By Ed Peak
The NCAA just could help itself, matching the University of Louisville against Rick Pitino’s son. Just too obvious, the irony. But the Cardinals are back.
That eruption that shook the area at 6:07 Sunday evening was UofL fans celebrating another bid to the NCAA basketball Tournament. Good to be back in the club, enjoy it while it lasts.
After not being in the tournament two of the last three years the Cardinals (20-13) are a No. 7 seed in the East Regional. The Cardinals will play 10th seeded Minnesota (21-13) in Des Moines, Thursday at 12:15 p.m. It will be the first game in the tournament and will have the nation’s attention until at least 12:40.
The Gophers, of course, are coached by Richard Pitino, son of former Louisville coach Rick Pitino. Former Cardinal big man Matz Stockman plays for the Golden Gophers. “Rick Pitino will fly back from Greece to be at practice to help,” cracked ESPN analyst Seth Greenburg.
“It’s the elephant in the room,”said Chris Mack at his press conference. “I’ve coached a few guys that played for Rick. Can’t control what people are going to talk about, write about or report on. You can only beat a horse for so long.”
The Big Ten placed eight teams in the tournament. The Atlantic Coast Conference has seven but three of them are No. 1 seeds — Duke, Virginia and North Carolina — along with Gonzaga. I didn’t believe there was anyway the ACC would have three No. 1 seeds. Not that they didn’t deserve it, I just didn’t think the committee would have the guts.
I’m going with Duke to win all the marbles. Despite a short bench, the Blue Demons have the best player Zion Williamson, the best coach in Mike Krzyewski and a supporting cast of former Macdonald’s All-Americans.
Don’t doubt that Louisville could make it interesting, however, having dominated three of the top four seeds for more than a few minutes this season. Defeating North Carolina in one game, and managing nice leads before folding against Duke and Virginia.