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Pitino miffed by NCAA pairings

Published On: Mar 20 2014 09:31:44 AM CDT
Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino

Peter Jones/Reuters

Louisville, the defending national champions who shredded the American Athletic Conference tournament competition, will not bellyache about being a No. 4 seed in the Midwest Region.

After all, three of the 2013 Final Four are in the packed bracket.

But coach Rick Pitino is less than thrilled with the second-round matchup against his former ballboy and assistant coach Steve Masiello and the 13th-seeded Manhattan Jaspers.

"I think the pairings sometimes lack common sense," Pitino said Wednesday. "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."

Pitino coached Masiello at Kentucky in 1996-97 after previously having him as a ballboy with the New York Knicks. Masiello coached alongside Pitino at Louisville from 2005-11. Masiello said the elation of getting into the tournament was hushed a bit when he saw Manhattan come up as Louisville's opening opponent.

"It takes a little fun out of it," he said. "It's just, that's not fun for me going against someone that I have to now try to beat. ... And in my mind, think negatively about, it's hard for me to do that."

There is more familiarity throughout the rosters. George Beamon of Manhattan played against Louisville All-American guard Russ Smith in high school.

"He was always a great player, still a phenomenal player, getting better with the years," said Beamon. "It's always a tough matchup going against that guy, man. He's a great player, and now he's even well coached by Coach Pitino over there. They've got a great team, and he's the leader over there. It's just great. It's going to be great seeing him again, going at him again, just playing against him again."

For the players, the familiarity isn't necessarily a negative.

"They do everything we do, but they do it to another level," said Rhamel Brown comparing his Manhattan team to Louisville. "They've been doing this for years. Coach Pitino has a great system over there and there's a reason they're in the tournament every year and always battling for the championship, so for us to win there's a lot of things that are going to have to go our way, but we're just looking forward to it."

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