The NCAA journey begins out West

SEATTLE – The University of Louisville basketball team has traveled to the West Coast to begin play in the NCAA Tournament on Friday. The Cardinals will take on UC-Irvine in the East Regional game at KeyArena at 4:10 p.m. ET.

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino joked around a few weeks back with the media that he wanted his team to be sent as far from Louisville as possible when the NCAA Tournament bracket came out.

”Send us to the Pacific Ocean,” Pitino quipped.

And that’s exactly what he got for the Cardinals. Saying he was happy with the draw, Pitino and the Cardinals are a few miles from the Pacific Ocean preparing for Friday’s opening game against UC-Irvine at KeyArena in Seattle.

”Yeah, we really did want to go West and we’re excited about it,” Pitino said. “We went to Portland the last time around (in 2012) and had a great trip. We won’t be going to Phoenix next, but if we get lucky, we’ll come home and go to Syracuse.”

The Cardinals were sent West despite being in the East Region. The NCAA doesn’t dictate what tournaments sites are in what region by geography.

U of L (24-8) is playing in the East Region for the fifth time but the program is playing in the state of Washington for the very first time.

The Cardinals have had some luck out West. The last time U of L was in the West region was in ’12 when they won two games in Portland and two in Phoenix on their way to the Final Four in New Orleans.

”This is the first time in a while (with the draw) that we got exactly what we wanted,” Pitino said. “We wanted to not be in the same region as Kentucky and we wanted to go West. We’re excited about it.”

Pitino said he believes the team focuses better when they are away from the distractions in Louisville. The Cardinals were 15-4 this season at home, while going 7-3 on the road with the losses at No. 2 seed Virginia, No. 4 seed North Carolina and Syracuse and all came in tight games.

”Every team is different and this team for some reason got distracted around family and friends,” Pitino said. “I don’t know why. I couldn’t figure it out. More than any team that I have coached in 40 years, this team just got very distracted.

”Maybe it’s the world of social media and listening to Twitter and listening to what the fans have to say or maybe it’s the fact they are very young. I’m not sure what it is, but I know I wanted to get away.”

It could help a little that Seattle has become a bit of a pipeline for Pitino in recent years. He landed Terrence Williams, Peyton Siva and also Shaqquan Aaron from the area and will still actively recruits the Seattle area in the future.

”It’s going to be a lot of fun in Seattle,” Pitino said. “I know T-Will texted me and he’s going to be out there rotting for us. I know Shaqquan is going to be happy to be able to see his mother and sister. Peyton can’t go but I am sure we will see 36 of his closest Samoan family friends that made it in for Senior Night.

”So, it’s going to be exciting.”

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