Pitino picture-perfect in Sweet 16 games

In the West Region on Thursday, two legendary head coaches square off as Louisville’s Rick Pitino faces Michigan State’s Tom Izzo for a spot in the Elite Eight.

Both rank in the top 10 among active coaches in NCAA tournament appearances and winning percentage. They also rank in the top 10 all time in Final Four appearances. In fact, Izzo and Pitino have combined for 11 Final Fours (six for Izzo, five for Pitino).

This will be the second meeting between the two coaches in the tournament. In 2009, No. 2 seed Michigan State beat No. 1 overall seed Louisville 64-52 in the Elite Eight.

Michigan State vs. Big East teams

NCAA tournament under Tom Izzo

When the game tips off Thursday, something has to give.

Izzo is 5-0 in the NCAA tournament against Big East opponents. His teams were the lower seed in four of the five games and won each by at least nine points.

As for Pitino, he does not lose in this round. His teams are a combined 9-0 in Sweet 16 games, and all nine wins have been by double digits. His most recent win in this round also was the most lopsided: a 39-point rout of No. 12 seed Arizona in 2009.

In Sweet 16 play, Pitino is 3-0 as coach of Louisville, and was 5-0 as Kentucky’s coach and 1-0 as coach of Providence. Three of those wins have been when his team was the lower seed, as it will be on Thursday against the top-seeded Spartans.