Louisville basketball players initially voted against playing in the NIT but were later persuaded to accept an invitation when faced with the alternative of forfeiting in the tournament.

Multiple sources who have knowledge of the players' wishes but were not authorized to speak publicly about them told Courier Journal the players prior to the ACC Tournament voted against playing in the NIT and then held a players-only meeting on Sunday night after they were left out of the NCAA tournament.

Since the school had already filed its acceptance paperwork with the NIT, interim Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra said Monday afternoon he had to explain to the players that they couldn't withdraw from the tournament. They'd have to forfeit or play.

"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's players are emotionally exhausted from a trying, tumultuous six months that culminated with the devastation of not being included in the NCAA Tournament in Sunday's bracket reveal. The Cardinals were instead selected for the NIT, and tipoff is at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Northern Kentucky at the KFC Yum Center.

More on the NIT: 3 things to watch in Louisville basketball's Tuesday NIT game vs. NKU

Interim coach David Padgett said Monday he expects to have his full roster available to play against NKU, barring any late injuries. Asked if he knew of the players' vote, Padgett said reporters would have to ask the players.

"Even if you think that you're not going to make the tournament, until you know for sure, it's still a sting," Padgett said. "... There was some heavy, long, sad faces (Sunday). That initial shock is hard to explain."

Padgett, who said he has not had any discussions with school officials about his future, acknowledged it was tough to accept to a spot in the NIT at first.

Eventually, as their emotions calmed, Padgett and his staff started preparing for the matchup.

In his weekly press conference, University of Louisville interim basketball coach David Padgett talked about the NCAA Tournament draw and looked ahead to the NIT.

"I want to play Northern Kentucky because that's the next game on our schedule," Padgett said. Later, he added, "We have only so much time left together."

Tyra said Wednesday morning during a segment on The Deener Show on WHBE-680 that Louisville filed paperwork to accept a spot in the NIT if the team missed the NCAA Tournament.

"They send the invite, and you have to do it in parallel, that if you do fall to the NIT, that you will indeed accept the bid," Tyra said on the radio show. "So we will play if there is that opportunity. I hope there isn’t. ... But if indeed that does happen, we would play."

Louisville (20-13) was ranked 16th in both the Associated Press and USA TODAY Coaches polls before the season started. The Cards finished 9-9 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, beating Florida State in the second round of the ACC Tournament before falling to top-seeded Virginia in the quarterfinals.

Louisville players said in interviews the team deserved an at-large NCAA Tournament berth, but there was concern that the stunning 67-66 loss to Virginia in the regular-season home finale may have cost Louisville its spot.

Padgett said after the ACC Tournament loss to Virginia that his players "120 percent deserved" inclusion in the 68-team tournament field.

Instead, the NCAA Tournament selection committee didn't even include Louisville among its list of the first four teams left out of the tournament.

NCAA Tournament selection committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen said Louisville lacked enough Quadrant 1 wins, which include a team's home games against opponents ranked in the top 30 of the RPI; neutral-site games against teams ranked in the top 50; and road games against teams ranked in the top 75.

"We just didn't feel like, with the opportunities they had — they had 13 opportunities in Quadrant 1, they had three wins," Rasmussen said Sunday, referring to wins about the nation's top programs. "They had two wins in Quadrant 2. Louisville's a very good team. We just didn't feel like there was enough there to put them ahead of the teams that made it."

More: What exactly is a 'Quadrant 1 win' and why is it important to Louisville basketball?

The Cards were given a No. 2 seed in the NIT, meaning they were one of the top eight teams in the 32-squad field. They'll host a second-round NIT matchup at the Yum Center if they beat NKU, which won the regular-season Horizon League title.

The tournament runs through March 29, with the semifinals and final played at Madison Square Garden in New York.

ESPN's networks will carry the broadcasts of each game, including Louisville-NKU on ESPN.

UP NEXT

Northern Kentucky at Louisville

7 p.m. Tuesday, KFC Yum Center

TV: ESPN Radio: WHAS-840