LOUISVILLE — The general consensus is the NCAA Selection Committee might have undervalued Louisville when putting together the field of 68.
But you won't hear any public griping from U of L Coach Rick Pitino.
The Cardinals finished third in the Big East, viewed as perhaps the top conference in the nation. In the past month, they beat four teams seeded above them in the Big Dance — Syracuse, UConn, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. They made it to the championship game of the Big East Tournament, where they lost a three-point heartbreaker to UConn.
But when asked his take on his team's seeding, Pitino took the high road.
"We're excited to be in the tournament," he said. "We don't get involved with seeding. We're extremely proud of where we are (as a team). We didn't have anything to do with the political elections, and we don't care what we're seeded or where we go."
While saying he was 'super-psyched' to be in the NCAA Tournament after many had predicted a mediocre season for the Cards, Pitino did admit all the talk about seedings was starting to wear on him. The fact he and his team have been sleep-deprived after putting in some late nights on the court in New York probably didn't help matters, either.
"I know a lot more basketball than the people in that room (selection), but my job is to coach the X's and O's of the game," he said. "I've had stupid e-mails from people asking why Syracuse is a three (seed). It's taking my time and getting under my skin. You've got to play the game. Wherever or whoever you play is going to be tough. We don't care. I don't care about seedings. We wanted to play in Hawaii, but that wasn't an option."
Pitino also said he's not paying much attention to the talking heads and their prognostications, although ESPN's Dick Vitale did have the Cards in his Final Four.
"All that stuff is great for ESPNU late at night when you have no life," he said. "I remember when I was the Knicks coach being part of a (NCAA) pool where everybody put in a dollar at the time. The guy who won the pool was an Italian guy who didn't speak English and thought Valparaiso was an Italian university. It's very difficult to pick any game, more so this year than any other."
Pitino did point out that teams such as Pittsburgh and Syracuse might have advantages because they were knocked out early, while UConn won five games in five days to win the tourney and Louisville played the late game three nights in a row, including an overtime win over Notre Dame in the semifinals.
Instead of seedings and location, Pitino is spending his time worried about Morehead State and its premier big man, Kenneth Faried, who not only leads the country in rebounding but is the NCAA's all-time leader in that category.
"If you've got a way to keep Faried off the backboard let me know," he said. "You don't worry about seeds. You worry about the opponents you play. (Faried) is the highest draft pick we'll face this year up front."
Pitino said there's a lot more to the Eagles than Faried, and he knows first-hand, having beaten Morehead 74-54 in a first-round NCAA Tournament game in 2009. Faried, then a sophomore, had 14 points and 11 boards in that contest. Senior guard Demonte Harper struggled through a 1-for-9 shooting night in that game, but he has emerged as more than a sidekick to Faried this season, averaging 16 points and hitting 40 percent from three-point range.
The Eagles's familiarity with the Cards was enhanced when Pitino invited the Morehead staff to Louisville to watch drills after the NCAA Tournament game. Morehead runs the same defensive sets as Pitino's squad.
"Defensively, we're twins," Pitino said.
The Eagles more than held their own with the two NCAA Tournament teams they faced in the regular season, losing a narrow 61-55 decision at Florida and falling 64-45 to top overall seed Ohio State in a game in which the Buckeyes pulled away late. Faried bullied the Gators for 20 points and 18 boards and had 15 and 12 at Ohio State despite being saddled with foul trouble.
"The Morehead State team we played two years ago was younger; now they're seniors," he said. "They're as good of a basketball team as there is in the country. They've got Big East players at certain positions. ... (Ohio State freshman All-American) Jared Sullinger couldn't keep Faried off the boards, so that tells you what kind of player he is."
Pitino said point guard Peyton Siva, who hurt an ankle in Saturday's championship game, sat out Monday's practice but will be ready for Thursday's game.