Pitino had so much confidence in the former George Mason standout that he named him a team captain before he had played a minute for the Cardinals.
On Saturday night, the nation saw just why Pitino was so high on Hancock.
Playing on the biggest stage possible, Hancock took over the game. He scored 14 of his 20 points after halftime, helping Louisville rally from a 12-point second-half deficit to beat Wichita State 72-68 in the NCAA Tournament national semifinals.
"There's no question, all of you can see it, he's one of the better players on our team," Pitino said of Hancock. "He gave us a tremendous lift tonight.
Hancock, who hit a game-winning shot in the NCAA Tournament at George Mason, was 6 of 9 from the field, including 3 of 5 three-pointers. He played 31 minutes in the contest for the Cardinals (33-5).
"Luke's an excellent player," senior point guard Peyton Siva said. "He didn't get named team captain for nothing before he even played a game. He showed his leadership out there . . . he showed the world what he's capable of doing."
Hancock did it all for the Cardinals.
He hit a three-pointer to give the Cardinals a lead with just at six minutes left, drained another three-pointer with 2:04 left to extend the lead to five and then hit a layup on the next possession for the Cardinals.
Hancock then hit 1 of 2 free throws with 8.8 seconds left and forced a jump ball that gave the Cardinals the ball back off his second miss.
"Playing with Russ and Peyton, I just try and play off them," Hancock said. "If I'm open then I'm going to shoot it but if I'm not then I'm going to drive.
"I tried to think it was like any other game and just shoot the ball."
Hancock played 31 points with no turnovers and with his team down 12 points in the second half, the captain called his team into a huddle.
He out his arms around his teammates and Stephan Van Treese said, "it was basically like the Syracuse game all over. He said we all have to come together, run and trap and just all come together. He's our captain."
The Cardinals responded with Hancock leading the way.
"What else can I say about Luke at this point, he's the man," Van Treese said.
Hancock said the effort he turned in was a little "extra special" because his mother, Venicia, and father, William were in the front row. His parents were sitting just behind Kevin Ware towards the end of the bench.
"That might be the best part," Hancock said of his parents being at the game. His father is in bad health and his parents haven't attended many games this season.
"My dad is not doing so well right now," Hancock said. "So, to have him sitting right there in the front row is the most unbelievable feeling."