He said he thinks Louisville would be a one seed. Certainly, it plays like one seed, and then said he doesn't politic. Which was an incredible bit of politicking in itself.
“We’ll probably be a one seed,” Pitino told ESPN's Andy Katz postgame.
The Cardinals are going to be the toughest seed in the entire tournament in my opinion. The team is the defending national champs, were 29-5 and are wrecking everyone. By all accounts, the Cardinals are probably at this point one of the top 5 teams in the country. The eye test will say that and I don't think anyone would argue it.
A live person puts the Cardinals as a national title favorite. But a computer? It's not how you play or your hoops ability, it is who you played. Even if you lost the game, that's superior to winning a game in the computer's mind.
Louisville is 4-3 against the top 25 of the RPI, and 5-5 vs. the top 50. The favorite for the one seed is Michigan, which is 10-4 against the Top 50.
That is the sole argument for Louisville not getting a one seed. That's it.
But this is where it gets tricky. If the committee is a slave to the computers, the Cardinals -- 18th in the PRI -- could be a 4 or 5 seed.
Now, what kind of bracket would it be to have the Cardinals as a 4 seed? Surem Russ Smith on a mission to prove people wrong is exactly what this tournament needs.
Seeding Louisville below the 3-line will wreck the tournament and create such an imbalance that the rest of the brackets could not overcome. Louisville is powerful -- no one doubts their ability -- but could be seeded lower if it is based on the math. The Cardinals didn't have a good non-conference schedule. It's a quirk that came about because of the divorce of the Big East and the creation of the American and the fact Louisville is headed out to the ACC. It's a problem.
The big question now, is how far the committee drops them based on RPI and SOS. The Cardinals as a No. 2 would fit, and would be a strong No. 3 seed. But, anything lower than that, which the math says is possible, would overload the bracket and would competitively wreck the tournament in my opinion.
How about the howls of a four-seed Louisville team in the same bracket as No. 1 Florida or Wichita State?
Where the Cardinals fall on the S-curve is something to watch.
UConn (26-8, RPI 23)UConn is coming into the tournament at 26-8, and if it weren't for Louisville could be jumping into the top 10. But, those three losses loom large for the Huskies, who figure to be a five or six seed based on their RPI of 23. UConn has a lot going for it, with a 14-2 non-conference schedule and a on-conference RPI of 15. UConn is 7-5 vs. the Top 50, which is two better wins than Louisville. UConn is 7-2 against everyone not Louisville and have a win over Florida, which will be the tournament No. 1 overall seed.
As far as UConn's chances for a March run, the Huskies have the ability to make the Sweet 16 and beyond, but will also be a slave to matchups. UConn lost five games this season to two teams, SMU and Louisville, and both were similar defensive style of teams that punished UConn inside and made things difficult for the Huskies' offense with physical perimeter defense. If a team can get UConn into a physical game and knock Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright -- two small guards -- off their shots UConn, has struggled. A physical team that wants to play halfcourt basketball and pound inside will give UConn trouble (no secret). The Huskies play with two point guards in the backcourts and no real power forward (Deandre Daniels is a 3-man in skill and size). It's a problem for UConn if the matchups aren't right.
The Huskies' wins over Memphis show what happens if the team wants to uptempo the game. UConn desperately wants to get into a transition game. If the Huskies get in a fullcourt game where it's up to Napier and Boatright to attack in an open floor, the Huskies could make a run. A powerful team that defends? Huskies are going to have to find a way to make those 3s, which it didn't against Louisville on Saturday. Not every team in the NCAAs can play like Louisville or SMU, which is good for the Huskies. I like UConn's chances if the game is played in the 70s and 80s with good pace. Anything less than that? It's going to be a coinflip. UConn desperately needs Boatright to play and shoot better and be a consistent double digit scorer.
Looking like a No. 5 with possible shot at a 4-seed.
Cincinnati (27-6, RPI 19)The Bearcats were the most consistent team in the American this season and will be a tough out. Likely looking at a four-seed (even though it lost to UConn twice), Cincinnati is going to be a tough out for a higher seeded based solly because of defense and rebounding. If Sean Kilpatrick gets hot, the Bearcats have enough for a Final Four run. I like Cincinnati a ton, but they don't score, which to me is a problem in the NCAAs (the Pitt curse). Instead of making a final four run, it's easy to see Cincinnati losing 58-53 to a lower seeded team. That's just the way the Bearcats play. Cincinnati is 265th in the nation in shooting percentage, at 42.7 percent. Certainly the defense -- sixth in the nation-- will keep Cincinnati close, but how many teams that can't shoot go far?
The one saving grace is Cincinnati has a guy who can create his own shot in Kilpatrick. If the Bearcats' defense keeps it close, Kilpatrick can hit shots late in the game. But, the margin of error is going to be slim for a team that isn't exactly gangbusters on the offensive end.
Cincinnati is a 4-seed that because of losses late could lower to the 5-line.
Memphis (22-9, RPI 34)Memphis is the anti-Cincinnati. The Tigers like to run, shoot and are an athletic basketball team that is fine to watch in transition. But, Memphis gives up about 70 points a game and getting blown out by UConn on their home floor had to be a shock to the system. Memphis has plenty of weapons and firepower, but how is their defense. Against UConn in the semifinals, they allowed Niels Giffey to roam free and go for a career-high 24 points. Giffey's shot making prowess isn't new and should have been accounted for. Giffey only takes shot if he is wide open, which he was against Memphis. How he was left open remains a mystery that Josh Pastner is going to have to solve. There is a lot of athletic talent, and if the Tigers play up and down they will be tough to stop. They beat Louisville twice, precisely because they can handle the athleticism. Can Memphis win that grinding tough-out game though? Depending on matchups, they may not have too. Memphis looks like a dangerous No 6 or No. 7 seed in my book, and I love the backcourt and talent in an NCAA game that is called more tightly than what is standard in the AAC this season.
That said, the 20-point loss to UConn in the tournament gives me pause. Memphis has guards in Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon Jr. and a favorite of mine in Geron Johnson. It has Shaq Goodwin to finish inside and rebound. Will this team defend well enough when it isn't getting steals?
Memphis as a No. 7 seems about right.
SMU (23-9, RPI 55)The Mustangs will get into the NCAAs, but the way it ended the season, just barely. SMU is 23-9, but lost to Houston in the first round of the American.
The Mustangs were 6-6 away from Moody Colesium and 2-2 on neutral floors. That is 8-8 outside of home, which isn't a good record. SMU should get in, but it's going to be sweating a bit. SMU looks like a potential candidate for the play-in game with an RPI rank of 55. I like SMU in certain matchups, and there is a defensive ability there that will make every game it plays in ugly. SMU shoots the ball well, has a player in Nic Moore who can get hot, defends greatly and rebounds. It has a great coach and by all accounts should be dangerous.
The problem with SMU is it isn't playing well. The Mustangs have lost three straight and struggle outside of their home site. Who knows what team will show up in the NCAAs? The RPI around 55 also makes me a bit worried, but the eye test puts the Mustangs in. I don't see a deep run from SMU as possible, but Larry Brown has done it before and having him back in the NCAAs should be a treat.
Anything higher than a 10-seed would be a surprise.
The othersA lot has been made about the have and have nots in the American. Because of that, Houston deserves credit for not being terrible and at 17-16 is mediocre enough to perhaps get into one of the postseason tournaments that is not the NIT.
USF needs a new coach, UCF had a terrible year and Rutgers was Rutgers with a 61 point loss in the American quarters. Rutgers will fit in with Northwestern in the Big 10 next year. Temple remains the great mystery in all this at 9-22 and had an abysmal year. The Owls should bounce back next year, and Temple has a strong pedigree and area talent (you should be able to go to the playground in Philly and recruit enough good players).
That said, it's March and tournament time, the best time of the year.