Rick Pitino made the Basketball Hall of Fame last season, but he's pursuing more milestones this season at Louisville.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – When you make the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, there's usually little room for additional bold type on your plaque.
Rick Pitino's credentials are already king-sized. Only coach to win an NCAA men's title at two schools. Seven Final Four appearances delivered at three different programs. An NCAA Tournament winning percentage of 75 percent. Closing in on 700 victories after losing eight seasons to the NBA.
What more can Pitino add to credentials?
Try this: If Louisville can win the American Athletic Conference title this season, Pitino will have league titles from five different leagues. The ECAC North Atlantic; the Southeastern, Conference USA and the Big East are the first four.
Starting next season, he'll have a chance to push the record to six in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
There are three other items for Pitino to pursue over the next six weeks: He can become the first coach since Ben Howland (UCLA 2006-2008) to appear in three consecutive Final Fours. That's a short list that includes guys like John Wooden and Dean Smith.
And if Louisville repeats? That's an even shorter list – Hank Iba, Adolph Rupp, Phil Woolpert, Ed Jucker, Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski and Billy Donovan.
Can Pitino get to 700 victories this season? He needs 13 victories.
Louisville has four remaining regular-season games, starting Thursday at home with Temple. The Cards could play three games in the AAC Tournament. And six wins are required to win the NCAA title.
Stringing together consecutive Final Four seasons isn't as easy as it used to be. Players leave school for the NBA on the first connecting flight. It's tough to keep getting favorable matchups. Shots roll in – or they roll away. Injuries. You know the list.
At least one program has made it back into the Final Four for the last seven seasons: Florida and UCLA (2007); UCLA (2008); North Carolina (2009); Michigan State (2010); Butler (2011); Kentucky (2012) and Louisville (2013).
Take a look at the latest Associated Press college basketball poll. You'll find all four teams that played in Atlanta last April parked in the Top 16 – Wichita State (second), Syracuse (fourth), Louisville (seventh) and Michigan (16th).
Yes and no.
All four also started this season ranked in the Top 16, but in a different order. It was Louisville (third), Michigan (seventh), Syracuse (eighth) and Wichita State (16th).
After the departure of Chane Behanan, the Cards are down three starters from last season. Ditto for Michigan. The Wolverines are without Mitch McGary as well as Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Point guards and centers are supposed to be the most significant losses. Pitino and Michigan coach John Beilein have created ways to make it work.
Syracuse just bounced through its most difficult week of the season. Things could get more daunting for the Orange. They're at Maryland Monday night and then visit Virginia Saturday. But with two Top 15 players – C. J. Fair and Tyler Ennis – they're still a club with Final Four ability.
Then there is Wichita State, which should finish a perfect 31-0 regular season against Bradley and Missouri State this week. Nobody has won the unbeaten thing since Indiana in 1976.
Somebody from that group should make it to Dallas.
FINAL FOUR ODDS
With the shift in the polls today after Syracuse's defeats, it's the perfect day to check the big board in Las Vegas. Here are the latest odds on winning the NCAA title at VegasInsiders.com:
Michigan State 8-to-1.
Syracuse, Duke, Arizona, Louisville 10-to-1.
Wichita State, Kentucky 12-to-1.
You can get at least 20-to-1 on everybody else, including Wisconsin (25), Michigan (28) and North Carolina (40).
Late Sunday night, I posted a poll asking readers to pick the number one team in the nation. Here are the results as of 1 p.m. Monday with nearly 2,100 votes:
Florida – 50.8 percent
Wichita State – 31.2 percent
Arizona – 6.8 percent
Other – 6.1 percent
Duke – 3.2 percent
Kansas – 1.9 percent
WOODEN AWARD FINALISTS
Nominees for the 15 finalists for the Wooden Award are due this week. Here is the list of 15 player of the year candidates that I sent to the Los Angeles Athletic Club:
In alphabetical order – Kyle Anderson, UCLA; Cleanthony Early, Wichita State; Tyler Ennis, Syracuse; C. J. Fair, Syracuse; DeAndre Kane, Iowa State; Nick Johnson, Arizona; Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati; Doug McDermott, Creighton; Shabazz Napier, Connecticut; Jabari Parker, Duke; Casey Prather, Florida; Julius Randle, Kentucky; Russ Smith, Louisville; Nick Stauskas, Michigan; Andrew Wiggins, Kansas.