Thursday is Day 1 of the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament. Follow here for scores and live analysis of who wins, who loses and who broke your bracket.
Up First: Minnesota vs. Louisville
Rick Pitino coached Louisville for 15 seasons until he was fired almost two years ago. His son, Richard, coaches Minnesota. If the N.C.A.A. tournament’s first game today — East Regional first-round pairing of Louisville and Minnesota on Thursday in Des Moines — raised raw emotions within the Pitino family, neither father nor son were admitting to it this week. Not yet, anyway.
Louisville fired Rick Pitino in October 2017 after the most recent of three major scandals under his tenure: an F.B.I. investigation into recruiting bribery and fraud that ensnared multiple programs. Now coaching Panathinaikos in Greece, Pitino attends Minnesota games when his schedule allows, but according to his son he is not expected in Des Moines on Thursday. Panathinaikos had a game Wednesday in Greece and has another Friday in Milan.
“It’s not like he’s in North Carolina,” Richard Pitino said Tuesday in Minneapolis.
While Rick Pitino tweets occasionally about his son and the Gophers, he has not done so since Selection Sunday, though he did offer his Final Four picks — three No. 1 seeds from the A.C.C. and No. 2 Kentucky.
Richard Pitino said he understood the media focus on the Louisville-Minnesota matchup. “I think when you see Louisville pop up, are you more about, ‘O.K., what am I going to say to the media? How am I going to lie to the media?’” he said. “I think you have to be prepared for those questions.”
Louisville Coach Chris Mack was less diplomatic.
“I think the committee could have had a little bit more self-awareness so we don’t have to be up here answering these kinds of questions, and focusing on the student-athletes and the coaches’ experience and the fan base’s experience,” he said. PAT BORZI
The N.C.A.A. Squad That Just Can’t Win
What’s black and white and tread all over? An N.C.A.A. tournament referee.
The referees, in fact, are the only one team guaranteed to make the Final Four every year, but the job isn’t getting any easier. They, and officials in a variety of sports, have become leading characters in the passion play of American sports, from the N.F.L. to tennis to even the Little League World Series.
Few places can match the high-speed pressure cooker of a college basketball arena, where the abuse comes from well-paid college coaches who scream and shout and preen, and from fans who follow their lead.
Read John Branch’s article about the officials here.
Syracuse Suspends Guard Frank Howard
When Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim sat down to speak with reporters on Wednesday afternoon in Salt Lake City, he took a deep breath, let out a long exhale and squinted into the T.V. lights at the back of the interview room, as if to say, “not again.”
Syracuse had just announced that the senior point guard Frank Howard had been suspended “for an indefinite period of time” and would not play in Thursday’s first-round West Regional game against Baylor.
“Very difficult to make that change now,” Boeheim said.
Boeheim knows this from experience. In 2012, Fab Melo, then the No. 1-seeded Orange’s starting center, was declared academically ineligible just before the tournament. In 2005, two reserves were suspended for failing drug tests just before Syracuse’s first game; the Orange were upset by 13th-seeded Vermont that year.
Boeheim would not say if Howard could return on Saturday if eighth-seeded Syracuse advances. In his place, the Orange is likely to start freshman Buddy Boeheim, the coach’s son. BILLY WITZ