- Andy Lyons/Getty Images
- The Louisville Cardinals are set to start NIT play on Tuesday night after failing to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
- The Cardinals players reportedly had initially voted against accepting an invitation to the consolation tournament, citing an “emotionally exhausting” season.
- After players learned that they would not have the option to withdraw from the tournament, they chose to play rather than forfeit the game.
After being bounced off the bubble on Selection Sunday, the Louisville Cardinals are set to begin their NIT run on Tuesday night, but according to reports, they’re not all that happy about the consolation prize.
As Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier Journal reports, players on the Cardinals basketball team had voted to decline an invitation to the NIT after a season that left them “emotionally exhausted.” Greer reports that the vote occurred before the ACC Tournament, followed subsequently by a players-only meeting on Sunday night after Louisville found out they had not been selected for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
It’s been a long season for the Cardinals. Head coach Rick Pitino was ousted after the school was linked to the ongoing FBI investigation into bribery in college basketball, and the team has been up-and-down all year, capping the regular season with a heartbreaking loss to top-ranked Virginia. Even after the trying year, the team was still on the bubble, with a slim shot at finding themselves in the good graces of the selection committee, but ultimately fell just short of a ticket to March Madness.
Despite their initial vote, the Cardinals will play in the NIT, heading into the tournament as a No. 2 seed. After interim athletic director Vince Tyra explained to the team that they could not withdraw from the tournament, but would instead have to forfeit, the team came around to playing.
Per the Courier Journal:
“When you’re emotional, you’re still sad about all the NCAA Tournament stuff, and you make assumptions – you make decisions – that you don’t know what the consequences are,” senior center Anas Mahmoud said.
“But when we went to sleep and we woke up (Monday) morning and we met again as a team, we started thinking more broadly of the consequences of our actions and that it’s not just going to affect us right now – it’s going to affect the whole city and the whole program. We realized playing and participating and actually putting in the effort to do what we came here to do was the best decision.”
Louisville will tip off against No. 7 Northern Kentucky at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night.