Pitino, Williams to face each other in finals of Hall of Fame Tip-Off
North Carolina is shorthanded and Louisville will be coming off of a lackluster performance. But today's final of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off should still be good.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Rick Pitino walked into the makeshift interview room here at the Mohegan Sun, explained he'd be quick because he has "a lot of work to do," then summarized things without mincing words.
"We didn't play well in any phase of the game," Pitino said. "It's very disappointing."
So, yeah, Louisville beat Fairfield 71-57 on Saturday, and the Cardinals were never seriously threatened. But it was hardly their best performance of the season. In fact, it was, everybody agreed, their worst -- although it's probably indicative of nothing or, at least, very little.
Third-ranked Louisville was a 28-point favorite in this game.
There was no television.
So Pitino acknowleged that, maybe, just maybe, his players had looked past this one and onto the next one. And, if so, who could blame them? Because the next one should be fun.
The next one is against North Carolina here in the finals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.
The next one is on national TV.
And the next one is also a matchup of Hall of Fame coaches, which is rare because there are only five active Naismith Hall of Famers currently coaching college basketball. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is one. Syracuse's Jim Boeheim is another. SMU's Larry Brown is another. And the other two are Pitino and UNC's Roy Williams, the latter of whom was inducted in 2007 and is an admirer of his counterpart who was inducted earlier this year.
"Rick Pitino is one of our great coaches in our game -- high school, college, every level," Williams said after the Tar Heels beat Richmond on Saturday. "He's got great players that do what he asks them to do. It's a recipe for success that he's played for a long time."
Will Pitino have a recipe for success on Sunday?
"If we [play how we played against Fairfield]," Pitino said, "it won't even be a game."
I'm not sure that's true -- especially considering that UNC is still operating without its best perimeter scorer (P.J. Hairston) and another experienced guard (Leslie McDonald). But that quote still captures how frustrated Pitino was after Saturday's semifinal, and the Louisville locker room was possibly the quietest winning locker room I've ever stepped foot in.
"[Sunday will] be my first game on [national] television against a good North Carolina team," said Louisville point guard Chris Jones, who doubles as the reigning National Junior College Player of the Year. "Hopefully we'll play way, way better than we played today."
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