March 15, 2005 | ESPN.com's NCAA Tournament coverage
Rick Pitino is a man on a mission.
Yes, the Louisville coach already has a national championship ring but he'd love to take a third school to the Final Four after leading Providence and Kentucky there (remember, he coached Kentucky to the national title in 1996).
How do you think Pitino felt when he saw the NCAA Tournament bracket revealed on TV?
His Cardinals went 29-4, won the Conference USA regular-season and tournament championships and were ranked No. 4 in both final polls (ESPN/USA Today and AP) and for all that achievement, they were rewarded with a No. 4 seed!
Louisville won 18 of its last 19 games. Earlier in the season, the Cardinals lost a heartbreaker to Kentucky, a No. 2 seed, on a last-second shot. They won the C-USA tournament on a hostile court in Memphis.
Not only did the Cardinals get a No. 4 seed, but they're also staring at a potential second-round showdown against Georgia Tech a team that finished strong and made the Final Four last season.
That is unbelievable!
And, of course, they're on the same side of the Albuquerque Regional bracket as No. 1-seed Washington.
But Louisville has the potential to make some noise despite the tough draw. My C-USA player of the year, junior Francisco Garcia, is one of the most versatile players in America. Junior point guard Taquan Dean can be dangerous. Senior Larry O'Bannon scored 33 points vs. Charlotte earlier this month.
I believe that Pitino felt his team was worthy of being a No. 2 seed. He will use the perceived disrespect as motivation as he prepares his team for its first-round game against Louisiana-Lafayette. Can he take the Cardinals as far as he's taken his previous teams?
After Pitino led Kentucky to the '96 national title, he and the Wildcats returned to the title game in '97 only to be upset by Arizona. Then Pitino left Bluegrass country for the NBA and the Boston Celtics.
Louisville has the potential to make noise despite the tough draw.
(Tubby Smith took over as head coach at Kentucky in '97 and has been there ever since. Smith won the national title in '98, the year after Pitino left.)
Later, in 2001, Pitino became head coach at Louisville. In his four seasons at the helm, Pitino, 52, has done a great job averaging 23 wins per season and leading the Cardinals to three straight NCAA tourneys.
This season, all four of Louisville's losses came against teams competing in the postseason: Iowa and Kentucky are in the NCAA Tournament, Memphis and Houston are NIT-bound.
The Cardinals are a club to watch in the Big Dance. I expect to see them in the Elite Eight.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.