Pitino: Cards excited staying close to home

Louisville has only a 70 mile journey east on Interstate 64 to reach Lexington – the Cardinals destination for their NCAA Tournament first round game against Stanford. It's a prospect that has Louisville's coaches, players and fans excited about the upcoming tournament.

There's no place like home. That's what Louisville hopes for their first round NCAA Tournament game Thursday against Stanford.

The No. 6 seed in the South Region, the Cardinals have only a 70 mile journey east on Interstate 64 to reach Lexington – their destination for the Big Dance. It's a prospect that has Louisville's coaches, players and fans excited about the upcoming tournament.

"We're very happy to be going anywhere, but anytime you can stay in the state it's exciting," Pitino said Sunday after the tournament field was released.

While Louisville's first round opponent, 18-12 Stanford, will have to travel across the country for the game, the Cardinals can rest easy at home preparing for Thursday's opening round contest. Pitino said the teams travel plans hadn't been finalized Sunday night.

"We'll more than likely go in the day before, but we haven't even discussed it ye," he said.

It will also be an easy trip for Louisville fans, who scrambled for tickets online Sunday night after the brackets were announced.

"We just didn't want to go west," Pitino said. "We were hoping that it would be Chicago, Lexington or New Orleans – some place close enough for our fans to get to it."

After finishing 12-4 in the Big East with an appearance in the Big East Tournament semifinals, coupled with their No. 12 national ranking in the Associated Press poll, Pitino thought his team might receive a higher seed than the one the NCAA Selection Committee gave it.

Regardless of his teams NCAA Tournament seeding, Pitino said he's proud that the Cardinals finished the season strong after a 6-4 start in the league.

"We thought we would be a five-seed based on the rankings and how we played at the end of the year," Pitino said. "But we're very excited. It's a tremendous compliment to our players to perform in the last five weeks the way they have performed. I'm very excited and so is the team.

Earl Clark had a solid Big East
Tournament with 23 points and
21 rebounds against WVU and Pitt.

"From the comeback against Syracuse, winning six road games and finishing 13-5 in the Big East – it is a tremendous accomplishment for an extremely young basketball team that faced a lot of adversity and injuries. They've gone way beyond what I've anticipated and I'm very proud of them."

Now Pitino and the Cards will turn their attention toward Stanford, the sixth place in the Pacific 10 Conference. Louisville beat the Cardinal two years ago in the Maui Invitational, but Pitino admitted Sunday that he doesn't know much about the current Stanford team.

"I know they are very big up front, that's about it," Pitino said.

Louisville enters the NCAA Tournament having won seven of their last eight games, falling to Pittsburgh Friday night in New York in the Big East Tournament semifinals. The Cardinals led by 11 at halftime against the Panthers, but relinquished the lead early in the second half and didn't have enough to comeback for the win.

"We were a real tired basketball team looking back on it," Pitino said. "The West Virginia game was a great game, but I think Earl Clark and David Padgett ran out of gas (against Pittsburgh). They played too many minutes the night before."

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