Louisville coach Rick Pitino didn’t want to play CSU basketball in the NCAA tournament

Pitino coaching the Louisville Cardinals
Pitino coaching the Louisville Cardinals (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the NCAA brackets were announced Sunday, Louisville coach Rick Pitino had a list of teams he thought were dangerous.

The CSU basketball team was on that list.

“There’s about eight, nine of them people wouldn’t recognize, but were very dangerous. They — Colorado State was one. St. Louis. Oregon as a 12 seed,” Pitino said. “And Colorado State, because of five seniors  number one rebounding margin team in the country.”

The Rams out-rebound their opponents by an average of  12.4 rebounds per game, two rebounds per game more than second-place Quinnipiac. In Thursday’s game against Missouri, CSU grabbed 42 rebounds compared to 19 for the Tigers.

Missouri ranks fifth in the country with a +8.6 rebounding margin and couldn’t grab more boards than CSU seniors Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung.

Louisville pulled down 11 more rebounds than North Carolina A&T in the Cardinals’ 79-48 victory, but the team knows it has to make more of a concerted effort on the glass against the Rams.

“We have to do a better job on the glass. Our forwards didn’t really rebound the ball that well,” Lousiville senior guard Peyton Siva said. “We haven’t faced a team like this that rebounds with such tenacity. We’ve got to come in ready to play.”

In addition to rebounding the ball well, CSU starts five seniors, all of which have talent, according to Pitino.

“The way I look at a dangerous team and I put that list together, it’s based on how many upperclassmen do they have that have stayed together and how much talent do they have?” he said. “You have a lot of upperclassmen, but they may not be that good. This team is very talented as well as being seniors. I always look at talent and experience coming together, and Colorado State has both.”

The Rams also represent a different challenge for Louisville. The Cardinals defeated then-No. 13 Missouri 84-61 on November 23 in the Bahamas by forcing 21 turnovers and converting them to 31 points.

Pitino would have rather played the Tigers again.

“I was rooting or Missouri last night. Why? Because Missouri plays a certain style, up and down, and it’s a better fir for us,” he said. “I’m sure Colorado State has said ‘Louisville may not be the best for us’ either. It works both ways.”

CSU coach Larry Eustachy appreciated the compliment from Pitino and acknowledged similar characteristics between the two teams.

“I think we’re hard to play against and that’s why we play that way. It’s the hardest way to play, Louisville plays the whole floor and so do we,” Eustachy said. “I think both teams play differently but at the same level of effort, and that’s a compliment to our guys.”

For CSU, the team relishes the opportunity to play against the tournament’s top overall seed in what will essentially be a home game for Louisville based on the droves of Cardinals’ fans that travelled to Lexington.

“That’s what you want in college basketball is a packed house and everybody rooting against you,” CSU guard Dorian Green said. “It’s going to be a great environment and a great atmosphere, something we have to relish and want to be successful in.”

Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at sports@collegian.com.