Ga. Tech's Hewitt: Louisville is no 4-seed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The four smallest words in the English language are "I told you so." Louisville avoided saying them Sunday, but their play against Georgia Tech positively screamed it to the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

One week earlier, the suits sent the Cardinals to the relative low-rent district of Bracketville. In rebuttal, Louisville played closer to its ranking (fourth in America in both polls) than its seeding (fourth in the Albuquerque Regional) Sunday. The Cards rode a classic Pitinoball shooting blitzkrieg to shred the defending national finalists, 76-54, in a black-and-red Gaylord Entertainment Center.

This one was for Bob Bowlsby and the boys who slotted Louisville behind at least 12 other teams in the seeding process one week earlier. After making the Cards the first top-five team in the final AP poll in the last 25 years not to be seeded first or second, Bowlsby defending the decision by asking who should be bumped down in favor of Louisville.

Here's the current list, Bob: Kansas (first tournament team ever to lose to the Patriot League), Oklahoma (three assists, 32 percent shooting against Utah), Gonzaga (folded late against Texas Tech), Wake Forest (West Virginia is still scoring) and UConn (ousted by an NC State team that tied for sixth in the ACC).

"I'm not trying to tick anybody off, but if somebody tells me this is a four-seed, you're nuts," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "You're absolutely nuts. They're as good as anyone we've played this year.

"I know Washington is a great team, but Washington got a bum steer having two No. 1 [seeds] in their bracket. Because these guys are a No. 1."

Louisville fans fumed for 24 hours after the pairings and seedings were announced. But at the end of his radio show last Monday, coach Rick Pitino declared a no-cry zone around his team -- no more complaining about being a No. 4.

"We never harped on seeding," Pitino said Sunday. "We know we should have been a two-seed. We know. They made a mistake. It was like 'Runaway Jury' ... and they made a mistake.

"Now, you look at all the twos and threes getting knocked off -- what does it matter?"

Here's what it mattered, at least on paper: It plunked the Cardinals in a second-round matchup that felt like a regional final.

Despite an underachieving regular season, talented Tech was a wise-guy choice for a repeat Final Four appearance. For starters, the Yellow Jackets are from the ACC, God's gift to college basketball. When Tech made a strong run to the ACC tournament final, you figured they'd regained the verve that made them so dangerous at this time last year.

For that reason, Louisville was favored by one skinny point -- and many in Nashville thought Tech should have been favored. Cardinals guard Taquan Dean said everyone would have to play at "200 percent" to win.

As it turns out, 100 percent was plenty enough to blow the Jackets away.

Louisville never trailed. It led for the final 38 minutes and 12 seconds. It led by double digits for 32:43. It turned what looked like the sexiest second-round matchup of them all into an all-day rout.

"They just played an exquisite game today," Hewitt said. "... We've beaten the best basketball teams in the country. But today we got beat by a better basketball team -- and a better-coached basketball team."

Credit Pitino in two areas: playing zone defense almost the entire game and instilling his players with limitless offensive confidence.

The zone was a prudent call for a team that struggles to stop dribble penetration, and a prudent call against a team that ranked last in the ACC in three-point shooting.

With fewer able bodies than he'd like, Pitino has mixed the usual pressing man-to-man with more zone in the past couple of months. The result Sunday: Tech shot just 37.7 percent and had its second-lowest point total of the season.

"We played great zone today," Pitino said. "Awesome zone."

And at the offensive end, they were in the zone.

Seventy seconds in, Larry O'Bannon swished a deep three-pointer. Thirty-eight seconds later, Francisco Garcia popped one. Forty-two seconds after that, O'Bannon hit another. Garcia made a mid-range jumper. Taquan Dean busted a three. Juan Palacios drove for a layup.

By the first TV timeout, Louisville was 6-for-6 from the field, up by 10 and on a 128-point pace. And this was against the No. 6 field-goal defense in America. Freedom Hall south was erupting.

They kept pouring it on from there. At the 8:45 mark of the first half, the Cards were 9-of-12 from the field, had scored on 13 of 16 possessions, and led 29-13.

"I was as surprised as you guys," Pitino said to a group of reporters, adding that it reminded him of the way his 1987 Providence team strafed Alabama in the Sweet 16.

Pitino could have named several other moments when his teams have lit up March. At a time and place when so many teams tend to tighten up, Pitino's teams tend to fly freely. The man is 29-9 in NCAA Tournament play, and 16 of those victories have been by 20 or more points.

"That's our style," Pitino said. "They believe every shot is going in."

Nobody is a bigger believer right now than Garcia, who had as fine an opening weekend of the tournament as any player still dancing. His 27 points saved Louisville in a shaky first-round victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, and he followed that up with 21 points and four blocked shots against Tech.

Garcia was a preseason All-American, but for much of this season he was far short of a dominant player. He wasn't the Conference USA Player of the Year, and even though the junior had already said he would enter the NBA Draft, some thought he might be slipping to second-round status.

Not anymore.

"He's just got his swagger back," said Dean, his best friend. "During the year guys were saying he's not that good, or he won't get drafted. But he's a guy who can make everyone on the floor better. Now he's showing the world what he can do."

And now Louisville is showing the selection committee what it can do.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.