Idaho-Louisville Preview

March 22, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Rick Pitino didn't have to look far to find someone with a similar gripe.

Louisville's Jeff Walz might be the one coach in the country with a more legitimate complaint about his NCAA tournament placement than Pitino, whose Cardinal men were seeded fourth despite being ranked fifth in the country.

The Louisville women entered their NCAA tournament ranked fourth in the nation but as a No. 3 seed - and with a potential road game against host Iowa looming in the second round.

The Cardinals (30-4) appear to have suffered the misfortune of playing in a conference with top-seeded Connecticut, the prohibitive favorite to win it all, and eight teams that failed to make the field.

But Walz, whose team opens its push for a second straight Final Four appearance on Sunday against 14th-seeded Idaho (25-8) in Iowa City, chose to poke fun at the Cardinals' plight instead of bemoaning it.

After all, Louisville knows it'll play a regional semifinal and final at home if it can make it that far.

''We're just honored to be in the tournament. We lost three times to UConn. When the draw was about to be announced, we were just concerned if we'd be in it. When you lose four times, it's tough sometimes,'' Walz said.

Louisville reached the 30-win mark for just the second time in school history behind one of the nation's most efficient offenses. The Cardinals average 78.9 points and shoot 45.5 percent from the field.

They aren't the greatest free-throw shooting team, though, ranking just 254th out of 343 schools at just 66.8 percent, but only six squads in the country can boast of a higher average margin of victory (19 points). Louisville has plenty of experience as well, having made it to the national title game as a No. 5 seed a year ago.

''Last year we got a taste of everything,'' senior guard Tia Gibbs said. ''I think for all of us, whether it's our last year or not as seniors, we want it back. We want to get there and actually win it this year.''

Count Idaho coach Jon Newlee among those who think the Cardinals are a No. 1-seeded team. That's why he believes the Vandals are in a similar position to a year ago, when they were blasted by eventual champion UConn 105-37 in the first round as a No. 16 seed. But the Vandals have won eight in a row and took both the regular season and tournament titles in the WAC for the first time.

''I think we've done a better job of rebounding the basketball during our stretch, making better shot selection decisions. That was something that we struggled with earlier,'' Newlee said.