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Coaches Central: Midwest has plenty of star power

7:17 PM, Mar 17, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals earned the top overall seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, but the future Hall-of-Fame coach couldn't have been thrilled about seeing Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils in the opposite end of the Midwest Region.

And neither coach is looking forward to seeing Michigan State's Tom Izzo.

Louisville (29-5), a Final Four team last season, has been on an impressive run lately, rattling off nine straight wins -- eight by double digits -- and capturing the Big East Tournament title with a snap-of-the-finger comeback against Syracuse in Saturday's championship game.

Pitino and his trademark press defense can keep many coaches up at night, though Krzyzewski famously got the better of him in the NCAAs in 1992.

It was then that Duke's Christian Laettner nailed a last-second shot that sent Pitino and the Kentucky Wildcats home in the East Region final in what is arguably the greatest game in the event's history.

The two coaches also met earlier this season, with Duke winning a 76-71 final in the championship of the Battle 4 Atlantis in a battle of Top-5 teams.

The two are on a collision course again, in part because Duke (27-5) slipped up in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals and fell to a No. 2 seed despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the country.

Of course, the highly-anticipated rematch can all be undone by Izzo and the Spartans (25-8), who as the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region bring tons of veteran leadership and finished tied for second in the Big Ten regular season standings.

Despite the lofty resumes from the three coaches -- there are 23 Final Four appearances between them -- 14 other teams in the region are looking for a trip to the Georgia Dome.

North Carolina A&T and Liberty will each play for the right to play Louisville, while Albany tries to become the second straight No. 15 seed to upset the Blue Devils, who were shocked by Lehigh in last year's second round.

Michigan State's first test is a tough one in Horizon League champ Valparaiso.

The No. 4 seed in the region is Saint Louis, the Atlantic-10 regular season and Tournament champions who have won 15 of their last 16 games. The Billikens' first face WAC Tournament champion New Mexico State.

Oklahoma State was rewarded with a No. 5 seed, but faces a stiff foe in Oregon, which was cast as a No. 12 despite winning the Pac-12 Tournament.

Memphis, seeded sixth, plays a "First Four" winner, as Middle Tennessee and Saint Mary's play in Dayton, Ohio to determine who moves on.

Colorado State and Missouri are the 8-9 matchup, while Creighton and Cincinnati face off in a 7-10 meeting.

The Sports Network

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