One of the most difficult seasons in Louisville's history continues Tuesday when the Cardinals host Northern Kentucky in the opening round of the NIT, an event in which the players did not want to participate, according to published reports Monday. School administrators accepted the bid Sunday after Louisville was left out of the NCAA Tournament, but the Cardinals players reportedly had voted against an NIT trip before the ACC Tournament - where they lost to Virginia in the quarterfinals.

Interim coach David Padgett, who took the job when the school fired Rick Pitino in the wake of an FBI pay-for-play investigation just before the season, believed his team was worthy of an NCAA bid despite losing five of its last seven games. "Without a doubt, if you look at our overall body of work, we haven't done anything wrong," Padgett told the media after Thursday's 75-58 defeat to the eventual ACC champion Cavaliers. Louisville is the No. 2 seed and will face the seventh-seed Norse, who won the Horizon League regular-season title before being upset by Cleveland State in the opening round of the league tournament. Northern Kentucky makes its first NIT appearance and plays Louisville for the first time in school history.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

ABOUT NORTHERN KENTUCKY (22-9): Forward Drew McDonald has recorded 15 double-doubles in his past 21 games, while the all-conference honoree leads the Norse in scoring (16.9) and rebounding (9.5). Forward Carson Williams is shooting 61 percent from the field in averaging 12.3 points, helping Northern Kentucky rank 17th nationally in two-point field-goal percentage (56.6 percent). Tyler Sharpe, the Norse's fourth-leading scorer at 6.8 points per game, is a former Louisville walk-on.

ABOUT LOUISVILLE (20-13): Guard/forward Deng Adel leads the Cardinals in scoring at 15.4 points per game, reaching double figures in 24 consecutive games, while forward Ray Spalding finished sixth in the ACC in rebounding per game (8.6) and needs 25 points to reach 800 for his career. Louisville is fourth in the nation in blocked shots at 6.2 per game, led by 7-0 forward Anas Mahmoud and his three rejections per contest. The Cardinals ranked sixth in the ACC in 3-point shooting overall at 37 percent.

TIP-INS

1. Northern Kentucky is the first team to win a league regular-season title, a conference tournament title, reach the NCAA Tournament and the NIT in its first two seasons of eligibility at the Division I level.

2. The Cardinals are playing in the NIT for the first time since 2006, when Louisville reached the semifinals before falling to South Carolina.

3. Northern Kentucky faces an in-state program in the postseason for the second straight year, after losing to Kentucky 79-70 in the first round of last season's NCAA Tournament.

PREDICTION: Northern Kentucky 71, Louisville 67


NCAA Basketball , basketball