 games against teams ranked 100 or worse. They won all 14, none by fewer than 18 points.
The Aggies, on the other hand, were ranked No. 225, below 66 of 68 teams in the field, ahead only of Liberty, the team they bested Tuesday night in the First Four when a last-second full court dash by the Flames ended with an unsuccessful layup attempt. They only played two games against teams ranked 100 or higher. These, they lost in landslides: 93-39 against Cincinnati, a No. 10 seed in the tourney, and 86-57 to Iowa State, also a No. 10 seed. In the MEAC, the 30th-ranked of the 31 conferences that give bids to the NCAA Tournament, they went 8-8.
But they swept through their conference tourney, and shot well in the play-in game against Liberty, with Jeremy Underwood managing 19 points on just six shots off the bench. They'd need to keep those performances up and triple or quadruple them to have a chance of staying in the game against Louisville's crippling defense, killing tens of thousands of office pool entries in the process. More than likely, this is just a tune-up for Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng and the Big East champs as they look towards April against a team that's happy to be in March.
Here's the info on the game:
No. 1 Louisville (29-5, 14-4 Big East, Kenpom ranking 2) vs. No. 16 North Carolina A&T (20-16, 8-8 MEAC, Kenpom ranking 225)
Location: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Kentucky
Date: Thursday, March 21
Time: 6:50 p.m.