We don’t know a whole lot about UC Irvine – other than the fact they have one of the coolest nicknames in all of college sport – the “Anteaters”. They won the Big West Tournament (21-12) for their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. UC-I and Louisville have some common opponents; UofL beat Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge, while the Anteaters went 3-1 against those teams in conference play.
*UC Irvine’s season results.
*The C-J’s Jeff Greer breaks down UofL’s first opponent.
Louisville (24-8) received a No. 4 seed in the East region of the 2015 NCAA tournament, but the Cardinals will start the tournament on Friday in Seattle against 13th seed University of California-Irvine.
The Cards are paired up in the same region as the second overall No. 1 seed, Villanova, a former Big East foe. Louisville’s four-team pod in Seattle also features fifth-seeded Northern Iowa and 12th seed Wyoming.
Northern Iowa and Wyoming tip off at 1:40 p.m. Eastern time on Friday at the KeyArena in Seattle. Louisville and UC-Irvine will tip off after the conclusion of that game, and TBS will carry the live broadcast.
The regional semifinals and final will be in Syracuse over March 27-29.
“We’re real happy about being out in Seattle,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino told ESPN Radio on Sunday. “We wanted to get away. It’s less distractions. We’re very excited about that.”
*Eric Crawford takes a look at the Cards’ chances.
UC Irvine (21-12, 11-5) won its first Big West Tournament championship by beating Hawaii 67-68 on Friday. Will Davis II leads the team in scoring with 13 points per game, but the Anteaters are better known for having Mamadou Ndiaye, who at 7-6 and 300 pounds, is the tallest player in college basketball. He’s averaging 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Like Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng, he’s a native of Senegal who has been a fast study at the game.
Pitino, while disappointed at his team’s quick exit from the ACC Tournament, said the extra practice this week has been a blessing for his team. With the school on spring break, the Cardinals have been able to go double-sessions. He told ESPN Radio that he has tinkered with smaller lineups, though that might not be something he tries with a 7-6 center patrolling the baseline.
“We needed practice because when Chris Jones went out, we really had to change a lot of things around to get ready,” he said. “There was a blessing in losing. We got to go double sessions each day, get some guys ready, mix some small lineups in there. We’ll go double-sessions tomorrow. In the morning we’ll go through all the out-of-bounds plays by Irvine, all the special situations. Then in the afternoon we’ll go through a regular practice. Then we’ll leave on Wednesday. most teams will leave on Tuesday, but we’ll leave on Wednesday.”
*Here’s some info about the school.