Dan McDonnell's Cardinals (38-18) won their third Big East regular season title in four years with a win over Pittsburgh on Saturday, combined with Seton Hall's victory over St. John's. UofL begins Big East Tournament play Wednesday at 5 p.m. against No. 8 seed Pittsburgh in Clearwater, Fla.
"The No. 1 seed doesn't always win the tournament," McDonnell said Monday. "In my memory, Louisville is the only No. 1 seed to win the tournament and that was in '09. This is our sixth Big East Tournament and only one No. 1 winning it…there is no entitlement.
"You've got to go down there and play well. As we saw all season everybody is beating everybody up. It's not going to be easy. So great accomplishment for the regular season and now we turn the page to our second season right now. This will be a fun, challenging week in Florida."
Why does McDonnell think No. 1 seeds haven't fared well in the Big East tourney?
"I would say there's a real challenge because you're playing the 4-5 [seed in the second round]," explained McDonnell. "Sometimes when you're in the [two-seed] bracket you're playing the 6-7 seed based on an upset.
"The reality is our 4-5 is UConn and South Florida. These were two teams that were in the one and two spots for most of the year up until the last weekend. Not looking past Pittsburgh, but we're playing UConn or South Florida and these are two programs that had a chance to win the regular season."
How can Louisville overcome the No. 1 seed curse this week?
"I've got to make sure our guys still have a chip on their shoulder and go down there with an attitude that we want to represent our league [in the NCAA] as the tournament champion," McDonnell said. "The NCAA's take the tournament champion because it's proof you can win in a tournament atmosphere. That's something we take great pride."
McDonnell said Louisville is leaning toward starting Chad Green (4-0) in the opening round against the Panthers, who the Cards won two of three games on the final weekend of the regular season. Green didn't pitch against Pitt. "That's for several factors," said McDonnell. "We just played Pitt three games so you get to throw an arm they haven't seen. [Justin] Amlung has thrown a lot recently and we'd like to give him an extra days rest. Every game is important, but if you had to vote which is the most important game - it's the 1-0 game.
"When you're 1-0 and the other team is 1-0 and you win that game you're in the semifinals, you get a day off and the other team has to beat you twice. Those four teams that are 1-0 on Thursday - the two teams that win and go to 2-0 are really in the driver's seat."
Though UofL beat No. 1 ranked Kentucky twice this season by a combined 22-2 and won every conference series except one, the Cards had to fight for a share of the Big East regular season championship until the final day of the season. McDonnell hopes that experience has Louisville prepared for the post-season.
"We are tough and battle tested," McDonnell said. "We never put together that 15-game winning streak and made it look as easy as we would have liked. There were some midweek games where we played extremely well, but week in, week out it was a dog fight. We swept Cincinnati the first weekend and I don't think we swept another opponent the rest of the year. It was a fight every weekend."