A Sweeter Sixteen for Pitino

Rick Pitino has never lost in the Sweet Sixteen round in his 29 seasons as a collegiate head coach. This is his 12th appearance and he's 11-0 all-time with Louisville, Kentucky and Providence. This is what he had to say about it on the eve of his quest for a perfect dozen.

Rick Pitino has owned the Sweet Sixteen in 29 seasons as a college basketball coach.

It's more like he's had a stranglehold on it.

Twelve times Pitino has had a team qualify as one of the final 16 teams standing. And in his previous 11 trips to this stage, Pitino's teams are a perfect 11-0. He has accomplished the feat five times with his current school, Louisville, and five more with the team he faces today in Indianapolis, Kentucky. The other Sweet Sixteen win came at Providence in 1987.

Perhaps the even more remarkable feat, however, is that those games have rarely been close.

The average margin of victory in the 11 wins is 20.7 points and six of the wins have been by 19 points or more. The closest Sweet Sixteen victory was last year, when the top-seeded Cardinals beat No. 12 Oregon, 77-69.

Every other victory has been by 10 points or more.

Four times, including three at Louisville, the victories have come when his teams were an underdog in terms of seeding. Twice, against Washington in 2005 and Michigan State in 2012, Louisville knocked off a No. 1 seed in the Sweet Sixteen.

Not surprisingly, Pitino downplayed the statistical relevance of the accomplishment Thursday in his press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium prior to today's game between No. 4 Louisville (31-5) and No. 8 Kentucky (26-10).

"I can tell you very honestly, with all humility, that I know Kentucky in that locker room is not worried about my resume,'' Pitino said, "they're worried about Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell. Because every game is different that you play.''

Pitino did admit that the 11-0 Sweet Sixteen record has to say something about how well his teams are playing this time of the year.

He also said the extra preparation time doesn't hurt either. Between the first two games of the tournament, and games three and four, you only have one day to get ready for an opponent. In the Sweet Sixteen you have a week. Louisville beat Saint Louis last Saturday and has had almost a full week to prepare for Kentucky.

It also doesn't hurt that the two teams have already faced each other this season. Kentucky beat Louisville, 73-66, back on Dec. 28 in Rupp Arena.

"I think more than anything else you have a lot of preparation time this week and you try your best to figure out a team,'' Pitino said. "This is probably one of the more difficult ones that I have faced as a coach, because they have so many weapons that are playing well right now. And we understand what we're up against.''

Pitino picked up his 50th NCAA Tournament victory last week with the 66-51 win over Saint Louis. Pitino has a 50-16 record in NCAA Tournament play, a .757 winning percentage.

As a school, Louisville is in the Sweet Sixteen for the 20th time. The Cardinals have had a pretty good success rate of their own, winning 13 of the previous 19 times they've been there.

This is the first time Pitino has faced Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. The two schools met on a bigger stage two years ago in the national semifinals in New Orleans with top-ranked Kentucky winning 69-61.

Pitino said the UK-Louisville rivalry is a special one but a few games stand out.

"I've said it many times,'' Pitino said. "I've been in the state 20 years, and the game to me has really one had difficult consequences for the loser twice.

"One was two years ago when they stopped our run in the Final Four. And the next game we play.''

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch


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