Leading up to this weekend’s Final Four, Play For The Garden is breaking down the matchup (back court, front court and coaches before looking at the game as a whole) for both Syracuse’s and Louisville’s respective games.
Louisville Cardinals – Rick Pitino
Career record: 662-239
NCAA Tournament record: 46-16
Final Four appearances: Seven (1987, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2005, 2012 and 2013)
National Championships: One (1996 at Kentucky)
This will be coach Pitino’s seventh trip to the Final Four, and second in as many years. He also joins Jim Boeheim as one of four coaches who have taken a team to the Final Four in four different decades (Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski are the other two). He also has one national championship with Kentucky. So experience is clearly not an issue for Pitino when it comes to this weekend’s stage.
Wichita St. Shockers – Gregg Marshall
Career record: 333-152
NCAA Tournament record: 5-8
Final Four appearances: This is his first.
National Championships: None
Marshall got into the coaching gig in 1998 at Winthrop, 20 years after Pitino started. This is his first trip to the Final Four, but he has made nine NCAA Tournament appearances. And not only are Marshall and John Beilein of Michigan making their Final Four coaching debuts this weekend, but they both also have NIT Championships on their resumes. Marshall won his in 2011. And as it was noted for Beilein, it means nothing on this platform, but thought the information should be passed along.
The Edge: Louisville
No surprise here as the discrepancy in experience between the two head coaches is rather large. Marshall has quickly cemented himself as one of the better coaches in the country, especially with what he has done this year with five new starters entering the season and with all the injuries he had to deal with mid-year, but it will take him quite a while to reach Pitino’s status. Not only is this Pitino’s seventh trip to the Final Four, but this is his second straight season of reaching this weekend, and he has the luxury of doing it with the same core group of players. Marshall will need his squad to be playing at an extremely high level to survive until Monday.