The Cardinals, who returned to Louisville Saturday after beating Memphis 75-74 in the C-USA finals at the FedExForum in Memphis, watched the selection process unfold - with dissapointment - Sunday evening at a local restaraunt. Pitino said he warned those who felt the Cardinals were a shoe-in for at least a two-seed before the brackets were unveiled.
"Well, people here were saying (before the selection) 'We're definitely a two, maybe a one,'" said Pitino. "And I said to them, 'Look, don't be surprised if we're a three,' just because the way people were talking about Washington."
"But when you look at all the criteria; how you play on the road - we're one of the hottest teams in the country, how you finish up the season - which they said last year was (important) - we finished up one of the strongest teams in the country," Pitino added. "We won our conference tournament, we won our conference regular-season, and not too many teams were able to do that."
Pitino now says he'll have to lift his players spirits before playing their opening round game this Friday in Nashville.
Expecting no lower than a 3-seed, there
probably weren't too many smiling faces in the
Cardinals camp Sunday evening when they
learned they were a four-seed in the NCAA
Tournament's Albuquerque bracket.
With a 4-seed comes a tough first-round opponent for sixth-ranked Louisville. The Cardinals will face Sun Belt Tournament Champion Louisiana-Lafayette (20-10) Friday in Nashville. The Rajun-Cajuns are red-hot entering the tournament, winners of 14 of their past 17 games.
"At the beginning of the year we were looking at scheduling, and Scotty Davenport was watching a lot of film on who to play and who not to play non-conference wise," said Pitino. "We were looking at playing Louisiana-Lafayette and he said 'Coach, that is probably one of the one teams that we do not want to play.' They are a veteran team and they are just loaded with talent."
Lafayette boasts four starters who average double-figures scoring this season. Fortunately, primarily because of the scouting Davenport did before the season, the Cardinals will have a good working knowledge of what they'll be up against in the first-round as they prepare for the Cajuns in practice this week.
"The good news is that we do know them," Pitino said. "The bad news is they are very talented. We have ourselves a very difficult opening round game, and we'll go right to work and be ready for it."
But the bottom line for Louisville is that they're in the "Dance," with a chance. And, perhaps most importantly, they're playing well entering this year's tournament.
"We're in the tournament, we met the criteria and all challenges and we just have to keep on going," Pitino said. "We've got a very tough opening game."