ORLANDO, Fla. — Louisville coach Rick Pitino had no problem with his team’s NCAA tournament seeding. It was the pairing that drew his ire.
Pitino criticized the selection committee Wednesday for pitting his fourth-seeded and defending national champion Cardinals against 13th-seeded Manhattan, which is coached by Pitino’s former assistant, Steve Masiello.
Louisville and Manhattan open tournament play Thursday night in the Midwest Region.
“I think the pairings sometimes lack common sense,” Pitino said. “I don’t think they would put somewhere down the road Duke-North Carolina so … the matchups don’t make sense to me. I’m OK with the seedings. I’m not OK with the matchups.
“But the selection committee is very fair, very honorable, very honest people, so I can’t protest too much because they’re doing the best job that they can do. Maybe they’re a bunch of soccer ADs, I don’t know.”
Masiello served as Pitino’s ball boy with the NBA’s New York Knicks in the 1980s, played for him at Kentucky (1996-1997) and then spent another six years coaching alongside him at Louisville (2005-11). They know each other inside and out, with Masiello molding Manhattan to mirror the Cardinals.
Pitino said the matchup is tougher than when Louisville got paired against Florida and coach Billy Donovan, who also played and coached for Pitino, in a 2012 regional final.
“We press like him, we trap like him, his offensive sets are just like ours,” Pitino said. “That’s why I don’t like the game. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t like it. I don’t know why they would do it. I just don’t like the game at all for either one of us. We won the national championship and obviously we’re more heralded, but this is anybody’s game. This is not a 1-16.”
Masiello was equally disappointed in the pairing.
“To see them come up and then see us come up against them, it takes a little fun out of it,” Masiello said. “It’s just, that’s not fun for me going against someone that I have to now try to beat, and almost in my mind, think negatively about. It’s hard for me to do that.”