Pitino talks NCAA, California

Louisville, the No. 9 seed in the South Region, is getting ready for Friday's first round NCAA Tournament game against No. 8 seed California. Monday, Rick Pitino spoke about the challenges that awaits his team in Jacksonville, Florida.

On Louisville's fourth straight NCAA Tournament bid as a No. 9 seed in the South Region:

"We're thrilled to be in the tournament. This is one of the most interesting seasons I've had as a basketball coach. I think we were free throws away from actually competing at the top because it cost us three games. We weren't able to play our style this year and had to play differently to win. And we did it and we accomplished it and the players deserve a lot of credit for doing it. We hope to tune in next year back to our style."

"The interesting thing about this season and why it's so pleasing is outside of Edgar Sosa nobody had a good year statistically. Samardo [hasn't]. TJ hasn't had a brilliant statistical season. Swop hasn't. So nobody had a really good season by themselves and they were probably inches away from winning 14 Big East games. It was a very interesting and intriguing year. I think it was role players stepping into primary situations at a very young age and growing into them."

On playing California in the NCAA Tournament first round:

"We're playing a terrific basketball team in Cal, a very experienced team that won the Pac-10 regular-season and went to the finals of their tournament. Any time you start four seniors with great quickness, they're a dangerous basketball team. Under normal conditions they are a four or five seed but the Pac-10 was down this year. But they've got four seniors and have been a high RPI team all year. If we beat them then we played a great basketball game."


Edgar Sosa faces a big test against California's Jerome Randle, a quick, high-scoring 5-foot-8 point guard.
On the challenges Louisville will face against California:

"They're very tough to guard in transition. Jerome Randle is equally good off the bounce as he is pulling up. They're an excellent fundamental team. They move well, they pass well. They play like a senior team. They're not going to beat themselves. Their other seniors are all great shooters. We recruited Jamal Boykin before he went to Duke. He's improved and uses his left hand as much as his right hand."

"We realize we're facing one of the most underrated teams in the country. For the first time in my life as a basketball coach that I haven't studied the field and looked at the brackets. We're up against it and we know it. We're spending every waking moment studying Cal."

On whether or not California compares to Marquette, a team that gave Louisville trouble two weeks ago:

"I think they're a great shooting team like Marquette and they have a lot of quickness like Marquette. But I don't think they're the slap-down team that Marquette is."

On Louisville's leadership heading into the NCAA:

"I don't think we've got good leadership. I think the leadership comes from the coaches and we've had to do that the whole year. That being said Edgar Sosa's attitude has been great this year. I'm really happy with Edgar. When his season is over I'm really proud of him. He's been quite special, Edgar. He's going into a big game right now and we need somebody to step up offensively and he's as capable of doing that as any player in the country."

"Edgar Sosa had a brilliant season except at the free throw line. He's one of the premier point guards in basketball. If it wasn't for the foul line he had a great senior year. He's going against the all-time leading scorer [Randle] in Cal history. So you're going to have two premier point guards going against each other."

On injured shooting guard Jerry Smith's status for Louisville's first round game:

"He has not practiced since [Syracuse]. He's moving his hand for the first time. I expect him to see limited time but he will play I believe."


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