If my bracket goes according to plan, Rick Pitino's tournament will begin with a clash against a former assistant and end with a matchup against one of his former Providence student-athletes who has turned Florida into a national powerhouse since leaving Pitino's Kentucky bench 20 years ago.
However, Pitino would probably welcome a national championship reunion against Donovan. This week, Pitino isn't happy with beginning the tournament against Steve Masiello's Manhattan Jaspers. That's because, like Donovan, the White Plains native also left Louisville after the 2010-11 season and has successfully dipped into the New York City pipeline to stock his roster with athletes from all five boroughs. The Jaspers execute a similar full-court press as the one Pitino has run throughout his Louisville tenure and are very familiar with Louisville's players and style of play. That seems to irk Pitino just as much as the prospect as facing Masiello.
"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."
This is essentially misdirected anger Pitino is expressing. There appears to be a little resentment left over from his son's Minnesota team getting snubbed by the Selection Committee and Louisville getting bumped to a four seed in the cutthroat Midwest (for the second season in a row). Ultimately, there have to be 68 teams seeded and all but one will lose at some point. Here's the other factor Pitino hasn't considered. Five of his former assistants are littered out there in the NCAA field.
If Reggie Theus' Cal-State Northridge squad hadn't been upset by two against Cal State Poly in the Big West Final, he would have been the sixth Pitino protégé on the sidelines during the first weekend.
Whether they play in the first round or in the title game, leave it all on the court because once that buzzer sounds friends on opposite sides of the court become enemies. Louisville should redirect those emotions towards Manhattan.