Damion Lee and Trey Lewis transfered to Louisville for their final season of eligibility in part to compete for a national championship under coach Rick Pitino.
A share of the regular-season ACC title would be a nice parting gift, but there's obviously a great deal of disappointment surrounding the No. 11 Cardinals heading into Saturday night's visit to Virginia knowing they won't be playing in the postseason.
The fourth-ranked Cavaliers, on the other hand, can boost their case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a second victory over the Cardinals, and both may know if they've received the help necessary for their conference title hopes by tipoff.
Lee came to Louisville (23-7, 12-5) as a senior transfer after averaging 21.6 points for Drexel last season. His 16.2 per game lead the Cardinals, with Lewis second at 11.4 after transferring from Cleveland State.
Their one season under Pitino will come to an dissatisfying end, though, after Louisville self-imposed a postseason ban in the wake of a scandal in which Pitino maintains he played no role.
Lee hit two late free throws and scored 14 points in his final home contest Tuesday and the Cardinals held on to beat Georgia Tech 56-53.
After the game, Pitino presented rings to Lee and Lewis and a highlight video to the tune of "One Shining Moment," which is the NCAA Tournament's trademark song and is played following the national championship game each year.
"It's amazing that they never got bitter, never complained, never said 'the university let us down,' they never did any of that," Pitino said. "They always said the right thing. We understand and I told them some people do the wrong things and unfortunately we have to pay the penalties for it. But they never hung their heads."
Pitino is so bitter about the self-imposed sanctions that NCAA Tournament coverage will have one less viewer.
"None of us are going to get the experience of fighting," Pitino said. "I'm not turning it on. I'm not going to watch. I'm just going to hope for the best and some of my friends maybe have a chance to win it."
Louisville also won't be competing in next week's ACC tournament, but it still can win a share of the regular-season crown. Miami needs to lose at Virginia Tech and Duke would have to beat North Carolina earlier in the day, and the Cardinals would then have to beat Virginia (23-6, 12-5).
The same scenario exists for the Cavaliers, who held then-No. 16 Louisville to 32.7 percent shooting in a 63-47 road victory in the first matchup Jan. 30. Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill scored 13 apiece in that contest and will both be playing their final home game in this meeting.
Virginia lost at Miami on Feb. 22, but Brogdon had 26 points in a 79-74 win over the then-No. 7 Tar Heels on Feb. 27 before netting 18 in Tuesday's 64-57 victory at Clemson.
The Cavaliers hope to have a chance at a third straight regular-season ACC title, but they also have their sights set on a deep NCAA run after winning three games over the last two years combined.
"I want to win a national championship," Brogdon said. "Those are the reasons why we play. At the same time, we're going to control what we can control (in the ACC race), and that's win out this season. We want to beat Louisville to end the season."